Germans, Americans interviewed

German Colleague about American Agreements

“We Germans admire optimism and teamwork. It’s important to help each other. But, our American colleagues seem to want to say yes to everything, without thinking about if they can deliver what they promise.

I heard the word overpromising. That is like a virtue in the U.S. Many of us Germans here have learned that yes does not always mean yes. So, how are we to understand when a yes is really a yes or just some polite statement? What really confuses us, and bothers us too, is when we agree to something and we keep getting called on the phone or e-mailed about the agreement!

I mean, if we say we do something, why does the American colleague need to always check on us? They call it follow up, we call it lack of trust. We keep our word. We call it Zuverlaessigkeit and it means, if you say yes you mean yes. It is that simple. This follow up stuff wastes time and is insulting. Why can’t our American colleagues do the same: say what you mean, mean what you say, and do what you promise! Are not these the basics of communication and teamwork?”

American Colleague about German Agreements

“Yeah sure, our German colleagues are very reliable. If they agree to do something you can be just about 100% sure that they will deliver. The problem is that they don’t always want to agree to something! It’s as if they almost instinctively want to say no to everything. I mean, they don’t make the most cooperative impression, especially when you start working with them.

Some of us have picked up on the fact that when they say no, it doesn’t necessarily mean a hard no. But at first, you’re totally surprised at how quickly a no comes across, even to some unproblematic requests or suggestions. When you get that sort of rude no, you quickly lose any interest in working with that particular colleague. Many of us Americans have identified the nay-sayers and we avoid them whenever possible.

What none of us have figured out is how aggressive our German colleagues get when we try to follow up on our projects. It’s like we agree to something and then suddenly they don’t want to stay in contact about it, or inform us about the status. How are we supposed to work together if we aren’t in some kind of contact? Very strange.

Even among themselves they’re not terribly communicative. At some point you simply can’t judge if they are working on the thing you agreed to. Maybe the agreement has lost priority for them, or they have even forgotten it. Maybe it’s a language problem. Most speak very good English, others rather poorly. I suspect that some German colleagues might be faking it, pretending to understand and then hoping to figure it out later.“

Reflection

Can you relate to some of these statements? Which ones and why?

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