Research Projects

Trust, Knowledge Sharing and Innovation: A Cross-Cultural Perspective on Sino-German Collaboration (Kwok Leung, Lin Lu, Martin Högl, Miriam Müthel)

Sino-German business collaboration increasingly accounts for a significant part of both Chinese and German foreign investment. However, collaborating companies encounter many problems. Most critically, initial distrust among the business partners due to cross-cultural stereotyping and perceived values dissimilarity threatens knowledge exchange so that employees are found reluctant to share their unique knowledge. To increase innovation and performance in Sino-German alliances, it is thus important to understand the motivational drivers of knowledge sharing and to interpret the trust/distrust mechanisms in China and in Germany. For this aim, we explore cultural explanations for the differences between Chinese and Germans in their knowledge sharing motives and their processes of trust/distrust development and derive a joint model to depict intercultural knowledge sharing in Sino-German teams. The research project is funded by the Sino-German Center for Research Promotion in Beijing, which is a joint research funding initiative of the Deutsche Forschung Gesellschaft (DFG) and the National Science Foundation China (NSFC).

When the Chinese Dragon Goes Abroad: Leadership Challenges for Chinese Multinationals in Germany (Li Chen & Miriam Müthel)

China became world’s third largest investor in 2012. The scope of Chinese companies’ foreign direct investments in the German market place grows steadily. In this research project, we delineate the soft side of Chinese companies’ FDI endeavors, and investigate Chinese managers’ leadership effectiveness in the German context. Due to high institutional, economic developmental and cultural discrepancies, Chinese leaders face serious difficulties in leading their German employees. To address this research gap, we explore Chinese managers’ indigenous understanding of leadership effectiveness and investigate German employees’ perception of Chinese managers’ leadership effectiveness. Based on our analyses, we formulate managerial implications for Chinese managers.

How Leaders Earn Respect: A Cross-Cultural and Intercultural Analysis of German and Chinese Leader-Follower Relationships (Michael H. Bond, Warren Chiu, Schazia Delhvi & Miriam Müthel)

Continuously, employee surveys across the globe show the importance of respect at the workplace. In this vein, the ‘Great Place to Work’ (GPTW) initiative considers respect as one of the main pillars of work place attractiveness. While the most attractive companies seem to be characterized by high levels of respect in their inter-personal relationships, destructive and humiliating leadership is daily reality for many followers. To make it even more complex, interpretations of respect and disrespect are culture-dependent. In a joint research project with Michael H. Bond and Warren Chiu from the Hong Kong Polytechnic University, we will investigate culture-specific interpretations and behavioral expectations related to respect and disrespect in leader-follower relationships in China and Germany. Furthermore, we will analyze how differences in these interpretations influence Sino-German leader-follower-dyads.

Taking Culture Seriously: Banks’ Efforts to Change Culture following Allegations of Institutional Corruption in the US, UK and Germany (Miriam Müthel, Richard Painter & Malcolm Salter)

Since the financial crisis of 2008, wide ranging regulations aimed at improving bankers’ ethics have been promulgated in the United States and in Europe.  On the one hand, academics, regulators, and public officials have proposed many of these measures.  On the other hand, banks themselves are examining ways to improve ethical standards within their organizations and are implementing their own company-tailored change programs. Our research project aims at discerning and describing US and European banks’ measures to induce culture change.  What are banks currently doing and what are they planning to do to persuade their employees to behave ethically?  More specifically, how are banks using promotion, compensation and other incentives to change objectionable behavior? And what are banks’ experiences with the changes so far?

Ethics in Teams: How I see them and how they see me (Jonathan Ziegert & Miriam Müthel)

Individuals’ ethical perspectives are made up of both intentions and behaviors.  Intentions reflect an individual’s willingness to engage in ethical behaviors, which are actions that are consistent with generally accepted moral norms.  This relationship between ethical intentions and behaviors is complex and does not occur in a vacuum, especially in organizational settings.  Research has demonstrated the impact of both individual (i.e., moral development) and organizational (i.e., climate and leadership) characteristics on employees’ ethical intentions and behaviors.   While these efforts have focused on within-individual elements and broader organizational factors, scholars have heeded less attention on a more proximal and immediate context in which an individual resides in terms of the team as little research has considered the group’s influence on the ethical behavior of the individual. In this research project we thus investigate the group’s influence on individual behavior in Teams.

Sorry boss, I do it for our team: Examining new facets of constructive deviance in organizations (Louisa Blödorn & Miriam Müthel)

In the digital age, employees need to react quickly to unforeseen changes in a volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous (vuca) business environment. It is thus important that employees take initiative to respond to new business opportunities and conditions in order to ensure the companies’ agility to succeed. Agility, however, also implicates employee actions without the prior approval of their leader. When employees need to respond quickly to new developments and changes, there may be no time to align with their leader or their leader may simply not be available. In this vein, it is crucial to understand the interpersonal facets of constructive deviance in the leader-follower dyad. For this aim, we explore when employees engage in pro-organizational misbehaviors that deviate from their leaders’ instructions and what consequences result from such behaviors not only for the employee but also for the leader.

Leadership in the digital age (Thekla Schmidt & Miriam Müthel)

The work environment in the digital age is characterized by rapid evolvement and increasing complexity. This digital transformation process is triggering unprecedented challenges for organizations on all levels. Leadership is a driving factor in the success of businesses adapting to these changes. Thus, it is crucial to understand what behaviors, skills and competencies leaders require in the digital age. For this aim, we investigate what constitutes effective leadership in such a dynamic work environment.


Competence in question - how to communicate about failure (Julia Büntig & Miriam Müthel)

With rising expectations in terms of innovation, transparency and managing complexity in today’s corporate world, failures and successes are inextricably linked. While it is human nature to strive for success, the question of how to implement a positive way of dealing with failures is prevalent.

Especially in the corporate world, where the demands for an entrepreneurial fast failure culture rise, leaders must be mindful of the negative connotations of failure. They need to find a way to stop a “have-to” risk averse mindset, where failure is stigmatized and foster an agile way of thinking. Therefore, it is important to understand how one can facilitate communications about failures in a way that fosters learning but doesn’t impede competency and the (self-) image of the affected person. We combine management and communications sciences to explore how leaders can inspire their follower to openly talk about failure and support them to recover from difficult situations and challenges that are prevalent in today’s innovation cycles.






Research Funding

  • 2015: Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft, Project: ”Putting Money where the Mouth is: Aligning Culture and Compensation with Responsible Banking in the U.S., UK and Germany” (with Prof. Dr. Malcolm Salter and Prof. Dr. Richard Painter)
  • 2014: Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft, Project: “Bribery Tackling Tactics – Corruption Fighting Behavior at the Individual Level“ (With Prof. Dr. Mary Gentile)
  • 2011: Sino-German Center for Research Promotion (a joint funding institution of the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft DFG and the Chinese National Science Foundation NSFC), Project: "Trust, Knowledge Sharing and Innovation: A Cross-cultural Perspective on Sino-German Collaboration"
  • 2009: Sino-German Center for Research Promotion (a joint funding institution of the Deutsche Forschungsgesellschaft DFG and the Chinese National Science Foundation NSFC), Project “Symposium on Sino-German Collaboration”
  • 2006: European Union, 6th Framework Program, Project “Cultural and Innovation Dynamics“