English Language & Promotion

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about:

I was born in a Latin country and my English is as a second language. In some cases, when I have to speak to my boss and when he’s explaining some duties to me and I do not understand him, he says something like, “SOMETIMES I DON’T KNOW IF YOU SPEAK ENGLISH.”

When he says that I felt really bad and about to cry. Also, I’ve been asking for a raise based on my knowledge and experiences, but it seems like only men get salary raises. However I have a bachelor degree in Management and nobody cares. Some guy that just came 1 1/2 years ago got top pay. I’ve been working for my employer for almost 5 years and I deserve a raise. I don’t know what to think. Can you help me?

Signed, I Speak English

DearĀ I Speak English:

Unfortunately, in spite of your advanced degree in Management, your boss sees you as communication deficient. You are able to make me understand as you do in the composition of your question; however, also I could saw the need to revise it to improve its clarity. So I can see that that your English as a second language could have provoked the frustrated exclamation by your boss.

Language is beset with ambiguities and imprecision even for those who speak the same native tongue; communication is many times more difficult between those with different languages. I sympathize with your despair. But that is past. The issue now is: Can communication between your superior, coworkers and you be bettered? I have several suggestions:

1. Bilingual ability is strength. This nation is increasingly one with large numbers in which English is a second language. Those like you who know Spanish are of special value to an organization; because you can readily communicate with other employees within your workplace and with customers who speak English as a second language. I don’t know your particular occupation, but I predict that you have something up on your boss because you are bilingual. Review how bilingual ability might add value to your work environment; for example, might you serve as a tutor to other employees who speak Spanish and whose English is weak?

2. Make communication frequent, especially with your boss. Don’t avoid him. Rather ask for a time-out session in which you and he can spell out what is expected of you; what, where, when, how and why. And realize that instructions once given can change. Therefore, check on what is on deck for the day and week.

3. Even more important, talk about talk. What does he want of you to do to understand him better? Can you and he come to an agreement that it is OK and necessary to ask him to repeat and to say something in a different way? Can you and he come to an agreement that it is OK to ask the meaning of a word or phrase? Can you and he agree that some instructions are better understood when two channels are used; both written and spoken English. Can you two work out some communication do and don’t rules about how you can make his and your jobs more effective?

4. Spell out what you have accomplished during your five years with this company; the skills you have acquired, projects completed, responsibilities you have, positive evaluations, etc. Compile this as you would on a resume. Then seek a meeting with your boss and Human Resources and make your case for a raise. Women who do the same work as men should be paid the same unless there are other factors such as tenure, education or communication ability that would make certain men more valuable. I wouldn’t be a crusader about this but you have a right to make your case for pay that is equal to males who do the same work as you do.

Not incidentally, recently Congress passed the Ledbetter Act that expands on the 1964 Civil Rights Act; it stipulates it is unlawful for women to be paid less who do the same work as men who are paid more. I will include several paragraphs from Wikipedia about that: The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009 is an Act of Congress enacted by the 111th United States Congress and signed into law by President Barack Obama on January 29, 2009. The bill amends the Civil Rights Act of 1964 stating that the 180-day statute of limitations for filing an equal-pay lawsuit regarding pay discrimination resets with each new discriminatory paycheck.

The law was a direct answer to the Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., 550 U.S. 618 (2007), a U.S. Supreme Court decision holding that the statute of limitations for presenting an equal-pay lawsuit begins at the date the pay was agreed upon, not at the date of the most recent paycheck, as a lower court had ruled. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lilly_Ledbetter_Fair_Pay_Act_of_2009. These are some thoughts for you to consider.

Approach this matter with a positive assertive mindedness. Speak in terms of making a contribution to your workplace. Think about what is meant by my signature sentence: Working together with hands, head, and heart takes and makes big WEGOS. In short communicate with the overarching and underpinning thought that you want to be respected and valued as a strong member of your workplace family.

William Gorden