Edited by Ashley Zillian, MATLM ’21
Original Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct for Localization Management by Alaina Brandt
It is the professional and ethical obligation of localization managers to:
- cause no harm to production teams, clients, end users, or the localization industry;
- perform and deliver work according to contract specifications;
- engage and educate stakeholders throughout the project life cycle;
- understand and respect the cultures of people in all communications;
- protect the intellectual property and confidentiality of clients and vendors, as required;
- continue to develop new skills and knowledge to meet client goals in an ever-changing industry;
- act in a conscientious and principled manner;
- promote high standards through adherence to best practices and codes of conduct.
Localization managers face unique challenges because they often cannot read the languages they are working with. They must rely on industry experts, standards of best practice, and professional codes of conduct and ethics from related industries to ensure that their projects are successful for clients and end users.
Localization managers frequently:
- make decisions in a fast-paced global environment;
- manage multiple projects simultaneously across time zones;
- establish and verify the minimum qualifications of translators;
- ensure that best practices are followed in their projects;
- take responsibility for the final quality of their projects.
Localization management is difficult because every project is different. Localization managers face problems related to culture, language, technology, and business management. If the localization manager does not handle these problems appropriately, they can affect the brand image and bottom line of professionals, employers, clients, and organizations.
Localization managers should understand the following responsibilities.
CAUSE NO HARM
Localization managers avoid:
- knowingly delivering work that does not meet agreed requirements;
- making decisions that damage the reputation of their industry;
- communicating anything dishonest or misleading;
- engaging in unfair business practices.
Localization managers do:
- collaborate with stakeholders to identify potential risks and options to mitigate those risks;
- take responsibility for their work;
- prioritize quality, time, and cost as needed over the project life cycle;
- facilitate appropriate communications so that teams can perform effectively;
- seek answers to questions they do not know.
PERFORMANCE OF WORK
- establish project expectations regarding the scope of work, deliverables, and deadlines;
- work and deliver according to established expectations;
- account for necessary changes to work agreements through contract updates and other communications;
- assign work to translators who have adequate, relevant experience;
- seek out and abide by established best practices, such as ATA Code of Ethics, FIT Code of Professional Practice, or develop them as needed;
- document decisions made and work performed;
- implement systems, such as terminology management, to promote efficiency, effectiveness, and ease of use.
Localization managers engage stakeholders by:
- establishing means to communicate concerns and requirements;
- supplying relevant reports, analytics, and projections;
- providing expert recommendations and education about best practices;
- documenting, responding to, and resolving questions.
Localization managers engage their teams by:
- fostering communication between various members as needed;
- focusing on root causes for issues rather than people when problem solving;
- escalating issues in a timely manner;
- incorporating feedback in order to improve future work;
- showing respect for their team members’ time in communications.
Localization managers must also educate clients on the nature of the localization industry.
Cultural fluency is being aware of other people’s cultural perspective. It involves being aware that differences exist, avoiding assumptions, and being willing to adapt communication and behavior to foster mutual understanding.
Localization managers avoid one-size-fits-all communication methods. Culturally fluent communication takes into account:
- Time zone
- Communication style
Cultural fluency also helps with understanding the target audience of a translation project and with communicating with subject matter experts and localization buyers.
INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY, CONFIDENTIALITY, AND PRIVACY
Localization managers handle confidential information every day. Confidential client and vendor information includes:
- Client and company intellectual property (IP)
- Personal identifiers of translators
- Bilingually aligned content such as translation memories, termbases, and bitext tables
- Training documents with trade secrets
- Rolodexes of contacts with personal confidential details
Localization managers must carefully choose who they share information with. NDAs, purchase orders, terms and conditions, style guides, and templates are all company IP. Once shared, that information cannot be recovered. This can lead to issues like competitors acquiring trade secrets, which could hurt the localization manager’s company, client, and reputation.
Localization managers need a broad set of competencies, which may include:
- Stakeholder engagement
- Subject matter expertise
- Foreign language skills
- Cultural fluency
- Characteristics of international markets
- Legal language
- Data security
- Localization workflows
- Critical thinking
Because each project is different, localization managers must acquire new knowledge and skills to keep up with their clients’ needs. When they cannot answer questions by themselves, they should consult managers, colleagues, subject matter experts, or clients.
Localization managers practice ethical behavior during their work by:
- identifying and accounting for conflicts of interest;
- endeavoring to identify project stakeholders and involve them appropriately;
- making stakeholders aware of potential unmet needs and opportunities;
- aspiring to remove bias in decision-making;
- remaining as objective as possible when mediating and negotiating among stakeholders;
- remaining calm and professional in emergencies;
- communicating openly and transparently.
Certain recommendations within this code may be aspirational and may not reflect the reality of the position. When employers attempt to require unethical conduct, here are some ways that localization managers can respond. Apply a layered approach that assumes that the request is not being made in bad faith.
- Start by restating their request.
- Then ask if they have thought about a potential consequence of this request.
- Propose alternatives that avoid ethical dilemmas.
- If dialogue does not work and you are able to resist, do so.
- If you are unable to resist, document the decision-making process and those involved so blame does not fall on you.
- Do what you can, but remember that certain decisions are not your responsibility.
Above all, localization managers aim to create an environment where people gather together to produce work that keeps clients and end users happy and industry professionals paid.
PROMOTE HIGH STANDARDS
Localization managers should adhere to best practices and codes of conduct in order to promote the high standards that benefit everyone in the industry.
Thank you to Professor Adam Wooten, William Dan, Siying Guo, Elena Malamed, Olivia Plowman, Nathalia Rio Preto, Andrew Taylor, Wei Yuan, and Tongtong Zhao for your suggestions and contributions to this document.