Multinational firms are increasingly mandating a common language—typically English—to gain efficiencies and enhance collaboration overall. Associate Professor Tsedal Neeley has discovered, however, that merely mandating a common language is not sufficient. “Multinational firms that mandate a common language must also equip their employees to work together more effectively,” she says.
According to Neeley, common-language mandates tend to be poorly implemented, leaving employees feeling diminished and insecure, and lead to losses in performance and productivity. She recommends practices that can help all employees work together more effectively, including building awareness of the emotional dynamics involved in cross-language business communications; creating safe environments for language practice; and reinforcing an empathetic culture, in which native speakers actively and consistently assist comprehension of non-native speakers, motivating non-native speakers to use the common language accordingly. In this process, executives must model the behaviors they want to promote.
(Published May 2015)
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