Competent

German Approach

For Germans a core competence is the ability to identify, analyze and solve complex problems. For them the key to success is problem-solving. In the German business context to be competent is to focus primarily on problems.

Examples

American Approach

Americans strive to see problems as opportunities. And opportunities are to be exploited. Competent in the U.S. business context is that person able to recognize opportunities in difficult situations and to maximize on the gains they offer.

Examples

German View

Interpreting a problem as an opportunity and acting too quickly signalizes to Germans an inability to recognize the seriousness of the situation and its dangers. Americans can come across to Germans as naive and impatient.

American View

The German focus on the weak points of a given situation is understood by Americans as precisely that: seeing problems primarily as problems and consciously seeking them out. Instead of searching for the positive in a given situation, Germans are viewed as pessimistic, negative, under certain circumstances even as destructive.

Advice to Germans 

Remain problem-oriented. It is a German strength. But choose different words. Americans are capable of discerning between serious and less serious problems. Establish more balance between German problem-orientation and American optimism. Not all problems have to be addressed or even solved, in order to move forward.

Advice to Americans

Reduce your natural American optimism. Show more attention to the potential downside of a given situation. Acknowledge problems as they are. Address them directly and openly. Not all problems are challenges. Not every cloud has a silver lining. Do not fear being seen as negative and pessimistic by your German colleagues.