Skip to main content

Workplace Bullying (3) - Exclusion and Language

The biblical story of the Tower of Babel has always fascinated me.   Not least because I have never been good at languages, having struggled with both Afrikaans and Latin at school, even though I come from a multilingual family.     Back to Babel, though, and the story that the people of Shinar built a tower to reach heaven, and the Lord came to earth, and saw that people with one language could be unstoppable in their achievements, both good and bad.   And so He "confounded" their language and "scattered" the people.

In South Africa, we have 11 official languages.   At +Accsys (Pty) Ltd I have done a rough count and have come to the view that we have around 20 languages either spoken or understood in the company.

When I put out the blog on exclusion being a variation of bullying, I started to receive feedback about people feeling excluded because of language.   While a number shared that they didn't feel it was malicious, just that people are more comfortable talking their mother tongue, the impact is the same, they didn't feel they were being included.

One of my nieces worked in Hong Kong on a three month business secondment some years ago.   Every day, the group she was working with asked her to join them for lunch.  Every day, they spoke Chinese.  After a week, she stopped going.   She said if she was eating in a group, but effectively on her own, she might as well be on her own.   Today, I would give the advice, take the people you are most comfortable with to one side and ask them to join you for an out of work coffee, one on one.   Not to complain, but to start building relationships.   When people know you better, and like you, they naturally (sometimes) become more inclusive.   There is also no question that it is worth making the effort to try and expand your knowledge of languages other than your own.

Its not just about the spoken word, those who have hearing difficulties are also excluded by not being able to hear.  

Getting back to the story behind Babel, if we ensure that everybody who is with us is able to understand what we are saying, how much more powerful would we be, as individuals, as groups and as companies, if open communication was always a common objective?  

There are two sides to this story, as with everything.   The question "Why should I have to speak your language, when you haven't bothered to learn mine?" is a valid one.   Another comment is "When you joined us, we were speaking X language, why should we have to change now?"   Also valid.


Sometimes being right has to succumb to being kind!



“Life is a fight, but not everyone’s a fighter. Otherwise, bullies would be an endangered species.”
Andrew Vachss, Terminal

References and Links


Workplace Bullying - Wikipedia
Accsys News

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Thinking of leaving - should you discuss it with your manager?

The exit interview is not the time to tell your manager that you would have stayed if.....   When you are serious about your career, and really enjoy your job, except for one key component, take the time to talk before you resign.

While sometimes the grass is greener, more often than not you just inherit new issues at a new company.

It is a difficult labour market in South Africa right now, there is a skills shortage, and yet there are millions of people without jobs.   Working for a stable company, with people you like, and a job you enjoy is important, and yet there are often those frustrations that give you itchy feet.

In your current position, your manager might really want to keep you, and be very interested in finding out what would make you a happier, more productive, employee.   It is also sometimes much easier to have that conversation with somebody you already know, than have it in your first weeks in a new position.

When you know you have choices, as well as know that you …

Agile workers & workspaces - a new way of working..

Being an agile worker is still a work in progress…
Is flexibility now a reality in the workplace?And is it really working? We keep renaming it – remote, activity based and agile work being some of the current terms. The assumption of control over one’s own time and deliverables does look like a great way to work and live, and it seems to be is a high priority for those entering the business world. There is also the development of the agile work space, where people come to the office each day, but don’t have a fixed work area.We used to call it hot desking back in the day and it met with mixed success.Today, office designers have started to create work spaces which are intended to encourage innovative thought, cross departmental collaboration and improved productivity. My research indicates that the mix of engaged and disengaged employees in an open plan workspace does not always have the desired effect of the positive workers influencing the culture.In fact, a case study of a senior execut…

Which Wolf are you Feeding?

Which Wolf are you Feeding?
An old Cherokee is teaching his grandson about life: (Sources – See below) A fight is going on inside me, he said to the boy.   It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves.   One is evil – he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority and ego. The other is good – he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith. This same fight is going on inside you – and every other person, too. The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather “Which wolf will win?” The old man replied simply “ The one you feed”. When I came across this story in a thriller by Michael Robotham, my reaction was immediate.  This is a great hook for creating positive thinking and, importantly to our business, a new way to approach an age old concern. Feeding the good wolf - focusing on the right stuff!  The message …