When follow-up is ok

Despite German reluctance to use follow-up, there are situations in which it is unavoidable: In order to stick to a well-defined plan; when the customer requests information; if work results are not delivered on time. The Germans prefer the term nachfassen – literally, after hold. Or nachhaken – literally, after-hook or -check.

Follow-up in Germany can be either negative or positive. Negative in the sense of control. Positive in the sense of support. Follow up – negative – questions one’s ability and willingness to produce good work results. At the same time – positive – it is essential to checking technical details, getting necessary information, verifying due dates.

Organizations which are time-driven rely on follow up. News organizations are just one example. Any and all forms of logistics is another. Timing is critical. Schedules need to be met. Employees are under pressure. Deadlines are deadlines.

Follow-up can be supportive. An older, more experienced colleague can inquire in a friendly way about the status of another’s work. A team lead who coaches her team well knows when and how to follow up by simply asking “How are things going? Can I help in any way?”

Follow-up by colleagues on a report, speech, or published article is positive. It means that they have taken sincere interest in your work. It also gives them an opportunity to demonstrate their competence by asking intelligent questions.

In German team meetings follow-up is the rule, not the exception. Open action items can be addressed directly. Team members establish a common baseline of information.

Finally, there is another very legitimate reason to use follow-up in Germany: If things are not going right, if an error has been detected, if the work is being performed improperly. In such cases there is only one course of action. Follow up, and fast!