Are English Only Rules A Good Idea?

An interesting question posted in an Oregon paper the other day that highlights the need for better cross cultural understanding in the workplace.

In the department I manage, we’ve had problems with a few employees who insist on speaking Spanish at work. Other workers are upset because they feel excluded from conversations, and they suspect the Hispanic employees are gossiping about them. These Hispanic employees are bilingual and do speak perfectly good English. We’d like to prohibit employees from speaking any language other than English at work. Is this a problem?

While the response was right on the money in terms of the possible illegality of English only rules, and probable internal controversy that this would raise, it does little to offer solutions.

This is an opportunity to provide education and training to both English speaking and Spanish speaking employees for respect, cultural understanding and even providing language training to help facilitate a healthier workplace. In our experience a little effort to reach out in someone’s primary language can do a lot to improve working relations in the workplace.