Employers in Germany are embracing politeness as the best way to improve competitiveness.
In a country where unemployment has been hovering at 10%, the economy is weak and companies are threatening to move jobs abroad unless the working week lengthens, there has been a recent obsession with etiquette as a means to stay ahead.
Employers fear rude behaviour can harm productivity at home as well as cause embarrassment abroad. Staff – worried about job security and high unemploment – want to shine in the workplace.
Dieter Hundt, head of the German Employers Association, told the Wall Street Journal Europe that, in some companies “the simplest rules of co-existence are lacking”.
A one-off television show on the topic, the Grand Manners Show, was a big hit last year, and more shows on workplace manners are in the pipeline. Self-help etiquette books are in demand, as are training courses on the subject.
In the Saarland region in western Germany, there is even a workplace campaign called ‘Things Go Better When You’re Nice’.