As an author with my own book targeting business owners who employ Hispanics, I am typically loathe to recommend other books competing for the attention of "my" audience.
However, The Gringo's Guide to Hispanics in the Workplace by Jacob Monty is one book I wholeheartedly recommend. It should be mandatory reading for any business leader who works with Hispanics.
Mr. Monty is the managing partner of Houston-based Monty & Ramirez LLP, an employment, labor and immigration law firm. He's been keeping companies with large Hispanics workforces out of trouble for the last two decades.
If you're the proactive type, Monty will help you establish the best way to hire, manage, retain and lead Hispanics in the workplace. If proactivity isn't your thing, he'll do his best to keep you out of jail and/or bankruptcy.
At 127 pages, The Gringo's Guide is small enough to read in a week or two. Monty's writing style is informal and enjoyable. It's a fun read - not easy to pull off given the subject matter. But more importantly, the recommendations and advice within the book can save you millions in legal fees, turnover costs, insurance premiums and rework.
Monty opens the book with the following comment:
"Many of the serious errors I have seen in my two decades representing employers with large Hispanic workforces have been perpetrated by good-hearted employers who did not acknowledge the unique background features, social norms, and histories of their Latino workers."
It's not that his clients were malicious. They were good people who made some costly mistakes. We see this all the time in construction, don't we?
- The mechanical contractor didn't intentionally run the ducts in a figure eight - he was working hard and simply failed to pay attention.
- The drywaller didn't mean to cover up a dozen can lights. He was maintaining the schedule and simply forgot to router out the fixtures.
In most cases, we have well-intentioned individuals making poor choices. The mechanical contractor and the drywaller can fix their mistakes with some material and labor.
Correcting course with employee lawsuits isn't so easy.
To help your business establish a coherent strategy for managing and leading your Hispanic employees, here are a three recommendations from Monty - no retainer required.
1. Uno: Respect the Culture
Culture will kick strategy's tail every day of the week and twice on Sunday. Here are several ways to connect with the Latino culture on the job.
- Understand Job Satisfaction: In Chapter Two, an HR director notes that white employees largely get their job satisfaction from title and salary. Hispanics, on the other hand, get their satisfaction from having peers recognize what a great job they are doing. It's a bit of the Machismo culture shining through. While it's always good advice to "Praise in Public & Criticize in Private," this is especially true with Hispanic employees.
- Thank Employees: This should go without saying, but the language barrier (perceived and real) often limits appreciation for the work of Hispanics. It's been said that Appreciation is the most basic of human needs.
If you're nervous, start with a couple Spanish Twins - words that are identical or nearly the same in both languages - like excelente (ayk-say-LAYN-tay) or fantástico (fahn-TAH-stee-koh).
Or go with gracias (GRAH-syahs) - thank you.
Sí's and No's (Yeses and Nos):
Here is a quick rundown of good conversación (conversation) starters according to Monty - and others to avoid.
- Novelas (TV programs)
- Upcoming holidays
- Violence in their native country
- Politics in their native country
- Drug trafficking
- Immigration status
What may seem like common sense isn't. Given the widespread violence in México these days, I frequently hear English-speakers broach this topic as a conversation starter. Bad idea.
Let's frame this another way. I live in Chicago. There happens to be plenty of violence in Chicago. If I travel to Mexico and someone opens a conversation about Chi-town violencia, what am I supposed to say?