German Values in the Workplace

business_ethics_highlights_2 People often think ethics is strictly about rules. Some would add values to the equation, but are apt to think that the relevant values are ones that tell us what not to do. This is a mistake. Ethics is also about the values that bind us together, and the values that enable the work that organizations do. The story below is about the distinctive set of values that seem to dominate German workplaces. Somewhat odd, to outsiders at least, is the fact that Germans embrace a set of workplace values that seem to emphasize leisure—and yet German workers are among the most productive in the world.

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LINK: What the German language reveals about attitudes to work (by Joseph Pearson for The BBC)

You could be forgiven for thinking that Germany, Europe’s largest economy, is all about work. They have some of the highest levels of productivity in the world, with unemployment rates at a record low of just 4.1%.
This year, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) reported that Germany’s “employment growth is strong… growth is above potential, and the fiscal position keeps strengthening”.

[And yet]….

“There is a strong feeling, for example, that whenever you feel sick, you should stay at home,” he says. “It’s your right. There would never be a critique of this. When you are sick, you are sick. ‘Wenn man krank ist ist man krank.’”

It is an attitude that workers in other cultures now may find alien. In many workplaces in the US, the UK and elsewhere in Europe, taking days off sick has become frowned upon to the point where many employees will attempt to struggle through their illness in the office. Meanwhile, the Germans take twice as many as many sick days per year as UK workers. .

What do you think?


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About Chris MacDonald

I'm a philosopher who teaches at Ryerson University's Ted Rogers School of Management in Toronto, Canada. Most of my scholarly research is on business ethics and healthcare ethics.

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