Upper management and multilingualism in the Federal Administration

Project management
01.2016 - 09.2018
Diversity, Institutions, Policy

The directors of the roughly seventy administrative units at the Swiss Federal Administration are responsible for ensuring that the prevailing rules regarding linguistic representation are upheld (in accordance with the Languages Act, the Languages Ordinance and directives on multilingualism). Persons in such influential positions have a certain amount of discretionary power and can thus have a major impact on the adequate representation of linguistic groups and the promotion of multilingualism in their units. Findings from a previous study reveal that the awareness a unit director or supervisor has for such issues is  a decisive factor for the promotion of multilingualism. To verify and refine such findings, an investigation of attitudes in upper management is required.

This will be done by analysing statistical data on the “multilingual profile” of units in the Federal Administration, an online survey, as well as in-depth interviews with directors in all federal offices. The analysis of this data aims to shed light on the attitudes persons in leadership roles have towards language management and to enable a description of the influential factors in such attitudes. In addition, the project explores how members of upper management take advantage of their influence to improve the language skills of their staff, to promote multilingualism in their administrative units (spoken and written languages at work) and to encourage the recruitment and promotion of members of linguistic minorities. A further point of interest is whether attitudes towards the problematics of multilingualism compete with other issues relevant to diversity at the workplace.

Purpose – Expected results

The project presents an analysis of the connection between leadership and multilingualism that can support persons in leadership roles at the Federal Administration in matters of institutional language management, specifically in the implementation of promotional measures dictated by language policy.

The final report is accessible here:

Les langues du pouvoir, le plurilinguisme dans l'administration fédérale, de Daniel KüblerEmilienne KobeltRoman Zwicky