Do I Have To Take The Spanish Calls?

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about being uniquely valuable to the company, yet not paid for that: I am more qualified than others taking on their work and yet I receive no promotion or even acknowledgment of my bilingual skills.

I was not hired as a translator, nor, was Spanish a requirement for my employment, so, the fact that I was simply a plus. Well it has turned out to be more of a plus for my company because since I’ve been here going on 6 years, all of the Spanish calls and emails have been sent to me. I am the only person in my company that is bi-lingual both written and spoken. However, I have never been paid a differential.

I myself lost sight of how much the company relies on me, and with the growth that we are experiencing, my boss sells our company as having a great Spanish speaker, which is rare in our business. He uses me, as a “perk” yet has never approached me to give me a raise or a pay differential for my skill. The fact that I am the only person taking Spanish calls is really affecting me because not only do I end up stuck doing other people’s jobs and my work suffers, but also because others are being promoted over me even when I have more skills and experience with in the company.

Again, I am the only person who speaks Spanish and every single person forwards the Spanish call and emails to me. Do I have to take these calls or do I have the right to approach management for a pay differential, and can I ask that they retro it for period of time that they have been using me for my language skills? This company has a history of using its employee’s and playing to favoritism so it doesn’t seem fair to me that here I am more qualified than others taking on their work and yet I receive no promotion or even acknowledgment of my bilingual skills.

Signed, No Mas

Dear No Mas:

Yes, you have to take Spanish calls. Can you imagine the chaos that could occur if you, firmly told your boss, “No mas, no Espanola? But you have a case to be made. I don’t know the protocol of your company for asking for a raise, but you should be able to learn that from your immediate superior, Human Resources or Personnel.

Prepare well for this. Usually, a company has six-month or annual performance reviews. You don’t have to wait for that to request a review of performance and pay. Prepare. Take a log of the calls and emails from Spanish clients you answer over a week or more and if possible of how this compares to those that come in English to other coworkers. You say because Spanish speaker inquiries are shuttled to you that your other work suffers. Describe how that happens.

Since you have been with this company for six years, you must be doing something right. If you have positive performance reviews, bring copies of them when making your case. Also take with you evidence of how those calls are addressed effectively; customer satisfaction, sales make, problems resolved, etc. Put your request in writing asking for a review of your status and send it to the proper source.

Also verbally ask for a meeting with your superior to discuss this matter. Do you have in mind what you think would be a fair wage for you as one with the special language skills and one who knows the jobs you are assigned? Inquire what that might be within your organization and possibly elsewhere in advance of asking for a review of your performance and pay. Once you meet don’t be shy about making your case; however, neither should you come on like a tank going to battle.

Those who make pay decisions might argue that you have not been given higher pay because there are defects in your work, such as not being up to par with English. Be prepared for that. Approach this matter professionally, focusing on the value you have brought and want to add to your company.

Can you request retroactive pay? Yes, you can, but getting that most likely will be problematic. In short, hopefully the performance review will give you an increase in pay that you are happy to report to your family. I advise against conversation with coworkers about your displeasure over pay and being the only Spanish-speaking employee. Don’t talk about that. If you have in the past, don’t now. Just be as responsible, effective and cheerful as possible. Think big as you would if you owned your workplace. Think of what is best for all concerned. Think WEGO. Working together with hands, head, and heart takes and makes big WEGOS. Think that way and I predict good things for you.

William Gorden