top of page
book cover ebook .tiff

First-Generation Hispanic Workers

The purpose of this book is to help leaders build more positive interactions with the Spanish-speaking team members. Misunderstandings occur even when we speak the same language. How much more so when the employees speak a different language?

By gaining a deeper insight into the culturally diverse workplace, the team leader will learn to use strategies to reduce communication errors, manage conflict, and improve employee morale.

Isaac Botbol, Training Director

The 5 Most Important Things to Know when Training Spanish-Speaking Employees

Providing a leadership training program for first-generation, non-English fluent Hispanic employees can be challenging if our approach does not consider their specific learning preferences and cultural differences. I'd like to share the five most essential points when delivering a leadership training program to Spanish-speaking supervisors and team leaders.

1. First-generation Hispanics in the workplace will generally not raise their workplace issues and concerns with their bosses, and they will typically not ask questions. They will often remain silent even when they don't fully understand the instructions. Hispanic males, in particular, will typically not attempt to ask their bosses for clarification. Why? Because they fear they might appear "unintelligent" to their bosses or "inexperienced" in front of their peers.

2. The trainer must be aware of the effectiveness of the instruction methods used to teach first-generation Hispanic employees. Conventional teaching principles such as lecturing often fall short of their expected learning objectives. The Hispanic participants want to live the training! Real human interest stories are highly effective. Role-playing and practicing workplace scenarios are great confidence-building exercises.

3. During a training session, always be aware of your effectiveness and impact as a trainer. Bombarding the participants with vast amounts of information in an unrealistic amount of time is ineffective. Be mindful of how you're communicating your messages, your delivery style, and your body language. Above all, be patient and let the learning process sink in through the use of real-life examples.

4. Remember that repetition and patience are the two most powerful tools in your training arsenal, especially; when teaching a new skill. Be prepared for mistakes, nervous reactions, and learning bumps. Training sessions are excellent opportunities to demonstrate your patience and outstanding leadership abilities.

5. The training should continue even outside the classroom. English-speaking supervisors and managers can play an essential part by showing they are genuinely interested in the Spanish-speaking supervisors' leadership training and their growth and development.
Making A Connection

Previously, we mentioned how important it is for English-speaking managers to look for opportunities that help to gain the trust of first-generation Hispanics in the workplace. You, the leader, must find creative ways to make yourself known as a friendly and approachable boss. One way to do this is to regularly get out of your office and take a walk inside the production area.

Don't let the language barrier prevent you from making a human connection with the front-line employees. On the contrary, you can turn this apparent handicap into an excellent opportunity to earn the trust and respect of the Hispanic team members. Take this as a personal challenge by learning specific Spanish keywords and sentences that work like magic in developing healthy working relationships between you and your Hispanic workforce.

For example; you can start by learning to say the greetings in Spanish, such as:
"Buenos Dias" (boo eh noss dee us) ("good morning")
"Buenas tardes" (boo eh nass tar dehs) ("good afternoon")
"Cómo está usted"? (koh moe ehss tah oohs ted) ("how are you?")
“Que tenga un buen día”(keh ten gah oon boo ehn dee ah) (“have a nice day”) 
You can learn to interact with the employees by learning to say simple sentences such as:
"Cómo se llama usted"? (koh moe seh yamah oohs ted) ("what is your name?")
"Me llamo William" (meh yamoh William) ("my name is William")
“Gracias por su buen trabajo” (grah see ahs por sue boo ehn trah bah ho) (“thank you for your good work”)
"Aprecio sus esfuerzos" (ah preh see oh soos ehs foo er SOS) ("I appreciate your efforts") 

You don't have to be fluent in Spanish, but a little working knowledge of some keywords can make all the difference in the world!
The Macho Thing

What is this Hispanic macho thing? The dictionary defines macho as 'male.' In simple terms, macho or "machismo" expresses masculinity. In some Latin cultures, it is the way men are expected to behave. It’s the belief that men have a more dominant role at home and in society than women

Machos are supposed to be physically and mentally strong, and they're expected to be the prime providers and protectors of the family. Men control their emotional behavior; otherwise, they fear being perceived as "flojo" or weak. This cultural identity is more prevalent among males who are first-generation Hispanics.

In American culture, macho behavior is called sexism or male chauvinism. As Hispanic women gain prominence in the workplace and society, macho behavior becomes increasingly offensive.

Unfortunately, macho behavior continues to be alive and well with first-generation Hispanics in the workplace. In the macho culture, a Hispanic female supervisor will have a much more significant challenge gaining the trust, respect, and loyalty of her male Hispanic team members. Taking "orders" from a woman is not something they can easily accept.

Being macho has to do with wielding power. It's about letting everyone know "who's boss." 'De-macho-ing' Hispanics in the workplace can be achieved by providing relevant leadership training that promotes a culture of equality and respect for all employees, regardless of gender.

It's not easy to suddenly remove a type of thinking that has existed for many generations. However, by teaching them to realize that macho behavior is self-defeating and demeaning, you, the leader, would be tremendously beneficial in helping first-generation Hispanics create an environment based on respect and equality.
Favoritism in the Workplace

The issue of favoritism is a topic that will almost always come up during a leadership training presentation. Team members are appalled at their supervisors' tendency to give preferential treatment to some employees and pay less attention to others.

For example, they claim that their supervisor will frequently assign "easier jobs" to the same people and other unpleasant tasks to the less favored ones. Those excluded from this "inner circle" feel that this treatment is unjust and unfair.

Favoritism is a huge problem that should alarm managers who may not even be aware of this common practice. Their intervention is necessary because classifying employees is demeaning.
So why is this practice so prevalent?

The Supervisor's Challenge
Supervisors often claim they have few resources to work with and have no other option but to repeatedly choose the more skilled employees to do the urgent work and the less experienced ones to do the heavy lifting.

This simple system of job assignment can only lead to conflict. The employees who are regularly told to do the menial jobs complain that their supervisors deliberately keep them from gaining the skills they need to move up to better-paying jobs. Favoritism leads to poor morale because employees feel their efforts are not valued.

Since most first-generation Hispanic supervisors have had little leadership training, they have not yet gained the skills to deal with complex issues and challenging personalities. In our leadership workshops, they'll admit that their authority is limited. They try to reach the production goals in any way they can by allocating the crucial work to the more skilled employees. This way, they can satisfy their managers and protect their jobs. Unfortunately, this enforces the system of favoritism.

Managers should address the unfair distribution of job responsibilities, limited resources, and employee morale with their supervisors. When the supervisors learn the leadership tools they need to succeed, they can progress into responsible and accountable leaders.
bottom of page