Is 'she' intentionally disrespectful?
January 25, 2011 1:03 PM Subscribe
Office Politics - Idiosyncratic language usage or Hindi diss?
posted by scrute to Work & Money (33 answers total)
I'm the ED of a small non-profit, and late last year we hired a new admin assistant, let's call her A, to join our team of 4 full-time staff (all women at this point). A is an Indian woman who moved here on her own 10 years ago, and who has been stuck in call centre work or short contracts in corporate offices since the move. This is her first non-profit experience, and she has been a bit slow adjusting to the new work environment.
In general, I am quite trusting with the staff in the office, and the overall environment is quite casual. I don't really care if people come in at the same time every day, as long as they're here for meetings and working their hours and I don't expect everyone to run every step of everything they do by me. I believe in setting clear job expectations and then letting people 'run with it', providing support where its needed, overseeing those tasks that are crucial to the organization (ie. accounting, tax filings, payroll) as necessary.
A clearly struggles with this, and the staff are struggling with her struggles. Her constant questions and need for reassurance (and I mean constant) is somewhat understandable given her history, but quite disruptive in the office. She is also incredibly rule-bound, adhering enthusiastically to any rules or templates I've given her, even if I've made it clear there's room for flexibilty or change.
One of the staff members, B, gets particularly frustrated by A's unwillingness or inability to move forward with any task without a tonne of hand-holding, and her need to do everything 'by the book' even if we've only just made up 'the book'. While I know B's trying to be patient, she has snapped at her two or three times, which sends A into an emotional tailspin. (I also get extremely frustrated but have managed to avoid snapping at her.)
Where the language question comes in: As 'the boss', and a nicer one than she's used to I suspect, A has put me on a bit of a pedestal. Her relationship with B is tense, even though B is probably more worthy of a pedestal than I. At this point, I'm trying to figure out whether I should interfere (they're both getting their work done) or let them sort it out themselves. What I've noticed though, is that A now refers to B simply as 'she' whenever she mentions her in conversation. Which makes sense in a group conversation where both are present, but less so when B is nowhere around. For example, today A told me that she needs to 'go to store x tomorrow, because there is something she needs'. B is not even in the office, and she is not the only other possible 'she' on the team. This morning A did the same thing while B was at the other end of the room on her computer - 'She needs some money from the petty cash for y.' In neither case were we speaking about B to begin with, and if I didn't know about the requests already, I wouldn't even be sure who 'she' was.
So my question (sorry for the length) is: Is this use of 'she' an intentional sign of disrespect in the Indian culture, or is it simply an odd use of the English language. It feels disrespectful to me, and if it is, indicates that I do need to step in at this point and do a little mediating. If it's simply a cultural/language quirk, I'm willing to ride this out a little longer and see if they can sort themselves out, or if they will ask me to step in.
General opinions welcome, but I'd really love to know the thoughts of those that have more experience with Indian and Hindi language/culture.