The challenges of effective communications are significant. Even when we speak the same language we can be misunderstood. This applies to an even greater degree when a different language is spoken in the workplace.

The pressures associated with production goals, deadlines and everyday workplace issues influence how we communicate with others. Delivering the message to non-English speaking Hispanic employees can be a difficult task because our communications are processed through our hard wired language and cultural filters.

There are certain guidelines that we as leaders can adopt so that our communications with Spanish speaking employees is delivered with greater accuracy. We can start by helping to develop a culture of trust by encouraging Hispanic employees to ask questions and seek clarification when they are in doubt.

Unfortunately, many team members have expressed that they fear asking their immediate supervisor to clarify instructions. They claim that they are often scolded and receive answers such as:

“How many times do I have to tell you?” or “Why don’t you know?”

After a while, they may stop asking questions because they believe that they’ll be severely reprimanded by their aggressive supervisor.

Developing a culture of trust and respect is one of the most powerful things a leader can do. It’s essential to educate the supervisors to be more tolerant of their team members’ requests and workplace learning needs.

Another important aspect to consider is the team members' reluctance to ask questions. First generation Hispanics in the workplace are notorious for not asking questions. This is particularly true with the male employees. The “macho” thing kicks in and they will avoid asking questions fearing that they will be perceived as being unintelligent.

According to OSHA studies, Hispanic employees have the highest death and injury rate in the workplace than all other groups combined! This stark fact should convince team leaders that they should use every available opportunity to create an environment that promotes clear and open communications.

Providing assurances that you welcome questions from the employees as well as consistently checking for understanding must be a top priority.

It also helps to involve the English-speaking employees as a source of training or mentoring and to promote cultural appreciation between the work groups. Above all, it is vital to be patient with the learning process.