Working in an environment of multilingual employees presents unique challenges that can be difficult to anticipate. Problem solving can be one of the most difficult aspects, but also the most rewarding. Being able to help overcome issues that stem from different cultures and languages at work is something that all employees need to learn, but it is particularly important for managers.
When confronted with a problem at work, regardless of what that problem is, the employee or manager should take the time to fully understand what the problem is before trying to resolve it. Even when employees all speak a common language, their understanding of a second or third language will be influenced by their culture. For example, an employee may come from a culture where people are very direct. To some this approach may seem to be critical or offensive. The best approach to take when there are multilingual employees is not to be easily offended. Strive to see the problem from multiple angles, and it will be easier to understand how an employee or manager arrived at a certain point of view.
When working with multilingual employees, think of several different ways to provide instructions. Take the time to make sure that everyone is on the same page, and projects will go faster and more smoothly.
It is easy to think that because multilingual employees can generally speak one language that they can understand any information presented to them. One of the biggest problems facing multilingual employees is that native speakers of the language often forget the limitations of having to constantly think in a second language at work. At the end of a presentation or meeting, take the time to address questions and concerns. Allowing employees the opportunity to get clarification will help avoid problems.