Germans separate the personal from the professional. Feedback addresses strictly performance. It is given in a neutral and unemotional way. Feedback, whether positive or negative, is not meant personally.
Americans link the personal with the professional. Feedback addresses primarily performance, but takes into consideration how it will be received, thus affect future performance. Feedback on one‘s work is feedback on that individual. Feedback is by its very definition personal.
Germans find the American approach to feedback far too subjective, personal, in some situations almost cozy. It seems like having a conversation with a psychotherapist instead of with a demanding teacher.
Americans find the German separation of personal and professional too impersonal, removed, in some cases even cold. It seems like having a conversation with a stern teacher instead of with a caring and inspiring coach.
Advice to Germans
As in all communication with Americans soften your tone, see your interaction not only as between two functions within an organization, but also as between two human beings. Your American team member or colleague will not lose the fact that it’s all about performance and business.
Advice to Americans
The German business culture favors more of a teacher-student relationship than coach-player. If you lead Germans, cultivate more of a teacher-student relationship with your German team members. Add a little distance between yourself and your German reports. You will not come across as disinterested or uncaring, but as clear-headed, and focused on progress.