Speak English at Work

Q: The two people I work with are from the same foreign country. Both are very good at their jobs and talk in their language all day long. I'm not even certain they are talking about work. Is it politically incorrect to let them know I prefer they speak English at work?

A: Political correctness has been helpful because many professionals are more sensitive and respectful of differences between people.

Political correctness becomes a liability when professionals become so afraid of offending someone that appropriate boundaries aren't set in the workplace.

Business decisions need to support long-term productivity. Genuine political correctness supports profitability and efficiency.

To work together we also have to find common ground as well as respect differences. Common sense is required to know what gender or racial habits need to be put on hold at work.

For instance, many women typically ask questions rather than give orders. In executive training for women I teach my clients that many men do not hear questions as direction.

When these women step back into the workplace and make statements such as "I want you to get me the Johnson file," male employees formerly seen as "problems" suddenly become helpful.

Some women might still ask questions rather than make direct statements in their personal life, but they need to make statements at work.

As a manager you need to encourage your team to speak the same language figuratively and literally. When a team lacks a common language, rapid response to problems is impossible.

To build a common language, explain to your employees that their work is excellent and you and their co-workers need them to speak in English so that the whole team is on the same page at the same time.

Ask them if they foresee problems with switching to English during work hours.

The request to speak a unified language is reasonable.
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