American Strategies when Negotiating with Germans
The increasing diversity in both the physical and virtual workplace has also augmented the importance of intercultural communication. For two different cultures, such as American and German, communication can be difficult without ample consideration for the culture of the persons involved. In relation to this, the guide is prepared in order to assist American employees in communicating and doing business with Germans. The specific elements examined include the following: universal systems, cultural values, language and thought, social etiquette, business customs, negotiation strategies, and culture shock
The different cultures that exist today share several common systems, which are referred to as the universal systems. The said universal systems are the “economic systems, political systems, educational systems, marriage and family systems, and social hierarchies and interaction” (Chaney & Martin, 2007, p. 21). An understanding of the different universal systems serves as the foundation for knowing the culture of the other person or organization because of the basic information gleaned from these systems.
Likewise, it allows employees to have a common ground for the purpose of comparing their culture with other cultures. Some questions that should be asked are: a) How does history relate to the current economic and political system? b) Is education influenced by religion or other beliefs? c) What is the basis for choosing leaders? d) How is respect expressed? e) How does family relate to work?
Cultural values are defined as “principles or qualities that a group of people will tend to see as good or right or worthwhile” (Peterson, 2004, p. 22). The ability to learn more about cultural values help employees in identifying whether a conflict will arise or prevent it from happening (Chaney & Martin, 2007). Some of the questions that employees could ponder on in relation to cultural values are: a) Are personal relationships important? b) Are long or short discussions preferred? c) Is it appropriate to provide tokens of appreciation? d) Is ambiguity accepted or should it be avoided? e) Is it alright to go straight to the point? f) How significant is punctuality? g) Are meetings treated as formal or casual?
Language and Thought
Language serves as the medium through which a person expresses his/her thoughts, opinions, and messages. Knowing and understanding the language of other cultures serve as an advantage for individuals and companies because it enables communication. Conflicts could arise when an individual misinterprets the intonation, diction, or tone. In order to avoid conflicts and achieve effective communication, the employee should know more about the language of the other party.
Some of the questions that can be asked are the following: a) What are the known homonyms from the German and American language? b) Is the casual or formal tone preferred? c) Are there any words required to show respect in relation to age, gender, and position? d) Is intonation significant? e) What are the appropriate and inappropriate topics for conversation? f) Are disagreements generally accepted?
Etiquette is defined as the set of “manners and behavior considered acceptable in social and business situations” (Chaney & Martin, 2007, p. 161). A particular behavior accepted in America may be unacceptable for people in Germany. Likewise, the differences in traditions, values, and beliefs can dictate the etiquette of a particular culture and give way to big differences in the way people relate with one another. These differences should be identified in order for the employee to know how he/she should act and to avoid embarrassing himself/herself and his/her other co-workers.
The questions that could help in identifying the etiquette to be used are: a) Is a firm hand shake preferred over a casual handshake? b) What is the primary form of greeting? d) When a person enters a room, what should be done? e) Does position have any bearing on where one should stand or sit?
Business customs refer to the set of established practices that dictate how people from a particular culture conduct and behave in relation to their business (Tuleja & O’Rourke IV, 2009). It is important to understand the local business customs followed by people from the other culture because it allows employees to foster a business environment that relates to the other culture and it minimizes the conflicts that could possibly arise. Likewise, knowledge of the existing local business customs enables the employee to show the other party that he/she understands how to do business and also reduces the risk of embarrassing the self and/or others.
Some of the questions that can be asked are the following: a) How are female and male business persons addressed? b) Is eye contact necessary or should it be avoided? c) What are the situations that are considered embarrassing during meetings? d) What type of dress is necessary? e) Are humorous comments accepted?
The term negotiation refers to the discussions related to the interests of persons, who bear different cultures, for the purpose of achieving a common decision (Chaney & Martin, 2007). Knowledge of the negotiation strategies employed by the person from the other culture provides the employees with ample information regarding the processes usually involved in negotiations. Likewise, it enables the employees to formulate a corresponding negotiation strategy that can lead to a favorable outcome. It is also important to note that the time could also play a significant factor and should not be considered as the other culture’s way of avoiding a resolution.
For example, there are some cultures that prefer several meetings before coming up with a particular decision. Some questions that are useful include: a) Are decisions made by individuals or groups? b) Are technical details of immediate importance? c) Is pessimism or optimism expected? d) What is the role that contracts play in the negotiation process? e) How are personal relationships regarded in relation to the negotiation process?
Cultural shock is considered as the trauma that a person experiences as he/she immerses into another culture that is different from his/her home culture (Reisinger & Turner, 2003). Identifying culture shocks is important for employees because it helps them identify situations that can be shocking for them and to avoid the same. It reduces the stress that the employee can possibly derive from cultural shocks when it is determined early and strategies are used to prevent these.
Likewise, it also helps the employees in dealing with differences in a more effective manner because they are better equipped in understanding cultural shock experience by them and others. Some of the questions that can be asked to help an employee in understanding cultural shock include the following: a) What should be expected in terms of cleanliness? b) What should be expected in terms of agreements? c) What are the perceptions towards women? d) What is the existing ethical standard followed? e) What is the perception of the people towards finances? f) What should be expected in terms of housing arrangements?
The guide touched on seven specific elements related to intercultural communication, which are universal systems, cultural values, language and thought, social etiquette, business customs, negotiation strategies, and culture shock. The elements are described and the discussion also included corresponding importance in intercultural communication.
In addition to this, the guide included questions that are specifically geared towards providing employees with valuable insights that will help them in understanding and negotiating with Germans. In general, the guide will help the employees in reducing conflicts, preventing misunderstandings, achieving effective communication, understanding others, achieving the predetermined goals, and succeeding at negotiations.
Chaney, L. & Martin, J. (2007). Intercultural business communication (4th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice.
Peterson, B. (2004). Cultural intelligence: A guide to working with people from other cultures. Yarmouth, Maine: Intercultural Press, Inc.
Reisinger, Y. & Turner, L. (2003). Cross-cultural behavior in tourism: Concepts and analysis. Burlington, MA: Elsevier.
Tuleja, E. & O’Rourke, J. IV. (2009). Intercultural communication for business
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