German Boss – How to deal with a German CEO in 8 easy steps
Yes, the whole company is in an outrage, excited, disappointed and looking forward to finally getting a new CEO, new boss or a newly appointed owner. Now let’s all admit, we just expect that the new boss will be an American. Its American soil darn it! And if they aren’t an American, they sure as heck should act like one.
Expectations bulldozered. Just like Trumps immigration ban. Non-American CEOs in America are nothing out of the ordinary. 41% of all Fortune 500 companies were founded by immigrants or by their children. Intel was founded by a Hungarian man, Google from a Russian and Comcast by a German. Microsoft, McDonalds, PepsiCo, Kraft and U.S. Steel are all led by foreign-born CEOs. So much for it being on American soil.
So what do you need to know about dealing with your German boss in the U.S.?
1. Don’t say you are part-German
Can you speak and write German? No you probably can’t. Then please avoid telling your German boss that you are “German” because your Grandparents immigrated to the U.S. before Lincoln banned slavery in 1862. And there is nothing you can do about “not knowing how to speak German”, although you have German ancestry. Yes, the German language was almost used to print federal laws (alongside English) but nothing more; in 1795. Germanophobia in the U.S. during WWI and WWII took its toll on public acceptance of the German language. More about Anti-German measures taken.
2. Don’t be late
Punctuality is a big-time thing. It’s bigger than your lunch-break, bigger than your cigarettes and even bigger than your excuses. Don’t – be – late. Every German person I ever worked with was always on time for an appointment. And on-time means, if the meeting starts at 1pm, you better be there at 12:55pm. And if you are running late, inform one of your colleagues to let the boss know you are coming too late. Your tardiness will then be communicated is if it were planned, and Germans love things that are planned.
3. German food is not German food
Don’t inform your new German CEO that the Black forest ham sandwich at Subways is the best. Don’t say that the German potato salad at the grocery store is the greatest. Don’t explain that there is nothing comparable to Oktoberfest beer from Leinenkugels. All three products may be the most German-like things you can think of, but would be thrown directly into the trash after the average German tries them. And due to the fact that, that the “Black forest pig” was born and raised in a rural North Carolina sow breeding system, it has absolutely nothing to do with Black forest Germany. Nothing.
4. Expect that German to know about American culture
The average German boss is not only informed about American culture, pop-culture and politics, they are most likely bilingual German-English. Germany is very focused on having a correctly, fact-true informed folk. And if a fact has turned into an alternative fact, the Germans will discuss, argue and talk about something on any and every media channel available… until it winds up in their comedy series. Recommended: inform yourself a bit about the German culture and stay true in fulfilling the average American persona.
5. Germans are linguistically able
Language. The average German child starts learning its first foreign language in Kindergarten, which carries on into all further grades into college. 20-39% of Germans are trilingual or can speak more than three languages. In comparison, only 25% of Americans can speak a second language. Your boss will be darned impressed if you are bilingual and in return, don’t talk smack about anyone or anything in any foreign language, because your German “big brother” just may understand you.
6. Make appointments
Germans are obsessed with time. Time is on their wrist, time is on their mind and a darn clock is in almost every single room in any given house or business: except in the bathroom. Due to this obsessiveness, Germans have a knack and need to plan everything. So if you have anything to discuss with your new German boss, make an appointment at least a day in advance. Do not just “drop-by” their office to discuss anything more than the next coffee break. And don’t you dare show up a minute late to the appointment you made, otherwise you may become the next candidate on “The Apprentice”.
7. The German language is not equal to yelling
Now just imagine Arnold Schwarzenegger screaming at you for being late on your quarterly audit. I think that is something we can definitely avoid before his Austrian-English accent gets out of hand. In all seriousness: Your new German CEO is most likely very culturally-aware, globally-informed and doesn’t like small talk in comparison to the average American. No small talk. Keep it short. Stay true to your words. And you may just turn into most-liked employee, even if the average German has difficulty showing it.
8. Ask questions
In American work atmospheres, it is completely normal to be half-trained and/ or half-informed about how a task needs to be done. Americans begin projects without knowing exact budgets, exact outcomes and exact project goals. This is not going to go with your German boss. That’s why you need to ask questions. Place yourself into the Germanized planning mentality and be clear, consistent and exact with everything you do. And if you aren’t exact enough, the German boss will ask you questions. And nobody likes questions from their boss.