My Boss Won’t Stop Speaking French

By on November 6, 2013

My Gallic boss has recruited other French speakers and I feel left out. How do I tell them?

Q. My manager is French; the rest of us on the team are English. He recently recruited another French person and they choose to speak in French a lot of the time, despite both being fluent English speakers. I find this practice rude but don’t know how to raise the issue.

JEREMY SAYS: It’s your belief that he’s being rude that presents the difficulty. It’s almost impossible to suggest that someone’s being rude without causing offence. Instead, try to see it as no more than a smallish threat to the easy working of your team.

Raise the issue lightly with your manager and start by accepting part responsibility. Like far too many lazy English people, you and the others can’t speak French, so when the manager and the new French person speak French together, you and the other inadequate monolinguists can feel a bit left out. You fear that your team, once a model of unity and cooperation, might slowly become more a sort of two-tier unit – which, in turn, could be bad for collaborative working and productivity.

You shouldn’t even need to ask him directly to stick to English in the office. I think he’ll take the point readily enough – and I don’t think he’ll be offended.

Jeremy Bullmore is a former creative director and chairman of J Walter Thompson London. Address your problem to Jeremy Bullmore at:editorial@managmenttoday.com.

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