Your Office Coach: Language difficulty needs understanding

 

Because my English is not very good, I have a hard time
contributing in management team meetings. I often feel ignored
because the other managers don’t understand what I mean.
Q:

Because my English is not very good, I have a hard time contributing in management team meetings. I often feel ignored because the other managers don’t understand what I mean. I have a lot that I want to say, but my English always lets me down. When someone asks me a question, I worry that my accent will make me look stupid. If I am asked to repeat a comment, I get anxious and forget what I was trying to say. I feel that others think less of me because of my poor English, so meetings have become very stressful. Can you help?

A:

Anyone who has ever had to communicate in an unfamiliar language will identify with your dilemma. The inability to share your knowledge and fully participate must be incredibly frustrating. One possible strategy is to simply ask your colleagues for help. For example: “Since English is not my native language, I sometimes find it difficult to express my ideas. I’m working to improve my English, but that’s a slow process. I would appreciate your patience when we are discussing complex topics.”

In response to such an appeal, most people will react sympathetically and encourage your participation. You may also find that openly discussing the issue actually reduces your anxiety. If writing is easier than speaking, you might also tell your colleagues that you will occasionally send them e-mails to clarify your views. And if planning time would help, try asking your boss for the agenda before each staff meeting. I would welcome additional suggestions from any readers who have successfully dealt with this challenge.

Q:

Management allowed my boss to hire one of her relatives, even though this is against company policy. My manager and “Wendy” were not close before, but now they carpool, eat lunch together, and even plan joint family vacations. When I said that vacationing with an employee seemed inappropriate, my boss replied that it was none of my business.

My concern is that Wendy is not being properly supervised. Her work is often incorrect, but my boss constantly makes excuses for her. Whenever I bring this up, my manager gets defensive, and we wind up having an argument.

The executive who approved Wendy’s hiring has left, so our current management may not be aware of their relationship. I don’t know whether to report this policy violation or just ignore it and focus on my work.

A:

This is exactly why most companies don’t allow managers to supervise relatives. Only you can decide whether ratting out your boss is worth the risk, but you do need to stop arguing with her. Since she is clearly never going to agree with you, continuing to share your opinions about this family relationship will only make matters worse.

If you have a helpful human resources department, you might ask your HR manager for an interpretation of the nepotism policy in this situation.

Just be sure that doing so won’t jeopardize your own job security.

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