“Ask The Workplace Doctors” Is Still A Great Workplace Communications Resource

Ask The Workplace Doctors has almost 3,000 questions and answers
for you to search. Or, ask your own question!

For over a decade, Ask the Workplace Doctors, the site developed by William I. Gorden, Ph.D., of Kent State University, School of Communication Studies, has been a workplace communications resource for thousands of people, from around the world. You can still count on us to provide practical, reasonable, useful and compassionate advice. However, we are dealing with problems related to the appearance of some of the questions and answers and hope you will patient about those.

read more

Read More

Have To Speak Only English

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about language:
I was told today by my boss I can not longer speak Spanish with my coworker because it make my Non-Spanish speaking coworkers uncomfortable. I can only speak Spanish in my breaks is that Legal for them to make me speak only English just because they do not feel comfortable?
Is it Legal to Have an English-Only Workplace?
Signed,
Uncomfortable
_________
Dear Uncomfortable:
We have gotten questions such as your as you might see in our Archives. No more complete and understanding of your discomfort can be read in the following answer by Associate Workplace Doctor Tina Lewis Rowe. It is copied below. Please let us know if you feel it speaks to you.
http://workplacedr.comm.kent.edu/wordpress/category/intercultural-conflicts/
As always, we’ll state that we are not attorneys and do not have special training in this area of employment law. However, having said that, we can give you our opinion, based on research. Yes, your employer can require English to be spoken in the workplace if you are allowed to speak Spanish with your Spanish-speaking coworkers in casual settings such as breaks. An attorney may tell you differently and you may wish to pursue the matter that way, but it sounds as though your employer is being reasonable about when you can use each language and is not prohibiting you from being relaxed on breaks.
According to the EEOC, the following are some situations in which business necessity would justify an English-only workplace rule:
• For communications with customers, coworkers, or supervisors who only speak English
• In emergencies or other situations in which workers must speak a common language to promote safety
• For cooperative work assignments in which the English-only rule is needed to promote efficiency
• To enable a supervisor who only speaks English to monitor the performance of an employee whose job duties require communication with coworkers or customers.
• When having more than one language spoken for non-business purposes is disruptive to the maintenance of an effective workplace.
• There could be exceptions, but they would be considered on a case by case basis. A very tough way to look at it is that you are being paid to work, not to talk to friends about non-work matters, so there would be no reason to speak Spanish except at breaks when you can have casual conversations.
• Another way to look at it is that if you want to be a productive and effective member of the workplace, you will be able to achieve that easier when you are not perceived as being discourteous or trying to exclude others–or talk about them without them knowing about it. You may not intend it that way, but that is the way it will always be seen. And I would bet some of your conversations are of a nature you would not want to have translated exactly. (Just human nature!)
• From an employer’s viewpoint, one reason to have an English-only workplace is that any conversation can be distracting, but a conversation in another language cannot be ignored—it catches the attention and keeps it. So, it becomes a very big distraction.
• I can understand the comfort level of being able to speak in your first language–and apparently your employer can as well, which is why you have been approved to speak Spanish during break times. Probably your company’s legal advisers have suggested it, with the intention of fulfilling any EEOC requirements for workplaces with bilingual employees.
• If you never realized there were concerns about you speaking Spanish, you can use this as a way to tell coworkers and your boss that you didn’t realize anyone was made uncomfortable and that was not your intention–and that you will certainly comply with the direction. If you have been aware of the concerns but continued to speak Spanish anyway, you may want to still express that you weren’t aware of how much of a problem it was. The reality is that you apparently will continue working there and it will be better if you can work with everyone without conflict–and with a reputation for being cooperative and friendly. I hope your Spanish-speaking friend (s) will take the same approach and will not ruin your break times with unhappiness over this situation. Unless it’s worth changing jobs over, it’s better to treat it as a job requirement that can be tolerated—and maybe one day the situation will change.
• Best wishes to you with this matter.
–Tina Rowe

read more

Read More

Can An Employee Be Fired For Justifiably Raising His Voice When Upset?

A Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about an unfair accusation of harassment. 

A coworker of my husband’s came to our house to get free kittens out from under our deck, but she scared them so badly with a broom etc., that they disappeared. My husband took the carrier she was going to use back to work and she came to his work area to get it. He told her that it was stupid what she did and did yell at her but not crazy-like at all. She complained to the company that she can’t come on his floor “because she is scared” of him.  He had a meeting with the Corporate Diversity Dept. They heard his side of the story, that he did nothing but raise his voice. However, she says it was harassment. Will he be fired or disciplined? His work record is spotless and his boss went into the meeting after him and had nothing but good to say. Your thoughts?

read more

Read More

Nerf Blaster Shooting in Office

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about coworkers games playing:

This has been very disturbing for long time. Two employees love to play Nerf blaster and yesterday one coworker was holding the Blaster and shooting. I was next to him but he ignored me and did not put the Blaster down, I waited for 15 seconds after he stopped before I could go to my desk and I was furious. This morning, I reported it to Human Resources. She said she is going to handle the situation.

This afternoon I was ready to leave the office and this guy played Blaster again. One bullet hit the my top of hair. It almost hit my head. I did not fight with him. I am too quiet and not a verbally strong person, but I feel terrible. Should I report to HR again? What is your suggestion? Should I talk to my boss directly?

read more

Read More

Husband Barred From Bar

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about presence of husband at spouse’s workplace:

Can my boss tell me my husband can’t be at the bar while I’m on shift if he is a paying costumer and has come here before I am employed here? I feel like I’m. being discriminated.

Signed,
Boss Says No To Husband

Dear Boss Says No To Husband:

Barring your husband from the bar while you are on the shift is not discrimination. Most likely it is simply that your boss doesn’t want you favoring him or for spousal interpersonal problems surfacing. It is a local job-specific rule you have to work with if you are to work there. Discrimination is a term that applies to areas such as race, religion, national origin, sex, disability, and possibly physical appearance.

read more

Read More

Co-Workers Angry That My Complaint Led to a Termination

A question to the Workplace Doctors about how to respond to anger over the termination of a coworker.

**************************************************************

I have worked with a toxic coworker for three years. Recently he brought a knife to work and threatened me with it. My company investigated and terminated him. Now a few of my teammates are angry at me and there have been insinuations that I went to HR because of the other employee’s race. Some say I was motivated by jealousy. How do I handle the aftermath like a professional?

read more

Read More

Ten Feet Isn’t Far Enough Away To Breathe

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about restroom odors:

I work in a very small office, 6 people total. My desk is literally 10 feet away from the restroom. Several of my co-workers use this restroom daily to dump. They each sit in there, sometimes as long as 40 minutes, doing their business. When they come out, the smell is horrendous. There is a can of air freshener in the restroom, but only one person will use it. When she does, she uses so much it hurts to breathe. I’ve only worked here a few months, but I’m at my wits end. I can’t complain because my female boss is one of the worst offenders. It’s the craziest situation I’ve ever experienced. What is wrong with people??? What can I do?
Signed,
It Hurts to Breathe

read more

Read More

Employer Employee Texting Day and Night

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about if it is legal for an employer and employee to be texting.

If an employee and employer were texting each other for 2 months day and night, is that a legal issue for the employer?

Signed, Legal Curious

Dear Legal Curious:

Our disclaimer suggests that we don’t answer legal question. Even a legal answer to your question might be “It depends.” An attorney could provide you an answer in light the context of the situation and size of the workplace. For example if the employer was married and his spouse made the affair cause for divorce, that could cost the employer dearly.Why do you ask? What is your position in this situation? How do you know the texting is day and night and is in fact an affair? If you are one of the parties doing the texting, you have a lot to think about should an affair of a superior and a subordinate sour. That could affect the reputation of the company if sexual harassment were charged. If you are an employee who has work dumped on her because of the affair, you resent that. If you are a stockholder or partner in the company, you too have worries because certainly the quality of product and/or surface can suffer resulting from the distraction of an affair of employer and employee. This is not to say all workplace affairs never bloom into meaningful relationships.

read more

Read More

There are Affair Rumors About My Husband and a Co-Worker. Can HR Help?

A question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about how to handle a situation
in which there are affair rumors about two people who travel together.
Can HR do anything to help? 

**************************************

I found out (rumors only) from many people that my husband who is a manager is having an affair with a coworker. She doesn’t report to him, but they work on many projects together. One of the things on how this got started was their continually texting each other (company paid phones) and travel trips together. Is there anything HR can do? As an ethics situation, can one or both be removed from working together? We all work for the same company. My work has been declining as I am so stressed over the situation.

read more

Read More

My Boss Wants Me To Do Leadership Training

A Letter to Ask the Workplace Doctors about Leadership Training

*************************************************

My boss asked me to incorporate leadership training into our Conference department to help benefit the team as a whole. I was eager to begin working on this, as I reflect back to my college experiences both in your class and the organizations I was involved in. Not only am I referencing team building activities I learned, but I’ve also started reading your books to help lead me in the right direction for my team.

read more

Read More