Tuesday, March 29, 2011

You can call me Jack

When speaking with someone formally or informally in English, the “you” is used and there is no other alternative. The only difference is how the person can be addressed, for example, "Mr. Smith" or "Dr. Smith" or “Jack”.

German language differentiates between the formal (duzen) and informal (siezen) communication. Traditionally, the formal way was reserved for professional and business settings. Nowadays however, colleagues increasingly tend to be on a first-name basis even as communication with the customers remains formal at all times. Businesses often go about it without any policy while human resource departments swing back and forth between formal and informal communication. Hence even with a single company, an employee can experience the following throughout the employee life cycle:

* Formal (intending to exhibit professionalism) and informal (trying to attract youngsters) job ads
* Formal candidate communication
* Informal communication from the moment of contract signing to voluntary departure
* Formal communication in warning and dismissal letters

So, deliberately or not, the choice of communication mode depends on the message. As consistent communication fosters development of trust and creates a level of loyalty to the employer, companies should align the way to address their people, i.e. have guts to address informally any candidate (a stranger at first) despite how senior they are in their careers or any employee to be dismissed. It is just too ridiculous to call an employee by name when they are good employees, but go over to communicating with them formally once problems occur.

Failure to instill a consistent communication has a detrimental impact on the business as a whole, and makes very difficult to retain and nurture employees.