soft skill

Duzen or Siezen: About the right way to deal with colleagues and supervisors in the office

Surveys show that in more than a third of all companies, employees are now with each other. Often this even includes communication with the supervisor. But this also means that in the other two-thirds of companies, that is, in the majority, the conventional one prevails. Unfortunately, pitfalls lurk everywhere. You can bypass them if you follow the instructions below.

Adaptation to the corporate culture

Especially when you are new to a company, or even just in a new department, you need to have a sure instinct. After only a few days, you will have a good feeling for the rules that are being used or drenched here. In the meantime, play it safe with the “you”. No one will interpret it as arrogance, it will be interpreted as courtesy and restraint. If your company has a basic culinary culture and everyone is with you, you will be automatically informed about it. Duz cultures are very common in American companies such as Hewlett-Packard, but also in northern European companies such as IKEA.

The advantages and disadvantages of the douce

Duzen creates a relaxed atmosphere

The advantages of the douce seem to be obvious: It creates a relaxed working atmosphere with a friendly or even almost family cohesion. Hierarchies are flattening, and communication barriers are being reduced, which can shape a very open corporate culture. The confidence of the employees is strengthened, as well as the cohesion of the team. Especially with colleagues, with whom you work very closely and very closely, the formal “you” often does not seem appropriate after some time. If the supervisor gets involved in the circle of dozens himself, the “you” can also simplify the communication with him, as it can reduce potential inhibitions. For new employees, integration into existing teams can be easier with the “you”

The Duzen can unfortunately also bring disadvantages. Very soon, an alleged proximity can arise, which, however, lacks the natural foundation. As long as everything goes well, that’s no problem. However, if differences of opinion or even conflicts arise, the “you” can quickly become a problem. It then becomes much more difficult to distance oneself in communication and to draw a line where necessary. A lack of verbal distance quickly leads some people to misunderstand the rules of respectful togetherness. In the worst case even veritable verbal derailments occur. Quarrels take on greater proportions when personal distance is lacking, and they also end slightly below the verbal waistline.

The “you” creates a familiarity, even before it has actually grown. This trust can be exploited purposefully, just as well it can lead to that too many private things of itself in the enterprise blabert. Women, in particular, report that they often perceive the given “you” as being too distant, since many a male interlocutor may overshoot the target.

The advantages and disadvantages of the Siezens

With the “Siezen”, politeness, restraint and respect are automatically expressed in the communication. It creates a stylish and polite distance, which, however, by no means has to be negatively affected. On the contrary, respect and courtesy are things that promote coexistence and collaboration. With the respectful “you” you show that you respect hierarchies or the experience of older colleagues who have been in the company for a long time. This does not mean automatic subordination, but rather promotes an eye-level communication.

The disadvantages of the Siezens, however, are relatively unimportant. At worst, it is annoying and awkward for colleagues to work together well and for long, and to feel connected. Sooner or later, however, they will arrive at the “you” anyway, at least in their daily work without the presence of customers or supervisors. After all, the duzen is not prohibited.

Which are the worst mistakes?

Especially younger employees often go too fast to the “you”, if they feel comfortable in their workplace. But what is meant well in principle, does not fit well with every colleague. Older or even more senior colleagues may feel overwhelmed and attacked by the “you” and may understand it as aloofness and disrespect. If the colleague addressed with “you” remains consistently with the “you”, then this is an infallible warning sign and the indication that as soon as possible to return to the “you” back.

If the duet is common in the circle of colleagues, this does not always automatically include the superior. To ask the boss unsolicited is one of the most embarrassing mistakes the new employee can make. In the best case, the superior will politely ask to stay with the mutual “you”. However, less self-confident bosses feel quickly attacked, insulted and not taken seriously in their hierarchy. This can have fatal consequences.

Another no-go is to duce people you still want to be whizzed by. Unfortunately, this is still very common among trainees or interns who, because of their young age, are often simply not accepted as adults. What is quite conceivable in private life, however, is simply not possible in professional life. The trainee and the trainee must definitely be drunk, unless the supervisor offers them the same.

Who is allowed to offer the “you” to whom?

Duzen in the office / Photo: Boggy /
Often used in younger companies / Photo: Boggy /

In professional life, completely different rules apply to this than in private life. Who is allowed to offer whom the “you” is determined here by the hierarchy in the enterprise. Supervisors offer this to their employees, and never vice versa. Anyone who comes into a company as a new employee must wait patiently until their colleagues have come to know him so far that they in turn offer him the “you”. Whether the lady offers the “you” to the gentleman or the lady of the lady does not play any role in the company context, nor does the age question. Only the length of service and the internal position count.

Of course, there are also special cases here: For example, when you come as a much older employee in a department with young employees who are already all duzen. Theoretically, you would have to wait until you are offered the “you”. The younger people, on the other hand, hesitate because they do not have to appear disrespectful. In such a case, to break the ice, you can simply use a casual situation after a while, and ask informally.

May one refuse an offered “you”?

Of course it is up to each person, whether he wants to be geduzt or gesiezt. However, rejection of the Duz offer will in most cases be understood as refusal of one’s own person and rejection. Here you should think twice whether you jump over your own shadow and bite into the sour apple. Also consider the possible consequences. If a colleague is not really sympathetic to you, and you therefore prefer to stay emotionally with the distanced “you”, then the expressed rejection can only increase the distance. Conversely, the transition to the “you” does not obligate you to an increased sympathy, but is pure formality. And maybe your ratio will even improve.

Can you take back an offered or accepted “you”?

Did somebody offer you the “you” or did you offer it to someone and at the same moment you realize that this was more of a mistake and that you absolutely want to stay with “you”? Then you should have the courage to clarify the error as soon as possible. Ideally, there are factual reasons why “you” is the better choice and you can politely expose it to your counterpart. With luck, he even shares her opinion, and the matter is off the table. Be very polite in any case and apologize in any case for your possibly premature offer.

Did your boss at the company party suddenly bluff you? Was alcohol possibly involved, perhaps even too much alcohol, so that an embarrassing situation arose, or was it just because of the generally relaxed atmosphere? In both cases, you play it safe if you politely trump your supervisor at the next meeting. Should it be similar to the colleague and they too are at a loss, then talk to them about it. If the offered “Du” only came from a beer mood, it is finally off the table. However, if the supervisor really wants to offer you the “you”, then in any case he will immediately repeat his offer of the previous evening and will regard your hesitation as a courtesy and perhaps a slight sense of insecurity

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