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Office etiquette: should kisses be banned?

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Office etiquette: should kisses be banned?
Ilker Yüksel
16:29 CEST+02:00

A German etiquette group has divided opinion with its calls for a ban on greeting kisses in the workplace, which it labels “too private, too intimate, and too unprofessional”.

The recommendations come from the influential Essen-based Knigge-Gesellschaft, an etiquette association whose pronouncements are followed with interest by German speakers in several countries, including Switzerland.

But not everybody is enamoured with the group's rules of workplace disengagement. In an opinion piece published by the Tages Anzeiger newspaper, Annett Altvater from online magazine Clack.ch takes issue with the calls for osculatory restraint.  

“If the greeting kiss in the workplace is to be banned, it seems like we have been afflicted with a prudish American ‘cover your ass’ campaign.”

In these recessionary times, the association is trying to lay down the law, arguing that tactful behaviour in the workplace has become fashionable again.

“In business the greeting ritual is the handshake,” according to the association, which recommends that an optimal distance of 60 centimetres be kept between business associates.

“Privately, greeting kisses are allowed, but they're a no-no in the office,” said head of the etiquette association Hans-Michael Klein.

Altvater agreed that kisses and other forms of affectionate contact are not part of the Germanic cultural identity, a fact she said made any calls for a ban all the more laughable.

“This is different in South American countries where a business partner will be touched about 60 times in the space of an hour, but as a rule in Switzerland and Germany hands are kept neatly to oneself.” 

In the unlikely event of an unwanted kiss or embrace in a Swiss business setting, Altvater recommends using body language rather than bans. 

“An ice queen strategy should be adopted to avoid lip-cheek contact. The hand should be clearly offered. For guaranteed success, this treatment needs to be repeated a few times.”

Altvater also took a swipe at the catchphrase displayed on the association's official sticker: “Peck, peck – no thanks!” (Bussi, Bussi – nein danke!). Should fellow office inhabitants persist in seeking out a post-pizza peck, the Clack writer said her magazine urged woman to simply speak their minds rather than littering the workplace with prudish slogans.

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