How cultural differences affect outsourcing (II)

March 21, 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)

Second part:

Leadership

Eastern Europeans are more hierarchical than Germans. Business books describe Germans as being hierarchical, but that happens because they’re mostly written by Americans, which are very equalitarian (more about this we will debate in another article).

Eastern Europeans are very close to the extremities of the hierarchical model: The general manager authoritatively decides, tells them what to do and they execute it.  

The German middle managers can take decisions that can impact the business, while Eastern Europeans usually rely on a single person to decide into telling everybody what needs to be done.

This has another impact: Eastern Europeans expect the general manager to know their assignments better and instruct them on how to improve their work.

If you find yourself in a management position within Eastern Europeans, they will expect you to know what they have to do, how to do it, and explain it in detail.

Advice for the Germans:

Eastern Europeans seek the general manager’s approval, their culture is very hierarchical. As a German communicating with Eastern European suppliers, make sure you have the approval of their CEO, or talk to him directly.

Many times you might get the impression that you have an agreement with your project manager or account manager and afterwards they will return saying that the initial arrangement needs to be changed, because the CEO said so. Don’t expect a decision to be final, until the Eastern European CEO knows about it and approves it.

Advice for Eastern Europeans:

Don’t always try talking to the general manager, even if the impression that Germans are not that egalitarian may occur. You can get a decision through, without reaching for their big boss. While having a German manager or client, expect more freedom than the Eastern European one would give you.

Process :

We advice on making it clear who the leader of the German team is and always inform the Eastern European general manager on progress, even if not requested.

As a German, clearly state the areas in which Eastern European teams will have freedom to decide their work. We would advise to put that in writing: a review communicated to the team after every six months.

Decision Making

In Terms of decision-making, there is a very big difference between Germany and Eastern Europe. Germans are more on the consensual side, while Eastern Europeans take top-down decisions. German general managers will often discuss with their staff, encourage feedback and consensual decisions on future steps.

Advice for Germans:

If you want feedback from Eastern Europeans, ask for it, do not expect your Romanian or Bulgarian team to give feedback regarding you decisions or the way you see things.  

Just because you don’t get negative feedback doesn’t mean that the Eastern Europeans don’t have their own opinions on how things should work. It just means that they’re not culturally tailored into giving feedback to somebody who is regarded the superior or the customer. Eastern Europeans expect to receive orders without giving feedback on them.

Advice for Eastern Europeans:

It’s fine to give more feedback, even if not requested, to your German customer or your German manager. Keep in mind that Germans seem to communicate directly because they use low context communication, not because they avoid giving feedback or because they are rude. Meetings to discuss features or projects may seem like a waste of time for some Eastern Europeans, but you need to understand that the top management does not always have the right answers for the job.

Process :

We advise on having feedback sessions regularly, including established and remote teams alike. Please clearly state that you’re expecting people and you would like them to show up. Many times, Eastern Europeans will be reluctant in giving feedback when directly facing this approach, so you need to give them a heads up so they will prepare in advance.

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