The young woman, Susan, an American, left in tears. Clearly she was inexperienced professionally. And her expectations were unrealistically high. And she had never worked for a German before.

Antje is a petite woman, with fine features, very expressive dark eyes. A perfectionist, correct in everything she does. But also warm-hearted in a quiet, considerate way. Antje wants the best for her team, especially for the younger women. She knows firsthand what it’s like to earn respect in a technology-based company run by men.

Susan had simply not met Antje’s expectations. Accordingly, their feedback discussion addressed unmet goals. Antje, not aware of how critique in the American context is best communicated, took the German approach, the only one she knows, with the only difference that the talk was in English.

Antje found Susan to be overly emotional, a bit naive about her ability, and unprepared for the discussion. At the same time, Antje saw raw potential in Susan. Her mind was quick, she worked hard, was willing to take on challenges. She had a plan to coach Susan along to her full potential, including getting corporate sponsorship for an evening MBA program at a prestigious local business school.

It wouldn’t come to be. Within a month Susan submitted her resignation, moving to a similar organization in another division. She had found Antje to be unfair and harsh.