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Cooperating and Communicating Across Cultures Essay Sample

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Cooperating and Communicating Across Cultures Essay Sample

This comprehensive case covers essential aspects and facets of cross-cultural co-operation and communication. These are illustrated through the fictitious depiction of a project carried out between Americans and Germans. More specifically, two situations will be presented: (1) an American working on a team, which is dominated by Germans (and their way of co-operating and communicating); and (2) the other way around, a German working on a team dominated by Americans. The difficulties, problems and misunderstandings both sides are facing are particularly stressed.

Cooperating and Communicating across Cultures
Both Americans and Germans noticed more positive thinking and an upbeat attitude in the US culture. Maintaining an overall positive atmosphere is considered a high priority in the American work environment. In Germany praise is the absence of criticism. While in the US, Germans were confused when they were repeatedly praised for what they considered accurate completion of routine tasks. In presentations given by Americans, some of the Germans found that negative aspects of a particular issue were not labeled as such but were listed under a heading such as “items for improvement” or were dropped altogether. To one of the Germans, American positivism was “distraction from genuine problems.” This example supports the notion that Americans display more high-context behavior than Germans.

In American meetings, the manner in which a group arrives at a consensus is important. Keeping an overall positive, friendly rapport and avoiding personal attacks ranks high among Americans. In the US, it does not rock the boat if the rules have to be bent a little to achieve the goal. On the other hand, a stricter adherence to truth and exactness in Germany as a core value. An interesting example is the American practice of signing a document for someone else. In many US offices, there is a mutual understanding that a subordinate or colleague can sign routine paperwork using the superior’s name in case of absence of the superior. When trying to do so in Germany, the same person was met with shock, disbelief, and a clear message that he could be put in jail for such an action.

Action-orientation versus attention to detail lead to the topics of creativity and innovation, which were on the mind of all Americans and were mentioned as a significant difference by some of the Germans as well. “My American colleagues and I keep a list of creativity killers,” said a dearly frustrated American-trained engineer working in Stuttgart. “I often hear: ‘No, this won’t work’; ‘we’ve tried this before,’ and here is my favorite one: ‘Things are different in the US.'” He reported “a resistance to alternatives,” a “box-like thinking,” an “unwillingness to just talk about a subject if unprepared” and a “general risk aversion in the culture.”

How to communicate with the Germans, particularly the Americans, mentioned it by talking about different approaches to teamwork in the two cultures. In general, they reported less interaction with colleagues in the German work environment and said more independence was expected in Germany. You are done with it. It is now someone else’s responsibility.” He considered this procedure inefficient.

Most people believe that they know what a team is and how it works. Management often feels frustrated that in spite of putting very competent people in a group, the output is below expectation. The group’s members are equally frustrated as there is no coordination and teamwork. To achieve teamwork, it is important to understand the difference between a work group and a team and how their dynamics affect their overall performance. Project managers must understand team dynamics and the various factors that contribute to team effectiveness.


Hitt, M. A., Miller, C. C., Colella, A. (SEP 2010). Organizational Behavior 3rd edition.

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