German corporate culture - 7 values, which make you the winner

Once you have internalized these values, you're ahead of 60% of your competitors

It is very dare to summarize principles of German corporate culture within a 500-word article. I know it. Therefore we ask for your understanding, that cultural values and norms are presented in an extremely simplified form.

This article is based on my own 20 years of life experience in Germany. I have taken some observations from the books and articles. The sources of reference see below.

INDEX

#1 - Punctuality
#2 - Promises
#3 - Accuracy
#4 - Low hierarchy
#5 - Individualism
#6 - Long-term orientation
#7 - Justice


German culture Screenshot 1. (Source: URL)


Notice that the order of values is arbitrary. The last value listed is not the least important.

Value #1 - Punctuality

Be punctual. Always, every time, be where you should, just in time as agreed, without exception, without excuse. I can't express it, how important I think this rule is. ...

First, unpunctual people are not to be trusted.

Second, the people you want to do business with [or to work for-JP] - have an "instant rejection criteria" so as not to waste any extra time on assessment of potential partners and clients.[or your case: potential emploees-JP]

Third, your own punctuality gives you the right to expect and demand from others of absolute respect for your time. ... If you are unpunctual themselves, you have no advantage, no moral authorty.

Punctuality need not be learned. It's not a process, it's your decision. Once you have made this decision, punctuality will quickly differ you from the majority of other foreign jobseekers.

Tip: In each mobile phone there is a timer. Make use of it. Do not be too late and do not be too early. Call or appear sharp in agreed time. Not a minute ahead. Not a minute before.

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Value #2 - Promises

In Germany there is a stereotype that people from the East and Asia promise a lot but do not keep their promises. This is a chance for you. Give seldom promises. Keeping your promise without exception will separate you from the majority of your competitors.

If you want to gain respect in Germany, follow a simple rule. Make as few promises as possible and always (and I mean always!) keep your promise.

Such a seemingly simple thing turns out to be extremely difficult in practical application. I know it. That is why I recommend making as few promises as possible.

Two examples

An HR manager tells you that some documents are missing, say a CV and diploma supplement. Or you are told about a technical problem: some software modules are damaged.

What is your first reaction? I bet you will ensure that you send the documents tomorrow. Or say something like "I'll fix these problems later".

Bad news: you react like the 98%, which means like the crowd. But crowd is always less valuable. The really top people are rare (in Germany and elsewhere).

The Trick

Make no promises. Instead, make it clear that you fully understand the issue. Make it clear conversation partner that you have clearly understood his expectations.

Consider such responds: "I've understood that I should submit my recent resume and diploma supplement, right? Which documents are yet required?" Or "As far as I understood, there are damages in modules X and Y. When can I start?"

Don't say "I'll get it done" out of habit. Overcome that temptation. Instead ask: When is the deadline?

In this case you have not made a promise, which you might not be able to keep. So you will not lose face. At the same time, your conversational partner will feel comfortable because he or she knows that you 're aware of the problem and the deadlines.

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Value #3 - Accuracy

Accuracy and transparency is a big topic which goes beyond the scope of this section. Therefore let's consider one aspect only - written communication.

Example #1: Compare two fragments from inquiries to the same job posting

Shorter message

Regarding your job ad for Frontend Developer. Is it still relevant? I am experienced front-end developer. Linkedin: https://de.linkedin.com/in/jaroslav-plotnikov-522ba717

Detailed message

Regarding your job ad AB-68543890 - Frontend Developer wanted (https://www.xing.com/jobs/berlin-full-stack-developer-52709678).
My name is Jaroslav Plotnikov, JavaScript (Node, Express) experience since 2007. CV: (https://de.linkedin.com/in/jaroslav-plotnikov-522ba717), portfolio (https://github.com/Yarve).
I can start working for you within 4 weeks after we've been contacted.
Feel free to ask me any questions. Best regards
Jaroslav Plotnikov
jaroslavplotnikov.com/contacts

Comparison of example 1

What does the Detailed message include that is not included in the Shorter message?

1: The reference number of the ad and additionally the URL show exactly which ad it is referring to. This saves the employer the search (perhaps he has posted many similar ads).

2: Introducing with the name makes your message more personal. In Germany, it's good manners to introduce yourself*.

3: The most developed skills and work experience were instantly made clear. Moreover, the CV and portfolio can be viewed only with one-two clicks via the links provided.

4: Another possible question ("When this applicant could work for me?") was answered immediately.

5: If the employer wants to contact this job applicant Jaroslav, he does not need to search for the contact information. Under the ...com/contacts there are email, messenger, phone number. So the employer can easily choose the most convenient communication channel.

Example 2: Compare two fragments from email inquiries

Shorter message

Feel free to contact me anytime.

Detailed message

Feel free to contact me anytime. The time frame from 8 AM to 6 PM (Mon-Sat, Berlin time**) works best for me.
If another time frame more suitable for you, would you please send me 2-3 suggestions which work best for you?

Comparison of example 2

What does the Detailed message include that is not included in the Shorter message?

Detailed message allows your counterpart to have clarity and freedom to organize the conversation in a way that is usual for him. Accessibility "24/7" gets in conflict with German cultural norms and therefore counter-productive.

Although Germans are known as hardworking and diligent employees, most people in Germany separate their work from their private time. Employers know this. So nobody expects you to be available "around the clock".
By restricting contact hours, you act like most Germans. This signals that you know how "things are done in Germany".

First you declare the times that work well for you. Then, to stay polite, you give your contact person the opportunity to organize the talk at times that are convenient for him or her.

Did you notice that the second message asked for several time suggestions? If there is only one time suggestion, then you may have already reserved this time for something else. 2-3 suggestions will reduce the number of messages sent back and forth. So you can reach an agreement faster.

Important!Once an agreement is made, it is your chance. Therefore do everything (but really everything!) to be on time!

Conclusion

Basic Idea:to give the employer as much clarity as possible and at the same time to keep the message as short as possible.

* - if you are in Germany, you will notice how many Germans simply say their first and last name when they answer the phone call from an unknown person. ** - instead of GMT and other complicated time zone abbreviations I would recommend to say Berlin time, Moscow time, Istanbul time etc.) And remember, it is implied about your migration to Germany. Wouldn't be the best option, contacting to HRs and employers, always use the German time zone by default?

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Value #4 - Low hierarchy

"Germans see each other as equals and want to be treated accordingly. One aspect where this clearly shows is the chain of command. Germans take pride in their professionalism. They want to understand why they should do something".
Chris Pyak

So don't hesitate to ask questions which clarifies the whole process of your task. Ideally you are expected to manage the certain task until it is done. But it doesn't emply you have to complete the task alone. Team work is highly appreciate in Germany.

The difference to team work in "third world" companies is shown in a higher motivation to take much more responsibility and self-initiative into teamwork in Germany.

The criticism

If you feel that you are being criticized, think twice before being angry or hurt.

In the majority of cases, only your actions would be criticized and not your person! (Exceptions possible, because there are assholes in every country in the world.) So don't take the criticism personally.


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Value #5 - Individualism

"Germans think in terms of “I” and not “we.” Germans are committed to self-actualisation. Loyalty is based on personal preferences for people as well as a sense of duty and responsibility.
My advice: Don’t spend much time worrying about differences. A much more effective way to build strong relationships in a new culture is to focus on the values we already share".

Chris Pyak, "How to win jobs and influence Germans"

The following text is by me, Jaroslav Plotnikov aka JP:

Your confrontation with individualism in Germany becomes visible, for example, in your behavior at work. The challenge for you is to find a balance between "I-do-it-myself" approach and teamwork approach.

If you try to do everything on your own to "validate your expert status" you will surely fail. That would be bad for everyone - first of all for you, because your self-confidence suffers. Also it would be bad for the company, because the work is not done properly. And for your colleagues and supervisors, because they feel a responsibility to integrate you well into the team.

Another extreme - if you rely too much on the team. It would also lead to a flop, because Germany as a representative of the western mentality is a society of individuals. They expect you to think and act independently.

Compare this balance " me versus we" with a shared bank account - if you constantly withdraw money without making sufficient deposits, you will become unpopular. Similarly, if you constantly deposit money without withdrawing it - other owners of this joint account will consider you as ignorant.

In my opinion, you should do both - deposit and withdraw. But you have to deposit clearly more than withdraw.

If you are a newcomer to a German company, you may not yet understand how to "deposit". Don't worry, in the time you will surely understand it. In the initial phase you will make your "deposits" by learning and practicing written (and unwritten) rules. Be open, honest, polite, punctual and helpful. Promise little, do much. Everyone knows that these things look simple but are difficult to carry out. If you persist in executing these good customs, you will find that people in Germany will show more and more trust and respect for you.

So far, so good. Now you know your challenges and your responsibilities. Start to practice them now, don't wait until you get a job. The sooner you master the above rules, make use of them and practice consistently, the sooner you will get a good job, respect and recognition in Germany.

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Value #6 - Long-term orientation

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Value #7 - Justice

Sources

Kennedy, Dan: No BS Time Management for Entrepreneurs;
Pyak, Chris: How to Find Jobs and Influence Germans;
Schaefer, Bodo: Coaching Letters Programm;
Sivers, Derek: Persistance ist polite.

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See also: TABU & Mistakes in GERMAN Resume

Tip:Sign the PDF of your CV. It is rare and it looks seriously.


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Might be also useful: German resume - how to create it in English - Part 2 - Structure


2019 Jaroslav Plotnikov ( All articles )

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