Decision making in German business culture

Decision Making in German business culture

… is a process.


It can happen that you work with Germans on a daily basis. And you have a feeling that it is challenging for them to make specific decisions. Is that really true? Some internationals have made this experience. ​Let’s watch the video!


#1 How decisions are taken. Top-down or bottom-up? 

Leading in Germany – egalitarian or hierarchical?

The egalitarian approach will be characterised by:

  • The ideal distance between a boss and a subordinate is low
  • The best boss is a facilitator among equals
  • Organizational structures are flat
  • Communication often skips hierarchical lines

And the hierarchical approach will be characterised by:

  • The ideal distance between a boss and a subordinate is high
  • The best boss is a strong director who leads from the front
  • Status is important
  • Organizational structures are multi-layered and fixed
  • Communication follows set hierarchical lines

Where are Germany on the scale? More or less in the middle, but with a stronger hierarchical approach.


#2 How decisions are taken. Group or individual? 

Who makes decisions: team or boss? In the case of Germany, it will be rather a team. So decisions are made collectively in a non-anonymous discussion.​ We call it consensus​. This involves certain rules.

Consensus principles:

  • All team members must contribute to the final decision
  • Many people involved in the decision-making process
  • Team negotiations take a long time
  • Once you’ve made your decision, implementation is surprisingly quick as everything has already been settled in advance

What is expected of the boss in Germany?

In hierarchical cultures where consensus is sought, like Germany, there are certain expectations of the boss.

  1. If you are the boss, the team will give in to your decision, however, they will want and expect you to take them into account when making decisions. 
  2. It is very important to ask for feedback and collect information from employees.
  3. Be thorough and patient. Invest time in soliciting the views of each stakeholder.
  4. As the decision begins to form, listen especially carefully to those of the opposite opinion.
  5. Focus on the quality and accuracy of the information collected, and on the transparency of the reasoning process. In this area, decisions do not change easily.


Is it possible to change a decision?

In consensus-driven cultures, like German one, the decision is A DECISIONIt is changed only in exceptional cases, because the process of finding it is very laborious and time-consuming.


How to influence Germans?

  • Take active part in meetings with your German colleagues 
  • Even if someone else has already said the same, it still matters that you express your point of view 
  • No point of view expressed = why be there? 

Expressing disagreement 

…is perceived enriching

  • A difference of opinion is fruitful and necessary 
  • Through discussion we bring to the table what has been “under the table” – this is how problems can best be solved
  • A difference of opinion does not mean that I do not like you. The right to one’s own opinion is a basic human right and cooperation comes from discussing options.


Plan for long term 

Invest in long preparations – a detailed plan will make the success more probable! 


If you want to learn more about this topic, check the full webinar: How to convince Germans? Decision making in German business culture


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Photo by Scott Graham on Unsplash