Communication on the job: Excellent respect or LG – what works and what doesn’t?

Corporate bosses wear sneakers, companies use their terms on their customers without being asked: The style of communication in business has changed. “The reduction of formalities is in line with the zeitgeist,” says management consultant Jana Völkel-Kitzmann. But this also opens up new pitfalls: “How do I not step on anyone’s feet?”

Audi boss Markus Duesmann, for example, could write “Dear Mr. Duesmann” and close the letter with “With excellent respect” or “With best regards” – at least that’s what the protocol experts at the Federal Ministry of the Interior suggest in their guide.

Audi is leading the way

However, Audi has been gradually introducing gender-sensitive language since March 2021. “When salutations we usually only use first and last names and begin letters or e-mails to customers with, for example, ‘Hello, first name, last name’ or ‘Dear Audi customers’, and forego gender-specific information,” explains a spokeswoman in Ingolstadt.

This makes Audi one of the pioneers. “Many companies from a wide variety of industries – including large corporations – have since contacted us about our experiences,” says the spokeswoman.

Polite and respectful

The Haufe Academy also reports great interest in its advanced training seminars: “The topic of gender, how do I choose the politically correct approach, is currently being given a very high priority by all participants, particularly from the banking, insurance and government departments, and is thus becoming a everyday standard, “says a spokesman.

“Dear Sir or Madam”, can an email or letter still begin like this? The previous forms are used less, but they are not going away, says Völkel-Kitzmann from the Management Institute Kitzmann. Colloquial salutations, as they are common on Whatsapp and Tiktok, are increasingly appearing in e-mails and letters. But: “Business partners shouldn’t be written to with ‘moin, moin’ or ‘hej’, but rather politely and respectfully when communicating professionally,” says the consultant. “In any case, it is tactless to address someone by their first name without being asked, as in the advertising at the bus stop. Young employees may do that from social media.” Not everyone wants to be addressed in such a friendly way.

LG or love greetings?

Correspondence advisor Claudia Marbach is often asked in her seminars whether a salutation or greeting is wrong. “It’s not wrong as long as there are no spelling or grammatical errors. It may just be not original, maybe boring, bland, complicated, distant,” she says. “And you can have different opinions about that. Everyone feels that differently.” It is crucial to “communicate appreciatively, respectfully and positively”.

If formal salutations and greetings are to be replaced by individual, personal ones, but time is of the essence, a short “Hello” must be enough in e-mails and a “LG” at the end. Not possible, says Marbach: “If you want to send greetings, you can also take the time to spell out the words,” she says. “When my husband says ‘I love you’, I don’t say ‘ditto’ either, just because it’s faster.”

Desire for commitment

The style also depends on the industry. In banks and insurance companies, the tone is more conservative, in the technology, sports and fashion industries, it tends to be more relaxed. But “easy is not always good, positive, respectful or appreciative. Easy is not necessarily better,” says Marbach. “For example, I find it inconsistent when my mobile phone provider uses you in emails: ‘Hello Claudia'”.

Walking the tightrope between classic and original, distant and ingratiating, old-fashioned and brash requires a sure instinct. Some would like to see more binding manners again. At the Haufe Academy “we are feeling a strong demand for support in formal communication with the outside world,” says its spokesman. “Many customers now want to strengthen the style and form in official business communication and standardize it across the company.” (By Roland Losch, dpa / mer)

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Lenny Li

I started to play with tech since middle school. Smart phones, laptops and gadgets are all about my life. Besides, I am also a big fan of Star War. May the force be with you!

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