Augenhöhe. Literally at eye level. Equals. On equal footing.
It is said that Germans will work without stopping until they have completed the task. A prerequisite for such effort is that the parties involved are partners at eye level, are equals, the opposite of a master-slave type of relationship. Germans, as employees and as companies, want to work more as consultants, as experts, than as mere service providers or as servants.
Germans are self-confident about their abilities and skills. Even when the relationship in terms of the contract, the law or societal expectations cannot possibly be one of equals, they expect, and often demand, a business relationship auf Augenhöhe, at eye level, to be treated like colleagues.
To collaborate at eye level is not just a matter of good form. It is a serious demand especially from small- to medium-sized companies, the famed German Mittelstand. Many German companies advertise their willingness and ability to work together with business parters auf Augenhöhe, signaling their desire to be open, transparent and honest.
Companies which promise collaboration at eye level are stating that they treat all partners, regardless of size or prestige, as equal partners. Respect is critical, not the size of the contract or the nature of the partnership. This includes informing the other partner immediately when things go wrong. One‘s expertise is put to good service for the other partner. Neither side looks to gain advantage.
Germans strive for a high level of openness and honesty from the very beginning of a business relationship. As a well-known German company once stated: Zusammenarbeit auf Augenhöhe sichert Qualität. Colloboration at eye level guarantees quality.