Organizational Culture in Germany

German societal culture has also been characterized as high on masculinity, leading Ardichvili and Kucninke to suggest in an article published in Human Resource Development International in 2002 that Germans are assertive and competitive and value success in the workplace over things such as quality of life, warm personal relationship and service.  In Doing Business in Germany: Communicaid, which was published on February 16, 2006, Gorrill similarly argued that the importance of interpersonal relationships in Germany is not strong and that Germans tend to be very task-oriented and generally create and observe strict separation between their private and life and work.

In 2006 Andrijevskaja and Vadi published the results of their exhaustive survey of available theoretical research and empirical studies of organizational culture in Germany in National and International Aspects of Organizational Culture. They began by noting that at the beginning of the 1980s, organizational culture was seen as an effective management tool in Germany and companies were adopting strategies to create the most effective culture including introduction of symbols and rituals and pronouncements regarding organizational values and norms.  However, empirical studies of these efforts indicated that they were producing very limited positive results as managerial tools and they were eventually subjected to widespread criticism on ethical grounds and as being an oversimplification of the nature of organizational culture.  Studies of organizational values and culture among German companies that were released during the 1990s included various critiques including a tendency to be product-led rather than market-oriented and a lack of entrepreneurial spirit, and it was popular at that time to characterize German organizational culture as a “well-oiled machine” that valued order as a means for coping with the high uncertainty avoidance said to be prevalent among German employees.

Andrijevskaja and Vadi noted that researchers that had analyzed ethnocentric German companies working in traditional German business sectors such as iron and steel, machinery, mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, precision instruments and optical goods, electronics, construction, chemicals, banking and insurance had repeatedly found evidence of the following organizational culture features: an emphasis on formal rules and procedures, a desire for stability and security, and a strong belief in the company’s own elaborated and tested methods.  Several of those researchers had also concluded that organizational culture was an important coordination tool for vertical communications in the German companies they had studied, but was less important on the horizontal organizational level.  Opresnik compared organizational culture in the US and Germany, a popular topic among researchers given the interest in the impact of American-based theories of organizational culture on German companies, and concluded that German organizational culture was characterized by strong rituals and orientation on past success, inflexibility and resistance to change and centralization, all of which made it much more difficult for German companies to innovate by taking risks and striking out on new paths. 

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