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How to politely ask “pretentious” engineers to simplify language

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Imran Malik


( 7 months ago )


I spent a lot of time thinking on this question so that it can have an answer, so please inform me if it needs modification since I really need help with this problem.

I am one of 10 team leads for small teams of engineers that specialize in various products our parent company sells/makes. There was a professional disagreement almost a year ago involving 8 teams based in Caucasian majority countries and Latin America, arguing with 2 teams based in Asia on the best technical solution to a problem that impacts all teams. I manage one of the Asian teams.

The problem was escalated when the other Asian team put in a solution to the problem without first getting approval of the other teams, except for mine.

The solution made their product easier to finish on time, but created a lot of extra work for all the non-Asian teams. This had an impact in their lead times causing them to miss deadlines. The only reason the solution was implemented was because their lead convinced senior leadership it was the "best" solution, and by the time the other teams were able to escalate it, there was no turning back.

Now we have a problem: The other teams have a much stronger command of the English language. Ever since this dispute "ended", the non-Asian teams won't help with simple tasks they are able to help with (i.e. they are the only people with knowledge of certain tasks and how to execute them), but most importantly, they use increasingly complex language. This includes uncommon words which I imagine most native English speakers wouldn't know (i.e. "Supercilious", "specious", "esoteric", etc.), and they are making our teams unable to complete certain projects due to the complexity of the language they use. We've asked them for clarification on certain requests in the past, but they reply "the requests are clear. Get a dictionary if need be". This feels very racist.

How can I raise this issue with them and/or HR? They're not technically breaking any company rules, but they are being intentionally not helpful.

Karlie Kloss


( 7 months ago )

I am surprised that none of the answers has yet suggested what should be (and will be) the only solution to this mess.

Forget about HR, making complaints to management, investing in dictionaries or ESL courses, none of those will solve the problem.

Someone in a lead position needs to step up, unilaterally, and offer an "olive branch". This means, eventually, that all the people involved will need to apologize and demonstrate their trust across teams.

Consider that no one enjoys being blind-sided by surprise decisions made without their consent. The english-speaking folks certainly have a right to be upset, but acting out childishly by alienating the others with obscure language only hurts both sides. Both sides are at fault here now. The OP may be in a position to fix things and doing so will be a really good move for his career.

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