Most, but not all, Germans hope to advance within the hierarchies of their organisations. But only if it is line with their area of expertise and work experience. And allows them to maintain a healthy work-life balance.
In the U.S. career advancement is second to compensation in importance. Americans strive to move up the hierarchy. In fact, advancement often brings with it a significant increase in compensation. They go hand-in-hand.
Americans can seem overly aggressive. They’re constantly climbing the ladder. Often at the cost of others. Germans say “über Leichen gehen”, literally to step over dead bodies, “to sell one’s own grandmother.”
Many qualified German colleagues don’t strive for promotion. This can seem odd to Americans. As if they are lacking in ambition. “Who wants to stay at the same level year in and year out.”
And in many German organisations advancement is based less on performance and more on seniority. Americans find that not only antiquated, but bad for business.
Advice to Germans
It’s true, Americans are aggressive. Competition both between and within companies is considered to be good, healthy, even just. And many American colleagues want to advance as quickly and as far as possible.
Because it offers benefits in compensation, exposure, opportunities. “Doesn’t everyone want to advance?” If you want to motivate your American team-members show them a clear path to career advancement.
Advice to Americans
Many of the most capable, and influential, German colleagues are in the middle and lower middle levels of the organisation. And those at the higher levels, including at the top, are not necessarily the most capable.
If you work in the German context be careful about how you strive for advancement. Taking what Germans consider to be an overly ambitious approach to advancement will be met with skepticism, and possibly even with resistance.