How cultural differences affect outsourcing (I)

February 11, 2019 - 5 minutes read

In this series of articles we will comprehensively discuss cultural differences between Western and Eastern Europeans, aiming to eliminate collaboration flaws, mainly caused by miscommunication.
Our first analysis covers the working relation between Germans and Eastern Europeans (Romanians, Ukrainians and Bulgarians)

First part:

Communication

The Germans talk very directly. Eastern Europeans have a more high context communication that generates unspoken words that the Germans will not understand.

Advice for the Germans: Ask direct questions and require simple answers. Don’t allow complexe answers for a yes/no question. Eastern Europeans will often move between topics and avoid negative answers.

Advice for the Eastern Europeans: Don’t try to read between the lines when talking with the Germans. They speak their mind and only refer to the addressed topic. Have an agenda and expect structured discussions.

Process

When setting up a team between Eastern Europeans and Germans, we, at 112Hub, recommend taking notes of the meeting and transmitting them to all attendees. This task should be rotated in the team. Please avoid having just one person taking the notes! Eastern Europeans will sometimes look at this as being a controlling measure, so make the Team Lead explain from Day 1 this is for communication purpose only.

Evaluation process

We will only discuss about the way negative feedback should be given in this context. Positive feedback is not a topic of interest because it was similar for all the cultures discussed in the article.

The evaluation process is very similar for both the Eastern European and the German culture and it’s used in giving negative direct feedback.
One topic that we should cover separately is that Romanians also expect to receive positive feedback when receiving negative feedback.

The best method for giving feedback is to remember that politeness differs from one culture to another, so practice some humility to test the waters, before speaking up and expecting goodwill from the other attendees. Also building a good relationship with the other persons will help in giving the feedback in a constructive way.

Advice for Germans

Give the feedback direct and sincere, similar to how you would act with a fellow German. Keep in mind one simple rule for the negative feedback: always describe clearly the topic that you are evaluating and make sure that the person you’re talking with understood the topic. This is required because of the different way communication unfolds (as described in the previous paragraph).

When working particularly with Romanians, also add a positive feedback after every negative feedback, but make sure not to undermine the negative feedback. With Ukrainians and Bulgarians there is no need for this rule.

Advice for Eastern Europeans

Ukrainians and Bulgarians – please keep in mind that the way Germans give feedback is very similar to yours.

Romanians – if you don’t get any positive feedback it doesn’t mean that everything you did was unsatisfying. Usually, Germans give negative feedback more direct than you are used to.

Also, if you get a negative feedback from a German, it does not refer to you as a person, but only refers to the topics that have been described prior to the feedback.

When giving feedback to a German person, please don’t try to do it indirectly by expecting that person to read between the lines. Make sure that both the feedback and the referred topic are clearly and directly expressed.

Process

We recommend to set up a process that defines how feedback is expected. Also, clear timelines should be established from the start of a cross cultures project.

At 112Hub, we recommend the feedback session every 3 months. During this feedback session, we recommend having a list of predefined questions from the very beginning of the project and cover all of the major topics. No matter who pays for the project, we recommend getting feedback from both involved parties, not just the payers.

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