Q: Through downsizing, attrition, and layoffs, I’m the only English-speaking person left on my team. My two remaining co-workers are naturalized citizens. They both have a wealth of experience and seem to do a terrific job. The problem is, they now constantly speak in their native tongue. When they do address me, it’s in broken English, resulting in frequent misunderstandings and mistakes. Can you offer some advice?
A: The simple answer is, when at work, all employees should speak in a language that everyone can understand. In your situation, you could try asking your co-workers to speak English when they’re with you. Another option is to approach your supervisor or HR office to explain the situation. Your company is responsible for establishing a policy about which language is to be used for business conversation and communication in the workplace. Don’t complain. Instead, focus on the need to build good communication between team members. You might also request a meeting with you, your fellow team members, and management to clarify the company’s language policy. Two recommendations you can offer: 1) Everyone speaks a language that all can understand — English, and 2) Action items are put in writing in English so that all workers are clear about them.