Working in Germany: The three tricks to impressing managers

What is it that makes employees in Germany stand out from the rest? According to our jobs expert Chris Pyak, there are a few key traits.

Working in Germany: The three tricks to impressing managers
How do you excel at work in Germany? Photo: Depositphotos/nd3000

I must have “talked shop” with several thousand managers in Germany by now. One question that I love posing to employers is: “When you think about all your former employees, which one was the best? And what did they do differently?”

Because if this person is really the best, then he or she must have done something different or exceptional. Otherwise they wouldn't be the best, right?

SEE ALSO: What German companies want to hire foreigners?

I love this question, because I get to hear inspiring stories of extraordinary professionals, their struggles and victories. Over time I've noticed something: nearly all managers name one of these three strengths that leads to their choice of “the best” employee:

  • “She takes ownership of her project. She puts all her heart into delivering the best result.”
  •  “He is constantly developing himself. I always see him with a book or going to a seminar – and I see the progress that he is making.”
  • And finally: “This person has my back. She understands what I am trying to achieve and she sees the bigger picture.”

There are a number of lessons here.

Although qualifications are important in Germany, once you get in the door that's not the focus anymore. What employers really value is not your degree or even a specific skill. I've never heard an employer here praising someone’s elite university when they talk about their extraordinary staff.

Instead, the managers always talk about their employee's attitude. This is what's important:

  • Taking responsibility for yourself
  • Developing yourself and skills
  • Being loyal and caring about the manager’s success

See yourself as a consultant.

When I say employer, I don't mean human resources. I am talking about the manager, your direct supervisor. The manager has goals to achieve, deadlines to meet and problems to solve.

The manager has a stake in the game and cares if her or she finds the best colleague to help her succeed. (Unlike HR for whom you are just a file on their desk).

SEE ALSO: Find English-language jobs in Germany

When you get to talk directly to a manager see yourself as a consultant, not a job-seeker. Make the conversation all about the manager's goals, their motivations and problems. Then offer a solution based on your actual work experience.

And finally you can't just say that you take ownership, that you develop yourself and are loyal. You prove it.

You prove it by asking in detail about the manager’s goals and challenges – this is developing yourself for the task. Then you share a relevant experience from your own work history that applies to the manager’s biggest challenge – this is taking ownership. And then you offer your help in solving the problem and achieving the manager’s goals – this is loyalty.

Don't say you have attitude – prove it in your actions with the manager.


Chris Pyak is the Author of “How To Win Jobs & Influence Germans“. The managing director of Immigrant Spirit GmbH has worked in four different cultures and lived in five different countries.

Chris returned to Germany in 2011. His mission: Bring the Immigrant Spirit to his home country. Chris introduces international professionals to employers in Germany.

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Reader question: Is it ever legally too hot to work from home in Germany?

Germany has regulations on working during a heatwave - but does that also apply to people who work remotely? We take a look.

Reader question: Is it ever legally too hot to work from home in Germany?

The number of people working from home shot up during the Covid pandemic, and though employees no longer have the right to work remotely by law, many have chosen to stick with more flexible arrangements and set up a home office at least part of the week.

This is great news for people who enjoy a lie-in more than a long commute, but there are some downsides. One major issue is that it’s not always clear how Germany’s strict employee protection rules actually apply in a home setting. The rules for working during a heatwave are a good example of this.

How does Germany regulate working in extreme heat? 

By law in Germany, employers are responsible for creating a safe environment for their workers. This means that they should try and keep the temperature below 26C at all times and are legally obliged to take action if the temperature goes above 30C. 

That could include putting blinds on the windows to prevent the glare of the sun, installing air conditioning systems or purchasing fans. In some cases – such as outdoor manual labour – it could also involve starting and finishing earlier in the day. 

And in really high temperatures, employers may simply decide to call the whole thing off and give their employees a ‘hitzefrei’ day – basically a heat-induced day off – to go and cool down in a lake. However, business owners are generally given free rein to decide how hot is too hot in this instance (except in the case of vulnerable workers). 

READ ALSO: Hitzefrei: Is it ever legally too hot to go to work or school in Germany?

Do the heat rules apply to ‘home office?’

Unfortunately not. In most cases in Germany, the company isn’t directly involved in setting up the workspace for an employee that works from home, aside from possibly providing a laptop or phone for remote use. 

“The occupational health and safety regulations regarding room temperature do not apply in this case,” labour law expert Meike Brecklinghaus told German business publication T3N. “This is because the employer does not have direct access to the employee’s workplace and in this respect cannot take remedial action.”

That means that on hot days, it’s the employee’s own responsibility to make sure the environment is suitable for working in. 

woman works from home in Germany

A woman works in her living room at home. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Daniel Naupold

One duty employers do have, however, is to instruct their workers about the best way to set up a healthy work environment at home, for example by giving guidance on how to regulate the temperature. 

“In the end, it is the employee’s responsibility to maintain his or her workplace in a condition in which he or she can perform his or her work without the threat of health impairments,” Brecklinghaus explained.

What can home office workers do in hot weather?

There are plenty of ways to keep flats cooler in the summer months, including purchasing your own fan, keeping curtains or blinds drawn and ventilating the rooms in the evening or early morning when the weather is cooler.

However, if heat is really becoming a problem, it’s a good idea to communicate this to your employer. This is especially important if you have a health condition that makes it more dangerous to work in hot weather. 

In some cases, you might be able to negotiate for the employer to pay for the purchase of a fan or mobile air conditioner as goodwill gesture. If possible, you could also arrange to travel to the office where the temperature should be better regulated.

Another option for early birds or night owls is to arrange more flexible working hours so you can avoid sweltering at your desk in the midday sun, although this of course depends on operational factors. 

READ ASO: Jobs in Germany: Should foreign workers join a union?