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?

Bribery Tackling Strategies That Work (Christina Frei, Miriam Müthel & Mary Gentile)

Many companies have installed codes of conduct and compliance systems that forbid giving or accepting bribes in national, but also international business relations. Nevertheless, managers often feel pressured to bribe for their company or to accept bribes, particularly in foreign countries high on state and private corruption. In some of these countries, bribes are accepted and possibly even expected behaviors. Uncertainty about behavioral expectations concerning giving or accepting bribes exacerbates managers’ difficulties of how to tackle bribing. Furthermore, managers often lack experience of how to successfully circumnavigate such situations, so that they feel drawn into giving or accepting bribes due to a perceived lack of alternatives. Interviewing managers who succeeded in avoiding to bribe or being bribed, while maintaining the respective business relationship, we deduct different types of bribing situations and explain strategies of how these can be tackled. The resulting bribery tackling strategies are likely to provide valuable insights for business managers who wish to give voice to their values while maintaining positive business relationships that allow the other party to keep face. This project is funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG).

Truth Seeking and Truth Avoiding Behaviors in Organizations (Laura Kläner & Miriam Müthel)

Individuals suspecting unethical or illegal behavior in their work environment may be inclined to avoid the truth. The reason is that knowing the truth – and the responsibility that comes with it – can be quite inconvenient. On the other hand, those who seek the truth and insist on it may experience resistance because they are perceived as disagreeable, skeptic or even threatening. While truth telling, deception, and the detection of lies is already discussed in the organizational behavior literature, the act of seeking or avoiding truth in the first place has received little or only indirect attention to date. The aim of this research project, therefore, is to investigate how individuals in organizations get to the truth when they encounter improprieties in their work environment, or avoid doing so.

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.


Research Publications

By M. Hoegl, and M. Muethel (2016). In: Project Management Journal. Many virtual project teams perform better when leadership is shared (rather than centralized with the formal team leader); however, team leaders are often neither prepared to identify shared leadership potential nor to actually share leadership responsibility. Based on a study of 96 globally dispersed software development teams we show that team leaders tend to underestimate the team members’ capacity to lead themselves. As a consequence, these leaders monopolize decision-making authority and provide insufficient levels of autonomy for team members to tackle their tasks. Preventing the team members from unfolding their true potential, these leaders unconsciously jeopardize virtual team performance. Paradoxically, it is thus team leaders themselves hindering leadership effectiveness in virtual teams.

By M. Chong, T. – K. Peng, P. P. Fu, M. Richards,  M. Muethel, M. P. Caldas, & Y. F. Shang (2015). In: Journal of Cross Cultural Psychology. To understand leader influence behavior in organizations, it is essential to understand how subordinates interpret the different influence strategies used by their superiors. In this study, we examine the effect of influence behavior on organizational commitment from two relational perspectives with employees from Chinese and Western societies. Drawing on relational attribution theory, we develop a multiple mediation model to determine whether the relationships between influence behavior and organizational commitment are meditated by leader-member exchange (LMX) and/or guanxi. We also examine whether the effects vary across the two broad cultural samples. Results indicate the mediating effect is contributed mainly by LMX, not guanxi. Results show no significant cross-cultural differences, suggesting the theoretical framework we propose may be generalizable across cultures. Implications and ideas for future research are provided.

By P. Parboteeah, M. Hoegl, & M. Muethel (In press.) In: European Management Journal. To build and maintain their competitive advantage, companies increasingly rely on effective learning processes. However, a review of the literature shows very sparse scholarship on understanding team effects on learning at the micro or individual level.  One of the most important contexts for individual learning is collaboration with others. We therefore contribute to the literature by examining how three critical team level variables are related to team members' individual project learning.  We argue that team meta-knowledge, team creativity, and team external cooperation are all positively related to individuals' project learning.  We test our hypotheses on 94 projects represented by 340 individual responses.  Using Hierarchical Linear Modeling analysis, our results provide support for the positive effects of team creativity and team external cooperation, but not for team meta-knowledge.  We discuss the implications of our findings for the human resource management area.


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“