Discrimination Because Of Language

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about a supposedly retired supervisor doesn’t want to be replaced by someone with whom she doesn’t approve:

I work in an international place. The problem is that the acting supervisor, who is supposedly retired, extended. She is French. I am the most senior to take the job, but she does not want any one other than French or English speaker to be in charge after she is gone. She succeeded in convincing the managers that none other than a large language program would be able to manage the program.

It is going really bad as she has given lies about my intentions and keeps my good ideas hidden, accusing me of wasting time. Any opinion is not heard and does not reach management. Self evaluation is cut short of any accomplishment above minimum essential duties. When I complained, just asking for justice and transparency, nothing happened. Please advise. Thanks

Signed, Being Denied A Chance

Dear Being Denied A Chance:

Apparently French or English is not your primary language, which is why you feel the current supervisor has set things up to prevent you from moving into the position. From a business viewpoint, I would suppose the key factor for your organization is what language skills are needed to deal most effectively with clients, with written materials, with employees being supervised, and with those in management and executive positions.

It may be that your current supervisor truly believes what she has told managers. It is doubtful they are completely unaware of what is needed. So, if they agree with her, they may not have had to be convinced very much. There is also the possibility that the language issue is being used as an excuse, both by your current supervisor and your managers.I say that, as tough as it sounds, because I often encounter people who are senior in a job, who want to become the supervisor, but who are not viewed by managers as being ready for that responsibility.

Seniority and experience doesn’t necessarily produce supervisory skill. Rather than saying, “We don’t think you have the knowledge, skills and attitudes we want in a supervisory position”, they give reasons they think will be less hurtful: “We need someone with such-and-such background,” “This program needs someone who has had such-and-such experience.” The thing they say they need excludes the person they don’t want to anger or hurt.

That may not be the case in your situation, but it is something to consider. Consider these supervisory knowledge, skill and attitude areas, and see how many of them would be considered strong points for you: Job Knowledge (That’s probably where you rate the highest.)Interpersonal skills, Conflict Resolution Skills, Knowledge of organizational policies and procedures; Problem-solving and decision-making; Use of resources; Creativity; Big-Picture thinking; Support for management; Planning and Organizing; Budgeting; Coordinating; Reporting both verbally and in writing; Leadership; Positive Attitudes; Team oriented approach, Customer Service, Adaptability.

Keep in mind that however you view yourself, others are thinking of the proof you have provided through your work. I often tell those who apply for a supervisory position to prove their excellence in every category by being able to show documentation of specific things they have done in recent years or months that could give an indication of their potential as a supervisor. If you can show that you fulfill those requirements, consider developing a memo in which you ask for the opportunity to be interviewed for the position, even though management may think an English or French speaker is necessary.

Provide a brief overview of your experiences and how those would help you be effective in the supervisory role. Show that you have been supportive of management efforts. Let them see you as a good choice.If your organization has an HR (Human Resources) or Personnel section, you might want to write to them as well, or instead. I would suggest that you not mention the unfairness you think has occurred, or the fact that your complaints have not been answered. Rather, be definite that you wish to apply for the position and would like to know what organizational process you should follow to do that officially.

If you still are not given the chance, you have several options: Leave, show through your continued good work that they have made an error, or work to gain the skills they think they need, so you can be ready next time.I’m certain this is very frustrating to you, but your organization has the right to develop job requirements, even if they don’t seem correct to you.

In the United States those requirements usually can’t purposely exclude a gender, age, ethnicity or religion. But, it sounds as though your international company can make a good argument for the language requirement, even if it eliminates some people.It may be that if you can show your readiness for the job, they would prefer to use you than wait for someone else. The key is to have a work history that shows you have the knowledge, skills and attitudes they want in all the major areas, even if you don’t fit their more specific requirements for an English or French speaker. Best wishes as you develop a plan of action for this. If you have the time and wish to do so, let us know what happens.

Tina Lewis Rowe

Tina Lewis Rowe

Tina had a thirty-three year career in law enforcement, serving with the Denver Police Department from 1969-1994 and was the Presidential United States Marshal for Colorado from 1994-2002. She provides training to law enforcement organizations and private sector groups and does conference presentations related to leadership, workplace communications and customized topics. Her style is inspirational with humor.