Dimelo: "How Do I Connect With My Latino Employees?"

Dimelo: "How Do I Connect With My Latino Employees?"

Dear Pauline,

I am a very successful manager in a large financial institution. I've had the highest performing team for years, however, I recently took on several employees who are located in Puerto Rico. Not being at the same location as your employees is always a challenge, but I am finding the cultural differences to be the biggest obstacle. I am not Latina, but have great respect for the culture, and thought you could help me work past the "relationship" trouble I'm currently experiencing with my team.

My normal style of managing has lead to misunderstandings and lots of drama. How do I adjust my approach to make sure that I am creating a lasting and effective partnership between my team and myself?


Diversity Challenged 

Dear Diversity Challenged,

Let me be the first to offer you a cookie. Not only do you realize that it's the cultural differences driving you and your employees batty as you adjust, but you are also accepting the responsibility as a supervisor when you could have just as easily passed the buck.

Cultural differences play a huge role in work place (and family drama, too!) Hell, I had to explain to The Husband that every individual was going to expect a handshake or a kiss on the cheek, just so he'd have half a clue when he met my parents for the first time.

Here's my take on sailing past the culture shock straight into smooth waters

* Get used to being referred to as Usted. Spanish is a language divided by class and Usted is the formal You reserved for supervisors, our elders, and those of higher social status.

* We don't want to lose your faith in us. Even if your Latino team members are experiencing a problem, they're more likely to respond with "Todo esta bien!" if you ask how they're doing. Ask specific questions of your employees for clearer communication.

* Don't assume your Latino team members will take initiative. Americans take pride in on taking ownership and taking the lead in the workplace but Latin America operates on a different channel. If you find yourself wondering why the hell a capable Latino team member didn't bother moving on to the next obvious step without your advance direction, understand that doing so in the Latin culture is actually considered rude and overstepping boundaries. To avoid drama, be clear in your directives.

* We operate on Latino Time. Culturally, Latino and U.S. perceptions on time are worlds apart. In Latin America, it's normal for meetings to start later than scheduled because Latinos tend to have a more relaxed view of time. Explain to your team that you are operating in American Time, and that advance notice is important when asking for time off.

* Trust is a Thing. Make an extra effort to be warm and friendly with your Latino team members. Ask how their family is doing and how their weekend was. These little things will build trust and once you've got that, you've got their loyalty -- Andale, patrona!

-- P 

Pauline Campos is Latina Magazine's #DIMELO advice columnist. Email her your questions at dimelo@latina.com. Connect with her on her blog, www.aspiringmama.com and follow her on twitter: @pauline_campos.