Conflict management Germans deal with their own conflicts, Americans escalate them to the boss

Americans and Germans have very different expectations about how to manage interpersonal conflicts when they arise, which can lead to huge misunderstandings. As part of an ongoing series of articles, an American consultant living in Germany offers some advice.
Quelle: Christoph Schmid
German-American conflict, illustrated.
(Source: Christoph Schmid)

When Germans and American collaborate, there will be conflict. This is normal. However, their respective approaches to conflict resolution differ. These differences, if not understood and properly balanced, can hinder just and lasting conflict resolution. And unresolved conflict threatens collaboration and success.

Germans view conflicts as fundamentally negative and discomforting. Escalating conflict should be an option of last resort. And since effective leadership is expected to anticipate and prevent conflicts within their organization, those conflicts which have been escalated — which have “become public” — are signs of leadership failure.

is an American consultant who has lived in Germany for 25 years. He has worked for the CDU/CSU parliamentary group in the Bundestag and for Siemens.
John Otto Magee

is an American consultant who has lived in Germany for 25 years. He has worked for the CDU/CSU parliamentary group in the Bundestag and for Siemens.

Americans view conflicts of interest as a fact of life. Escalation is often considered necessary, because the individual has a fundamental right to seek resolution, to “have his day in court.” A third party — almost without exception the next management level — is called upon to adjudicate. In fact, effective leadership is defined, among other things, b