Managing in Germany

Working With German Culture and Teams

German flag

Find out how to manage a German team effectively.

© iStockphoto/CGinspiration

If you've been asked to lead a team in Germany, then you have a lot to look forward to! Germany is Europe's largest economy, and it's rich in history and culture. It is also a wealthy country, with many skilled professionals and with a lot of natural beauty.

However, managing a German team takes a unique approach, and some of the management techniques that work well in the U.S. or U.K. will be ineffective or even frowned upon here.

In this article, we'll look at how to manage a German team, whether you're relocating or managing a virtual team from your home base. We'll cover employment law and business etiquette, and we'll look at how you can get the best from your people.

Note:

Keep in mind that this is only a general guide. The workforce in Germany is sophisticated and culturally diverse. Therefore, you should use your own best judgment when leading your team and when doing business with German organizations.

Germany's Culture

Roughly 82 million people live in Germany, and it's one of the most densely populated countries in the world. However, German people care deeply about the environment, and 31 percent of the country's land surface is covered by forest. Germany was also one of the first countries in the world to elect a political party with an environmental platform (the Green Party).

More than 82 million people live in Germany.

German is the official language here, but English and French are studied widely in schools. When working in major cities, you'll likely find that most professionals speak at least some English.

Employment Law

German law requires every employee to have an employment contract that spells out the details of the working relationship.

Most employment contracts are unlimited, which means that they're valid for an indefinite period. However, you'll usually have a probationary period of one to six months, depending on your position, before the contract becomes binding.

Similar to some other countries, many German employees are paid a 13th month salary. If your employment contract states that you'll be paid a "holiday bonus," it usually means that you'll receive an extra month's salary each year.

The German workweek varies depending on the organization and industry you're in, and some companies work a four-day week to preserve jobs. Others average around 41 hours per week, while still others close down entirely on Friday afternoons. Before setting any appointments or deadlines with another organization, find out about its operating hours.

Vacations/Holidays

German people enjoy a generous holiday and vacation allowance. Under German law, every employee is entitled to at least 20 days of paid vacation. However, many get up to six weeks of paid time off each year.

Germany has many public holidays. However, keep in mind that Germany is divided into 16 federal states. These states generally follow Germany's national holidays, but they also observe state-specific holidays. Check local customs before setting deadlines or scheduling appointments.

Germany's public holidays are listed below:

  • January 1 – New Year's Day.
  • January 6 – Epiphany.
  • March 29 (March or April, date changes each year) – Good Friday.
  • April 1 (March or April, date changes each year) – Easter Monday.
  • May 1 – Labor Day.
  • May 9 (May or June, date changes each year) – Ascension.
  • May 20 (May or June, date changes each year) – Whit Monday.
  • October 3 – Day of German Unity.
  • December 25 – Christmas Day.
  • December 26 – Second Christmas Day.

Most organizations close entirely over the Christmas holiday period, and employees at these organizations are usually required to take part of their annual leave allowance during this time.

Getting the Best from Your Team

When you manage a German team, you should take a slightly different approach from the one that you'd use if you were managing, say, a U.K. or U.S. team.

Follow these strategies to get the best from your people...

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