I have outsourced numerous jobs to Asian, African and American countries, but as an employer I am based in Germany. So, I am pretty well positioned to illustrate how outsourcing is viewed from the point of view of German business ethics.
Here are the most important positive aspects of German business mindsets that you will have to know about.
Integrity and loyalty
One of the highest praised traits in German business ethics is the ability to have personal integrity and to be loyal to your associates. Backstabbing someone, lying or corruption are not well received from the average German.
That is not to say that corruption doesn’t exist.
But compared to levels of some South American countries, it is probably much lower.
In order to impress a German employer as an outsourcing freelancer, it is of central importance that you show him:
- he can trust you
- you have his back
- and you would never lie to him
A lack of integrity will be a certain reason for him to fire you.
Work loving ethics
The cliché is true that Germans love their work and that being employed and working hard are core principles in the self-confidence of a German person.
The importance of seniority
It is common in German businesses to be promoted after a certain amount of years to a certain position. If you are not advancing at a certain rate per year, people will ask starting questions.
What does it mean for an outsourcing provider?
Even if you perform great, it is not intuitive from the point of view of German business ethics to be promoted within a short amount of time. This is where patience is needed in the short-timed world of internet businesses.
It is best to stick with one German employer for a longer amount of time than trying to run up the ladder to a higher position in the shortest amount of time possible.
Try showing your employer your skills and loyalty, integrity and hard work on a long term basis. He will be impressed.
Specialization over generalization
By specializing in certain tasks, it is more likely that the worker keeps his job because he knows it better than anyone. This is a consequence of the German business ethics principle of “safety comes first”.
As a freelancer, try to get hired as a specialist for a specific position. If you have shown that you can do this, step-by-step carve out your responsibility zone.
Don’t try to do everything at once from the start.
The importance of time
Germans love to be punctual. I am not an exception.
They expect punctuality from other people, even if they come from other countries. This can result in some pretty comical scenes if you experience e.g. waiting for hours to days in an African country for a bus where in Germany you would get inpatient if it has five minutes delay.
To adapt to German business ethics as a freelancer, it is best to take time requirements very literally. If a German outsourcing employer says “Three days” then he will mean “three times twenty-four hours.”
The best course of action as a freelancer is to be
- extremely organized,
- highly punctual
- and to the highest degree reliable.
You cannot overdo it in this domain.
Germany is a pretty rich country compared to most Asian countries, where freelancing is popular.
You are extremely unlikely to die of hunger or thirst anywhere in Germany, even without having a job.
There are high social security laws; therefore most Germans are not “aware” of the seriousness of the poverty for example in some Asian or African countries. They intellectually know about it, but it is not very plastic before their eyes.
It won’t be very easy to convince a German employer that someone can actually live from an hourly rate of $1 to $2 per hour. If more Germans would know about that fact, then I believe many more people would turn to outsourcing.
On the other hand, a core German business ethics principle is to be economical at all time. Some would go as far as to say that many Germans are stingy.
Although you could be doing pretty well as a freelancer, doing outsourced work for a German employer, it will take some negotiation skills to get a share of the wealth of your German employer.
That in a sense is summing up all the core principles of German business ethics.
A final note
Everything in this article is my personal opinion.
I cannot talk about all the people from my country. I can only share what my personal opinion and observations are.
If you live in this country, you will need to admit that many of my points are true. Some of them might be slightly exaggerated, but not all of them.
And of course there are people and individuals everywhere who are very well-balanced, highly international and not stereotypical at all.
Still, stereotypes exist for a reason.
Working with Germans is not always easy. To be fair to everyone, I have separated my discussion about the good and the bad aspects of German business ethics. This article talks about what are not-so-ideal typical-German ideas.
Fear of the unknown
There is a Bavarian saying:
“What we don’t know, we won’t eat”
(Original: “Wos mia ned kenna, des iss’ ma ned”)
This saying is a good metaphor for a core principle of German business ethics. Most people from Germany like to do business and interact with people that know the German culture.
There are of course many exceptions. But if we talk about the vast majority, elderly people or people with lower education levels, this statement pretty much covers it.
Male Money Makers
Although what I am about to say is highly politically incorrect and many people are going to bash my skull in, it is a fact that many male workers are making more money than female workers.
There are actually laws trying to convince corporations to hire a specific percentile of women into the work place and into leading positions. Statistics still show that traditionally, it is the man who is making more money than the female workers.
Nevertheless, it is accepted German business ethics that working women are not looked down upon. Many Germans naturally project this point of view on foreign countries and cannot understand how, in poor countries, women might have lower education levels or work opportunities.
In general, a German outsourcing employer treats female freelancers the same way that he would interact with male freelancers.
Low sense of entrepreneurship
In Germany, traditionally, the sense of entrepreneurship and risk taking is much lower than in the US. There are also much higher barriers to launching an enterprise.
Risk taking is not one of the strengths of the traditional person following German business ethics.
Obeying your boss
Without getting into risky territory here, it is a generally accepted fact that most workers do like to follow clear instructions from their superiors. The thought-structure of the average German worker and employer is very hierarchical and organized.
Transferred to outsourcing, Germans will assume the same from strangers.
Love of Safety
Personal safety and job safety are some of the most important pillars in German business ethics and general ethics.
The German city Munich is extremely safe. A girl could go out partying and return home alone through the dark night streets without any significant risks.
Applying that to business:
- People are looking foremost for a safe job, even if they are just starting out.
- Workers are trying to secure their pensions from a very young age.
As a freelancer, it is best to adapt the careful nature of a German employer, even if you would like to take more risks. This is in order not to frighten him.
Relatively low international thinking
Most Germans do know English from school. Nevertheless, the average German is not very international. There are still many prejudices against foreign people, especially in regions and people with a lower education.
Germans are fond of travelling and are seen in many parts of the world. But there is this stereotype of a German tourist, that traditionally only goes to those few places, where he will be likely to meet many other German people. And being able to drink German beer there tops it.
As a freelancer you have to know that.
And if you find someone who is hiring online workers, then he is probably not your average German guy.
I for sure am not 🙂
A final note
Everything in this article is my personal opinion.
Not all people from Germany have these bad attitudes about business and about life.
To make my point, I use some exaggerations. Still, you can learn a lot from them. Stereotypes exist for a reason.
In general, many Germans have excellent business ethics. But they are not saints (no one is). So a fair view on them is to point out the good and the bad aspects of german business ethics.