My company head hunted me for my abilities of a warehouse manager and people management skills.

My English however has never been my strongest ability and they are now complaining about my grammar in emails.

As they never employed me on that skill, do they have any right to give me a verbal warning and also the threat of 'if it happens again, it shall be more serious' because of this?

  • 4
    They can probably do what they want. These are internal or external emails?
    – paparazzo
    Commented Apr 30, 2016 at 9:09
  • 2
    If you have a problem in this area why not get somebody else to proof read your emails?
    – Ed Heal
    Commented Apr 30, 2016 at 9:42
  • 10
    They don't need to specify in a contract that management work contains reading and writing. And because it can make people think poorly of the company as a whole, many superiors won't be satisfied with a "it can be understood, somehow".
    – deviantfan
    Commented Apr 30, 2016 at 9:50
  • 2
    If your communications cause confusion which leads to lost productivity/time/money then your managers have every right to be upset.
    – AndreiROM
    Commented Apr 30, 2016 at 17:58
  • 13
    By correcting the spelling and grammar of the original post, the true nature of the circumstances (OP does have serious problems with spelling and grammar) has been masked.
    – user7230
    Commented Apr 30, 2016 at 18:10

4 Answers 4


Are you in an English speaking country? If not, were you informed in the interview that you'd need to communicate mostly in English? Either way, did you communicate that English isn't your strong point and something you'd need help with?

If you conducted the whole interview process in English, have English literacy on your resume, and/or were told that English is a skill that is required for the job, then yes, it is reasonable for them to say that your written English isn't at a level they need to conduct business.

If it is an issue, I'd approach your manager/boss and say you know it's not your strongest point and say you'd be willing to take some business English classes if need be. If you show you're willing to work on it, and actually show improvement in that area, it shouldn't be as big of an issue.

If you are coming off as 'I wasn't hired on this skill' and being confrontation, then I can understand why you were told it could escalate to more than a verbal warning in the future. It's not the skill that's the issue, it's your attitude of "I wasn't hired for that" that is the issue.

  • 5
    Last paragraph raises a good point.
    – jcm
    Commented Apr 30, 2016 at 15:20

As usual, this kind of thing depend on your location, as laws depend on country or even state in some cases.

Morally they should not fire you for poor use of English, but morally you should do your best to write and speak in the best English you can use.

I have had prints of mails from my factory-floor manager where I could not make sense of several of the lines. That is very frustrating.
What he should have done was make a rough version, give it to one of the people and ask whether changes were needed before it was spread to everybody.

You could do something like that. Do your best to use understandable English at all times but not worry about fine details in day to day conversations. But when you send something, or when it is an official document in any way, have someone check your language. (Start with using the spell checker/grammar checker on your text program, that will point out the worst mistakes.)

  • Question would be whether it affects his ability to do the job. But even if it does, lack of some ability isn't fixed with a verbal warning or threats, but with training. You cannot reasonably order an employee to have better English skills.
    – gnasher729
    Commented Apr 30, 2016 at 20:35
  • The advice about having someone check over something before sending is good even if you think you have perfect English. How often have we thought something made sense but then when someone else reads it there was actually something wrong or unclear?
    – Brandin
    Commented May 1, 2016 at 21:25

There are two unknowns about your question that make this difficult to answer well:

  1. Your native language.
  2. Which forms of e-mails they are complaining about. (To customers? Vendors? Internal emails? Others?)

With that being said:

It is reasonable for an employer to request professionalism in written communications.

It is reasonable for an employer to request their employees practice good spelling and grammar.

As a side-note, if management is your "skill", then good communication is one of your primary tools. It seems it would be useful to improve your communication skills as well to become an even better manager.

If English grammar is a known weakness, then you would be well served to become a student of English grammar and spelling, and to request help from your employer. It is in both of your best-interest to be a good communicator, and they should be happy to offer help and resources to aid you in becoming a better communicator.

There are several options available to you, which include:

  1. You could have a coworker review your written communications.
  2. Many e-mail clients have built-in grammar checking tools. Be warned that relying on these is not usually the best idea, but they can help.
  3. There are free online grammar checking tools that you could use. (With the same warning as above!)
  4. Your employer may have other resources available that could help.

I can understand the employers viewpoint, and it is a serious issue.

If when interviewing they asked for fluent English speakers, the implication is that you can write in English competently. If you're a native English speaker it just makes it worse. For any sort of management position this is par for the course. Communication is one of the MAJOR skills expected from a position like that.

In answer to the question, they have every right to reprimand you for this, and in many countries they can sack you for anything they want.

  • How would they not have spotted this in an interview?
    – gnasher729
    Commented Apr 30, 2016 at 22:57
  • @gnasher729 Normally not something you test someone for, I assume he had help writing his application.
    – Kilisi
    Commented Apr 30, 2016 at 22:59
  • 2
    @gnasher729 Colloquial spoken and written English are sufficiently different that a problem with written English might not be spotted in an interview. Commented May 1, 2016 at 2:26

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