Where Americans go into duck and cover mode, Germans see themselves in a spirited debate, perhaps an open argument or dispute, but most likely necessary in order to get clarity on an important matter.
Stuttgart. They meet once a quarter. The leadership team. Each reports on the state of their business. The others have the opportunity (obligation) to comment, ask questions, make suggestions.
German company. German logic. Weak business units are supported to a certain degree by stronger ones. “Your weakness impacts me. Therefore, I have a say in the matter. In your matters.”
Nothing but negativism
One of the business unit heads is American. Barbara. New. Her numbers are solid. There are few comments. Not so for other colleagues. One in particular is cross-examined as if in court charged for a serious crime.
Observing this Barbara feels very uncomfortable. “What value does this have? How can this group ever function as a team?” She senses nothing but negativism. And the head of the organization doesn’t intervene!
The colleague under fire responds calmly. The criticisms are not entirely unjustified. Perhaps overstated, perhaps somewhat mean spirited, but legitimate. Several suggestions from a more experienced business unit head are quite helpful. They agree to meet that evening to discuss.
Their American colleague, though, senses only small mindedness and harshness. She is determined not to subject herself to this every quarter. The next two meetings Barbara is absent. Her reasons are plausible, but not totally excusable.
Among themselves, her German manager and German colleagues begin to question Barbara’s loyalty to the team. She appears to them to be a lone wolf of the self-centered kind. Perhaps her business unit should be folded into one of the other ones as a way to integrate her into the team.