“Groundhog Day”, I think when the same discussion reemerges in a company after being dormant for almost 1.5 years. Of course, it’s not really daily.  But déjà-vu nevertheless.  

This issue is a recurrent conflict and emotive discussion about who should be addressed formally, or if everyone should be addressed formally until an informal greeting is offered, or whether the ‘more modern’ informal pronouns should be used by all.  There are many opinions on the issue and the camps seem to have become entrenched. The fronts within and between sections even become entrenched for a short time. 

You might think this is a totally normal generational conflict, which is almost insoluble (because there is no right or wrong answer). As a Change Manager & Business Coach looking at the issue from the outside, what surprises me at first is that people always return to this issue in a company precisely at a moment of change. Like the last time, a drastic transformation is probably on its way. It’s still unclear what exactly it will look like and only very few people are directly involved in the planning. So the question I ask is: Aren’t there lots more important issues to be discussed? 

Since this seems to be a recurrent pattern in uncertain times, the question arises: why are people interested in such an issue precisely now and why do they have the energy to have heated debates about it, rather than being passionate about the content of an impending transformation? 

You arise quickly at the conclusion that it’s a front for something else. This type of reaction isn’t uncommon when staff at a company, for various reasons, don’t feel sufficiently involved or consulted. In order to express your opinion, passion and sometimes also frustration in another area, you use a different, sometimes insignificant issue (which might be emotive) to act out these feelings.  

What’s positive about this situation is that you can see that the people in an organization can have passionate discussions. For a healthy organizational culture it would be desirable to use this energy for your own company targets and transformation projects. Experience shows that unfortunately this isn’t always the case. Because of the absence of wider controversial discussions, internal communications and the drivers of change miss out on using emotions and energy positively within the organization.  

That’s why it is advisable to involve a diverse range of people who represent various viewpoints in discussion groups at the start of impending changes. So their responses can be used at an early stage to ‘test’ the possible responses that could occur within the company and how and with what arguments these people can be brought onboard.  Please don’t be afraid of headwinds! The earlier you discover the possible counter arguments and get a feel for the response in the company, the sooner you can influence it!  

It’s also useful to make the issue a strong focus of internal communications right at the start.  Nothing is more annoying than when possible plans are already being discussed on the grapevine, but no one has been officially told yet on the company’s intranet or similar channels.