German Management Style

Managers in Germany are expected to be technically capable in their respective areas and to show strong, clear leadership.

Although disagreement with a superior will rarely be seen in public this does not mean that Germans are ‘Yes’ men. Subordinates tend to respect the technical abilities of their superiors and this will impact on their willingness to implement instructions. (The interesting corollary of this is that when less technically proficient non-Germans are asked to manage a team of Germans, the non-German can sometimes be seen as lacking the key prerequisite for developing the team’s respect.)

Responsibility is expected to be delegated by the manager to the member of the team who is technically competent to carry out a particular task. The team member then expects to be left to perform the task without undue interference or supervision. Thus instructions need to be clear, precise and above all unambiguous.

People from cultures where managers are expected to develop a closer, more intimate relationship can see the German manager-subordinate relationship as distant and cold. The higher up the organisation people rise the more a sense of the dignity of the position becomes apparent. Socialising tends to be at peer group level rather than up and down a hierarchy.

A brief overview of some key concepts to consider when doing business in Germany

Written and Produced by Keith Warburton

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Germany continues to retain its position as the driving force of the European economy. It holds a pre-eminent position within the massive economic and political block that is the European Union and it shows no signs of relinquishing its position of leadership and power anytime soon.

Possibly aided by a weakened Euro, Germany is the archetypal successful modern economy with a massively effective export engine at its core. German engineering and ingenuity finds its way to all corners of the world with those exports competing from a quality angle rather than on a price basis. Whatever Germany is doing, however it is doing it – it is extremely successful and, therefore, well worth studying.

On the flip side, Germany is also a highly attractive market for your products and services and if you are not currently doing business in Germany you should certainly consider doing so. Germany has a large sophisticated consumer base with high levels of disposable income and a large manufacturing base looking for components, inspiration and expertise.

One of the keys to success when doing business in Germany is an ability to understand German business culture and the profound impact that the local business culture has when interacting with German colleagues or clients. Lack of preparation could cost you dearly; inattention to detail could result in lost opportunities. Do your homework before engaging in Germany – it’s a must.
This country profile provides an overview of some of the key aspects of German business culture in a concise, easy to follow-format. The document includes information on:

  • Background to business
  • Business Structures
  • Management style
  • Meetings
  • Teamwork
  • Communication
  • Women in business
  • Entertaining
  • Top tips