Differences briefly

Germans separate the personal from the professional. Feedback addresses strictly performance. It is given in a neutral and unemotional way. Feedback, whether positive or negative, is not personal.

Americans link the personal with the professional. Feedback addresses primarily performance, but considers how it will be received. Feedback on one‘s work is feedback on that individual. It is by definition personal.

Positive thinking in the German business context is not unimportant. Germans differentiate more strictly, however, between a realistic “can-do” attitude and overly optimistic “naive actionism”.

Americans see themselves as positive thinkers, motivators, self-motivators. It is a sign of leadership to seek reasons to praise. In fact, praise is most instrumental when a team is struggling, experiencing defeat and self-doubt.

Critique is effective only if it is combined with concrete measures for improving the performance of an individual team member. From the German point of view, improved performance is linked directly to lowering the amount of avoidable errors.

The goal of critique is the improvement of weaknesses, the reduction of mistakes. However, reducing mistakes is rarely a goal in and or itself in the American business culture. For the goal is to take optimal advantage of opportunities.

Sensitive feedback discussions in the German business context are done in one-to-one talks. There are situations, however, when Germans openly criticize a team member in the presence of their colleagues. In fact, open criticism can be imperative in order to get issues „up on the table.“

Sensitive feedback discussions in the U.S. business context are always done in one-to-one talks. Discretion is highly important, especially when the feedback is negative. There is very low tolerance for open criticism of team members in the presence of their colleagues.

Feedback scores are most effective when provided accurately and realistically. When in doubt, Germans are deflationary.

Americans give positive and motivating, yet often inflated, scores.