Setting Me Up to Fire Me

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about second language change from editing only Spanish to also editing English:

I’ve written before about the fact that my manager, who oversees work where we all edit Spanish documents, insists we speak English, in spite of the difficulty in doing that when our minds are working in Spanish. Now, I have a related problem. My coworkers also work in the Spanish Department. They were hired to edit Spanish writing only. Now, the boss is asking them to edit English as well. They informed the boss when they were hired that their English writing and editing is below average since their strong suit is Spanish and they are native Spanish speakers (born and raised in Hispanic countries.The boss gave them an ultimatum: Either you edit English correctly or “it will not be pretty” for you. They will also be evaluated like native English speakers that have Bachelors and Masters in English Literature and Journalism. It feels like a Catch-22. Is this ethical? Can they set an employee up to get fired?

Signed, Feeling Set Up

DearĀ Feeling Set Up:

The very first question to consider is: What does the job description say? If it says the job involves editing both Spanish and English, the employees should have realized they will need to do both at some time. If the job description only says editing Spanish, they should point that out and ask for a meeting with HR or other hiring units about it, to clarify what can and cannot be demanded of them. In any event, we’ll recommend what we did last time: All employees who feel there is even inadvertent racial, ethnic or language bias or improprieties, should complain to someone higher in the organization and ask for an investigation. Don’t just vent to someone, submit a written statement of concern (if that sounds better than a complaint) and ask that the matter be looked into. Give witnesses and say you would like to be interviewed.Yes, your manager will be upset. But, it appears none of you are part of a happy team right now anyway! If you work for a state institution there are plenty of protections related to that. If you are part of a private institution there still will be concern at some level about how this appears.

There is no reason to suffer in silence about this, and it is frustrating to me that no one in your section has apparently done anything serious to stop what they perceive as being unfair. Your manager is just one small level with probably several levels above her. She doesn’t rule the whole world.It would be different if her actions involved work schedules or how work is assigned. Even then there would be some recourse. But this involves an issue of ethnicity, language and work effectiveness, so everyone is sensitized to the potential for problems.

If, after you take this higher in the organization or to HR, you find out everyone supports your manager, then you can all decide if you want to stay there and try to do a good job in both English and Spanish. (That’s certainly attainable and would make everyone more marketable), or if you want to leave and find a place that would appreciate and fully use your skills in a more congenial environment. But, if you feel there is no way your language skills are sufficient and you know you were never supposed to have to use both languages, you will have a grievance that hopefully others will listen to.

The bottom line is that you have to be assertive about it rather than only tolerating it. Do you think it will get better for all of you soon? If so, maybe you can hold on. If not, you had better act quickly. Otherwise your complaints will look like you’re just trying to get out of a bad performance evaluation or out of being fired. Be proactive if you think things are bad enough that jobs are at stake. Best wishes with this. If you have the time and wish to do so, let us know what you decide and 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.