Code-switching at workplace

People always have a lot of conversations with people around them. However, there are some people who fail to distinguish between having an informal conversation with their friends and having a formal conversation at the workplace. Chitchatting with friends have no formal boundaries. Sometimes we even insult each other without any negative purpose. That’s how informal it is. As long as we do not hurt people’s feelings, every conversation is acceptable. On the other hand, when we’re reporting to our boss or having a conversation with colleagues, we have to wear a totally different mask. Wearing a mask here doesn’t mean we have to fake our thoughts and feelings every time, but we have to conceal negative impressions towards them. You don’t want to insult your boss and get fired. Therefore, we use code-switching in the workplace. “Code-switching” is portraying ourselves in a different way when we confront different situations and different people. And, I believe code witching is an important example of interpersonal communication. When it comes to code-switching at the workplace, it doesn’t only mean we have to watch our mouth, but also we should show how much we are moderate and polite by using appropriate phrases and words. For example, when we’re talking to our friends, we don’t necessarily say “Would you mind…, Would it be possible…?”. Those are too polite to say to people who are close to us. However, those are not too much to say in the workplace. Politeness and courtesy should be always included when you’re in the workplace. The way we speak, the way we express, and the way we think should be changed based on TPO (Time, Place, and Occasion).

Yet, why people sometimes make mistakes while they’re having conversations at the workplace? I believe that’s because they haven’t had proper education about that and sometimes because of cultural differences. I found that there’s a huge cultural difference between Western and Asian countries, and those cultural differences have pros and cons to both cultures. Since I’m South Korean, I would like to compare Korean culture and American culture. I’m not saying which one is superior to the other, but there’s definitely pros and cons for both of them.

Korean culture has honorific language


• Can directly show courtesy

• Can say politely to elderly people


• Can drive conservative culture overall

On the other hand, English doesn’t have honorific language. When I’m saying honorific, I’m not saying people can’t express politeness in English, but I’m saying there’s no exact distinguishing factor in English between honorific and common languages.


• Can drive Western culture has more freedom of speech

• Can drive freedom to express


• Can sometimes have misconduct and misinterpretation

• People who are not used to speak English can make mistakes in the workplace because it’s somehow tricky to distinguish which is polite and which is impolite.

I haven’t had conversations at the workplace so far in my life, but I do have experiences with my school faculties. Speaking with faculties doesn’t have to be as polite as when I’m at the professional workplace, but showing some amount of courtesy and politeness is crucially important to talk with people who are not really close with me. One thing I heard and learned before I came to the United States was “you will get what you want if you’re polite”. It doesn’t always apply to every occasion, but mostly it does. So, I’m always trying my best to show courtesy to faculty members, and I’m pretty sure it worked well so far.