I’ve seen too many construction managers summon the courage and intestinal fortitude to break through the jobsite communication barriers… only to find their efforts have made things worse.
They’ve unwittingly insulted the Hispanic workforce.
They’ve pissed them off.
Don’t let this be you.
Here are the 8 fastest ways to damage your relationship with Hispanic workers.
Assume all dark-skinned workers are from Mexico.
Don’t do this. If you call a Puerto Rican a Mexican… this won’t go over well.
For that matter, don’t call a Cuban a Puerto Rican either.
The point is this: Don’t assume. It makes you look like an ass.
(Just you. Not me.)
Lead with ¿De dónde eres? Where are you from?
Everyone is interested in sharing where they are from.
Take an interest.
Only talk to Hispanics when there are problems.
Remember Stephen Covey’s emotional bank account metaphor?
You need to make some deposits before you can make any withdrawals.
How would you like it if your general existence was ignored for 391 straight days? You never heard a word – never saw a gesture – in recognition of a job well done?
But then… it hits the fan and the blind mid-manager comes at you full of passion and tension, demanding something gets done stat!
Make some deposits.
Some day you’ll want to make a withdrawal.
Open a conversación with the Mexican drug-trafficking topic.
Things are pretty bad in Mexico. You bringing it up as your sole touchpoint with Mexican culture helps little.
The workers here have family down there.
Consider this little exercise…
I live near Chicago.
There are more killings in Chicago than any other U.S. city – and that’s just based on the fake statistics (fractions, really) issued by Chicago Police. It’s much worse.
When I travel, do you think I want to talk about it?
No. I don’t.
Ask me about Al Capone or Michael Jordan or deep-dish Pizza or the Stanley Cup winning Blackhawks or the (sigh) Chicago Cubs.
Make any remark about Ricky Martin.
Under no circumstances should you bring up Ricky Martin.
Pretend to speak Spanish by adding an -O to the end of every English word.
“Hey-oh can-oh you-oh finish-oh the-oh concrete-oh by-oh today-oh?”
Don’t be this guy.
And not very funny.
But… there is a lot of truth here. There are hundreds of English construction words that become Spanish words by adding an -O onto the end. I wrote a book – Spanish Twins: Start Speaking Spanish on the Construction Site with Words You Already Know – based on such words.
You get the idea.
But don’t be that guy.
Be the guy who speaks Spanish and gets things done.
Act like a bullhorn.
Just because they speak Spanish doesn’t mean they are deaf in English.
Repeat the phrase, “Everyone speaks English on payday.”
Throughout history American businessmen have amassed great wealth on the backs of disadvantaged immigrant labor. Have some empathy.
Build trust daily so when questions of compensation arise, it can be dealt with mutual respect.
Chime in daily with your Spanish swear words.
Yeah… we get it. You learned how to say George Carlin’s 7 dirty words en Español.
You said the same thing ayer.
And the day before that.
Now how about these 7: “Te agradezco tu ayuda. Muchísimas gracias, vato.”
I appreciate your help. Many thanks, dude.
So there they are… the 8 fastest ways to piss off Hispanics on the job.
Avoid these and you’ll be fine.
Now it’s your turn…
Do you have any others that deserve to be added to the list?
Bradley Hartmann is founder and El Presidente at Red Angle (www.redanglespanish.com), a training and consulting firm bridging the English-Spanish (and a bit of Polish…) language gap in the construction industry.
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