Soldier on the phone

A colonel replying to a letter written to Soldier Magazine has given advice on how to answer the phone without assuming someone's gender and causing offence.

The letter written to the magazine said: "May I bring everyone's attention to the way we greet and speak to each other."

"When the telephone rings I must answer with the name of my department, my name, followed by 'how can I help you sir?'"

Col Steve Davies, Assistant Head Employment, Directorate Manning (Army) replied: "I agree that the convention of answering the telephone using 'sir' without knowing who one is speaking to is now considered outdated and arguably unnecessary."

He said: "The opening gambit of saying your rank and name followed by 'how can I help you?' is both respectful and applicable to all callers and should be adopted."

Drill sergeant shouting at Stirling Castle

Could assuming someone's gender get troops in trouble?

The same letter also requested guidance on whether greeting officers as 'sir' or 'ma'am' was suitable while walking around barracks, as the writer thought it may offend someone by "assuming someone's gender".

The letter reads: "When I see an officer walking through the barracks I must greet them with the word 'sir' or 'ma'am' but am I not risking offence here by assuming someone's gender or implying that they actually see themselves as having a gender?"

"Isn't it about time the Army considered abolishing these Victorian-style greetings?"

Col Steve Davies did not agree with this point and defended the current convention.

He said: "I would disagree that the British Army is somehow out of step with the community in this regard."

"Saying 'sir' or 'ma'am' is both appropriate and polite.

"The use of gendered terms when greeting officers as you walk around barracks reflects a convention that is used in many important sectors of British society, including the monarchy, judiciary and parliament."

Do you answer the phone with the word sir? Let us know in the comments.

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