[lg policy] Discussion: What are you thoughts on a workplace language policy?

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at GMAIL.COM
Sun Mar 11 15:58:30 UTC 2012

What are you thoughts on a workplace language policy?

Steve Madsen • Shelena - language policies can be as useful as they
are disruptive. what prompted you to ask this question?
3 days ago • Like

Shelena McClinton

Shelena McClinton • I have a bilingual workforce and there have been a
few request for an "English Only" policy.
3 days ago • Like

Tatiana Mehlbrech

Tatiana Mehlbrech • Hi Shelena, in my opinion language policy reflects
the culture of the company. If your company is an international entity
with Head Office in US, English should be the official language of
communication and employees from other countries should be encouraged
to learn English.
3 days ago • Like

Rajeev Shroff

Rajeev Shroff • In one of the companies I worked at the whole language
issue became a big issue, and actually effected employee engagement
with one section of the employees.

When I joined as a leader, I read through the first employee
engagement results, I saw a number of comments about a Manager who was
perceived as biased.

As I dug through the details, I found the Manager conducted meetings
in a local language, which helped him connect and relate better with
his team, but there were smaller section of people who did not speak
the local language. Overtime this whole perception formed that he was
biased towards a section of people who spoke the same language as him.

Turned out this was baseless, but that showed that clearly we needed a
common language of communication, and once implemented and clarified
the whole issue went away.

There several other examples I could share, but clearly a common
language is required. We never implemented that as a written policy,
but everyone understood the reasoning and followed the 'suggestion'.
3 days ago • Like

Saikumar B • I absolutely agree with Mr.Rajeev Shroff that in an
establishment with bilingual or multi lingual employee composition,
the language policy shall endeavour to evolve a language commonly
known to the employees rather than commiunicating with them in as many
languages as there are employees. It runs the risk of exposing a piece
of information to be communicated to the vulnerability of darwing as
many interpreations also. This will spell disaster for corporate
communication system.

For adopting common language policy, the company can adopt the
'majority principle'.However if there is a minority who cannot speak
or understand the language of the majority, the company can employ a
language consultant to assist them to learn the language of the
majority in due course.
3 days ago • Like

Duane Larkin

Duane Larkin • If the intent of the policy is to say "All official
business will be conducted in <insert language>" then I would say it
is a fair policy. There needs to be some continuity in an ever diverse
world. However, if the policy is meant to limit hallway and break room
discussions, I would say the would be unethical, at the least.

Shelena, I would seek to understand the "why" of the request you have
received. If language is limiting someone's ability to do his or her
job, that is a problem. If language is keeping someone from listening
in on gossip, well, that is a different problem.
2 days ago • Like

Laura Lingle

Laura Lingle • Please provide more information and context regarding
what is really going on. As Duane pointed out, there's a difference
between specifying how the company communicates to the world, and how
people communicate within the company. I cannot imagine, for example,
insisting that two people who speak Spanish not speak Spanish to one
another when it's just the two of them communicating.

If it is the latter - where others, perhaps, are frustrated that they
cannot listen in on others' conversations, that's not an issue to be
resolved with a language policy.

It's very difficult to really answer this without context. Please
provide so that we don't continue running in circles, discussing this
with lots of assumptions that may be completely irrelevant.
2 days ago • Like

Steve Madsen

Steve Madsen • Shelena - your original question is very basic. I grew
up in the LA area and am a native Californian, but the population of
Hispanic and Spanish-speaking people make this a potential divisive
issue that really needn't be. I think the requests are coming from (my
guess) boomers who think "your in the USA and our language is English"

My thought - you have two extremes - all English, or a dual language
environment and a variety of degrees in between. There are many more
language choices that can be made - Thai, Korean, Spanish, Vietnamese
are perhaps the other dominant foreign languages in SoCal, so which
one do you choose? It is largely dependent on your employee
population, both present and future, that will determine which way you
should go. Every product I buy now has instructions in English,
Spanish, French, Mandarin, and others, which may be easier to produce
than a workforce fluent in all these languages.

I think you've got some great thoughts from the comments above. Take
them back to your organization and put together a sensible policy that
serves your company. You know better than anyone in this group what
will work and what won't.
1 day ago • Like

Laura Lingle

Follow Laura

Laura Lingle • Best case scenario in terms of participating in this
group would be that you share more details and context, respond to
what you've read, and (or at least) let us know what you did and what
the results were.


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