I'm an English-speaking manager in a (US) workplace where many other employees, including my secretarial assistant, speak a different language as well as English. The problem is that because of their common language often employees seek out my assistant for advice or direction (which is not her formal role) when they should in fact be coming to me. It's certainly easier for them to do so, but then I'm cut out of the loop and am not aware of what's going on - something that's very important to me as a manager, especially since my assistant isn't qualified to make some of the "decisions" she is making. It's the chain-of-command impact, and the inappropriate role my assistant is taking on, not the use of another language per se, that's the issue. How can I handle this in a positive, cooperative way?

  • 5
    better communication and a clear understanding of it's importance between you and your secretarial assistant comes to mind. Define his/her role and make sure they stick to it.
    – Kilisi
    Oct 27, 2015 at 7:07
  • 1
    I take it this is effectively pushing your assistant into a managerial role when that isn't intended? Has English been defined as the company language or is that not practical/necessary? Voted unclear for now since I can't tell what you actually want to accomplish.
    – Lilienthal
    Oct 27, 2015 at 10:37
  • Are decisions being taken by your subordinates causing actual problems? Do you have examples?
    – Nathan
    Dec 3, 2015 at 9:30

5 Answers 5


Looks like you have a very nice assistant why not take advantage of that.

Now do you want micro managment all the orders or are you willing to share some of the tasks with your assistant?

Just sit with your assistance and set the groud rules.

  • What kind of request is the assistant allow to handle.
    • Even if doesnt handle the whole order maybe some pre process so you have to do only the final touch.
  • Define some form of report to keep you in the loop.
  • 1
    When someone indicates a "chain-of-command impact," they want to micro manage.
    – user8365
    Oct 27, 2015 at 20:14
  • 6
    @JeffO Or they've been caught looking stupid because they had no idea about a "known problem" for which they are responsible.
    – Myles
    Oct 27, 2015 at 22:32

In addition to the previous answers, here are some specific things I found that helped me in that kind of situation.

I had a similar situation on my team where a member was 'intercepting' communications from other team members that I should have been included in. Additionally this person was making policy decisions without including me. This led to me being unaware of various issues, status, concerns, etc., at least until something I didn't know about blew up enough for someone to come to me with it.

Often this kind of behavior is done w/ good intentions- they see a problem they can help with, and they want to show initiative, so they do so. They may not realize all the negative impacts this can have, and that's the primary issue you need to address.

As you state, this makes your job much more difficult, since you don't have visibility on various issues/requests you need to be able to do your job effectively, and it can greatly confuse communications and lead to 'multiple realities' where everyone ends up with different understandings of what is going on.

What solved it for me was talking to the person in question and explaining:

  • I need to be included in these conversations, because it is my job to know what is going on with my team and department, and I am ultimately responsible for everything that happens on my team (You will need to be able to define which ones 'these conversations' are).

  • If I don't know what's going on, I cannot do my job effectively and the whole team's efforts suffer, since my job is making sure the team is doing OK and the work is getting done.

    • Since I am responsible for them, I have to make the decisions on these matters. This will also ensure clear communications with everyone else as to what's being done.

    The goal is to show the impact this person's behavior is having on both you and the organization at large (and even how it could be making that persons own job more difficult)- again, something they may not realize is happening.


I think you need to clarify, with your assistant, his or her authority. You are correct in assessing that being out of the loop on things is a bad thing. Unless your report is titled "assistant manager," that person shouldn't be making decisions unless you've specifically granted that authority. Fix this situation, because in a mess, you're on the hook!


The best advice I ever received was "work your foreign languages". In plural. Not only english. I did work german as well.

When I did my end-of-studies training period, we were on a project for building a new type of light for cars. We needed a new kind of plastic, manufactured in germany. The commercial team from the german chemical corporation went to visit, and we had a meeting. There were two of them, our project leader, one engineer, and two trainees(including me). Our project leader began the meeting in english. Everyone else was fluent in german(and some not that much in english), and naturally, the discussion switched to german. Noone forcasted that, or wanted that. But it happened.

Because he couldn't speak german, our perfectly bilingual french-english project leader was expelled from the decision process. And it was nearly unavoidable. When people have a job to do, they naturally go to the path of least resistance.

All the advice of disciplining your team in the other answers are nice, but they're not going to solve that problem a satisfactory way. Try to learn at least some of their language to have an idea of what is happening. If not, you'll always be vulnerable.


I think you either got a nice, passionate assistant or a want-to-dominate one.

In either case, just be very polite and praise him/her first for taking such crucial decisions and then put forward your viewpoint. You don't want to sound arrogant and disturb their morale.

Something like this should be good to go.

Dear X,

I am very impressed to have an assistant like you. You have been doing really good work with the decision making.

However, I would like to request you to keep me also in the loop, so that my expertise would help the team take much more polished decisions and help you add more value to the company, along with your professional careers.



This would both appreciate him/her, and would also put your point forward without them feeling low or guilty for what they have done.

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