How a hashtag could transform your professional collaboration

It’s a typical German problem: Who do you address as you, who can or can you use the first name? And even more important: Who can and should offer it to the other? The lady rather the gentleman, the older, the higher rank (who that is in the respective context is not always clear)?

All of this means that people, also and especially in the professional environment, either use informal first-name terms or cautiously sneak around the question and therefore remain on a formal level for years.

But when is the you appropriate for everyone involved, when does it seem rather distant and inappropriate? One thing is clear: the more uncomplicated you is on the rise – across all sectors, even if sectors that are considered easy-going, such as the digital economy, IT or the creative sector, are pioneers here.

According to a study by Kienbaum and Stepstone, for example, seven out of ten respondents use the first name of all colleagues in their own company, including their superiors. And only in three percent of the companies surveyed, without exception, do they use formal address.

#gerneperdu is to be understood as an open offer

Leaving aside the question of how to do that with the you and you in a meaningful way in the professional environment handlesfor a few months now, a hashtag has been appearing more and more frequently in signatures, in company telephone directories or profiles on professionally used social media such as LinkedIn, Xing or Slack, which at least opens the door to the first person: #gerneperdu.

Anyone who puts this hashtag in their profile is signaling that they do not attach much importance to using the first form of address and, in particular, prefer the less formal first form when in doubt. The initiative and custom has been around in the United States for much longer: the hashtag here is #callmebymyfirstname – “address me by my first name”. Now in the USA it is even more common to use first names, so it makes sense to use such a hashtag in Germany.

At the same time, it is also becoming common practice in more and more companies to rely on the leveling du qua standard, even if not everyone wants that. Ikea showed the way and the Otto Group also had a top-down strategy here, so that the executives judged that a stronger sense of unity could be achieved in this way.

“The way to ‘we’ is easier via the familiar form,” said the then Otto boss Hans-Otto Schrader, explaining his decision to offer the more than 50,000 Otto employees the familiar form back in 2016.

The hashtag #gerneperdu, on the other hand, is the more subtle bottom-up solution. It leaves the decision to the other person – a good solution, especially for very (age) diverse teams and conservative companies.

The bottom line is that the overall environment and the corporate culture are also important here – there is no magic formula. Nevertheless, you are likely to be the standard form of address in a professional context more and more frequently.

ping! Me! At! The worst buzzwords from the office

ping! Me! At! The worst buzzwords from the office

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