A group of Puerto Rican nurses in Haines City have said their jobs have been threatened by supervisors at the Department of Health if they continue speaking Spanish in the workplace (story HERE).
The truth is that Spanish in an English speaking workplace here in Orlando has always been frowned upon in some organizations, especially in the health care industry. This has been going on for decades.
My mother was a nurse for over 30 years, almost all of that here in Central Florida. She would speak Spanish in the clinic with other nurses and patients that also spoke the language. Much like the group of nurses in the story, it was considered a valuable skill by supervisors.
However, there were times when it would make some supervisors uncomfortable. My mom never had her job threatened but she and the other Spanish speaking nurses were told by those insecure bosses not to speak their native languages unless instructed to.
This was in the 80s. And 90s. And yes the 00’s before she retired.
I’ve saw it happen in other workplaces when I was a teenager working part time jobs. Restaurants, tourism, it depended on the supervisor.
“Hey, hey, none of that Spanish stuff.” said one Pizzeria manager I worked for “I want to know what you’re saying.”
And I think that’s the root of the problem. Bad bosses who are insecure and worried about what their workers think about them. Their poor leadership has them concerned they might be undermined and ultimately replaced.
An unfortunate part of all of this is that it’s a reflex many times to members of a community to start speaking to each other in their native language and they won’t even notice they’re doing it.
This is isn’t just in Spanish speaking communities, but all over the world. It’s affectionate behavior.
The truth is that you can’t hire someone because they speak another language and then threaten to take that job away because they’re speaking it.
We’re teaching these languages in our schools for goodness sake. This is knowledge.
It’s bad behavior for any business, and especially a government organization, where multi-lingual abilities and knowledge of the world around us is one of the most valuable assets you can bring into the workplace.