German Junior Executive Case Study

A German junior executive, Michael, working in a computer graphics company, was unaware that he was making his team angry. They thought he behaved arrogantly and he seemed to think he was better than they were.

He was up for a promotion, but unfortunately no one wanted to work with him, nor recommend him. That’s when the company called me in to see whether Michael was even aware of the feelings of his team. When I first talked to him, he didn’t understand why people around him weren’t as friendly as he expected them to be.  So, we first had to identify what words he used and what attitudes he showed and why he was annoying people.

I gave him a list of books to read which would help him understand the differences between German and American business culture and what the expectations were here.
He studied the books (Carnegie, Covey, Weiss, Sutton and so on), which talked about the ways people express themselves in the US and what kind of vocabulary to use in business meetings. Germans are much more explicit in their communications than Americans.

Michael  was also used to speaking his mind and saying exactly what he thought. And, since he was speaking in another language, nuances he might have known in German didn’t really exist in English for him.  So now, instead of saying “You are wrong” he learned it would be more effective to say, “What I think I heard you say is…. I’m not sure if I agree with this point, can you please explain more?”

We did a lot of role playing over the next months, going through hypothetical situations, and practicing using the newly acquired vocabulary which he had learned in order to not [further] antagonize his team yet still showcase his ideas, and get the results he wanted.  It is really a mind shift he went through: you have to feel this in your gut to understand how important [and different] word choices are in Germany versus the US.

Michael was able to adjust the way he spoke – and even thought – in such a way that his team decided to give him another chance seeing how much he had changed. He was promoted after a couple of months, and the coaching actually carried over to his personal and social life, where he was able to successfully apply his new way of thinking and speaking. He felt much better about himself and he was happier with the way he fit into the US business world as well as into his circle of friends.

If you feel that you are in a cultural bind and have problems communicating in business, contact me now and we can discuss it

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