While American businesses pride themselves on an ‘open door’ society, Germany’s office doors are closed, and German business etiquette requires you to knock. How do visitors and employees penetrate this barrier?
German Business Etiquette – Why Office Doors Are Closed
Why German office doors are closed:
- Closed doors are the traditions, passed down by many generations.
- The German business etiquette hierarchy is more rigid and formal than the U.S.
- Germans are serious about daily productivity and keeping to schedule. They dislike distractions. If you want to see a German business person, make an appointment.
- Germany is a need-to-know business environment. Information, including the paperwork on the desk and image on the PC, is confidential.
- Many, but not all, Germans fear that drafts from open windows and doors impact their health.
German Business Etiquette – How Visitors Get Through The Door
The executive, and his or her administrative assistant offices, are behind the door. If an outside visitor comes for an appointment, German business etiquette requires the administrative assistant, or Verwaltungassistent, to meet you at the front desk or security, and escort you to the office. You enter a suite that many include several assistants. The Verwaltungassistent knocks on the German executive’s door and waves the visitor in.
German Business Etiquette – Employees Facing Closed Doors
German employees know the rules. If they want to see the boss, get an appointment or catch he or she at a meeting. In an emergency, they knock. If it is a suite, the Verwaltungassistent engages the boss on the employee’s behalf. If it is the boss’s door, expect a perturbed greeting. Some paper shuffling may occur before the employee enters. The message needs to be clear and brief. There may be a few questions and an action. The meeting is short with a polite, but curt, Danke Schoen.
My German management moved to an open door policy in the U.S. All the knocking is odd to Americans. Germans are more assertive and forthright about breaking through barriers. They are extremely productive, and overtime is rare.
There is a great deal more to learn about German business etiquette behind those closed doors.