10 pointers to help you fit in at work

Read Original Version (CLB5+) You are reading the Simple Version (CLB3-4)

Skip to:

Your first day at work can be scary. You have to adjust to many things. You need to learn how to deal with co-workers and clients. You also need to do your job well.

Don’t worry! It becomes easier with time. Knowing these 10 tips can help you:


  1. Punctuality

    • Being on time is important because:
      • time is money
      • it shows respect
    • Being punctual means:
      • being at work 10-15 minutes before your time (or a meeting).
    • If you cannot avoid being late:
      • call to say that you will be late by 5-10 minutes
      • apologize and give a good reason
      • do your best not to be late again

  2. Language

    • You need English to communicate well in the workplace.
    • Get used to how your co-workers speak.
    • Observe:
      • how they pronounce words
      • how fast they talk
      • what idioms they use
    • Never stop learning the language.
    • Speak English as often as you can. Practice makes perfect!
  3. Interpersonal communication

    • Canadians are polite and respectful.
    • They say things indirectly.
    • They will say: “how are you?” to start a conversation.
    • Answer with “I’m good/I’m fine, thank you”. Ask them how they are as well.
    • In a conversation, remember to:
      • have good eye contact
      • pay attention and listen well
      • ask them to repeat what was said if you did not understand the first time
      • ask politely
      • say “please” and “thank you” when appropriate

    At meetings

    • Listen and participate.
    • Bring a note pad. Write down important points. It shows that you are engaged and listening.
    • Participate:
      • ask questions (make sure that they are relevant).
      • share your ideas
      • disagree but be tactful when saying it. Be sensitive.
      • do not interrupt when someone is talking
      • wait for your turn to speak.
    • Put your phone on silent mode. Don’t answer a call unless urgent.

    Professional jargon

    • Jargon are words that are used in your field. They can be technical terms.
    • Use jargon when appropriate.

  4. Body language

    • Eye contact is important.
    • Shake hands firmly when meeting people. This shows respect.
    • Don’t cross your arms across your chest when speaking to someone. You will look unfriendly.
    • Fidgeting and slouching shows that you are bored. This is impolite.
    • Smile! It shows that you are open and approachable.

  5. Small talk

    • Small talk is light conversation with your co-workers. It is done usually before starting the work day or during breaks.
    • Talk about:
      • the weather
      • current events
      • sports
    • Don’t talk about:
      • finances
      • salary
      • married/love life
      • religion
      • politics
      • race
      • sex
      • any topic that is too personal
    • Don’t gossip or complain, especially about the boss.
    • Read 5 big ideas for better small talk.

  6. Personal space

    • Observe proper distance when talking to someone.
    • It is safe keeping at least two feet of space (or an arm’s length).
    • Order is expected in all workplaces.
    • Avoid shouting or talking loudly. Do not disturb your co-workers.

  7. Hierarchy

    • Status is not a priority.
    • Respect is given to everyone equally in the workplace.
    • Seniors and bosses may be addressed by their first names.
    • When meeting someone for the first time:
      • address them by Mr., Ms. or professional titles like Dr. or Professor
      • wait until they ask to be addressed by their first names
    • Don’t use “ma’am” or “sir”, or “madam”. These are too formal. They are not used in the workplace.

  8. Individualistic culture

    • Do your own job well. But help your team succeed.
    • Help whenever needed. Do more than your job description.
    • The most important values at work are:
      • flexibility
      • continuous learning
      • openness to change
      • positive attitude
      • initiative
    • Don’t expect your boss to tell you what to do.
    • Work independently with minimum supervision.

  9. Initiative and accountability

    • Be proactive at work.
    • Think of ways that will make your work better and more efficient.
    • Don’t wait to be told what to do. Don’t ask before you do a task that is part of your job.
    • Always meet your deadlines. It is a serious commitment.
    • Learn to under promise and over deliver.

  10. Dress code

    • Dress is informal to casual in most offices.
    • Dress simply and neatly. Don’t forget to dress appropriately for the weather!
    • People who work in banks or law offices are expected to wear formal business attire.
    • Ask the HR if this is not clear to you.
    • See if your workplace has a “scent-free environment” policy. This means that no one is allowed to wear perfume or scented products. Some may have environmental sensitivities or allergies.

  11. Safety

    • Canadians value a safe and clean work environment.
    • Keep your work area orderly. Help maintain cleanliness.
    • Observe safety rules and regulations.
    • Follow safety rules strictly especially if you work in a high-risk work place (e.g. construction site or laboratory).
    • Workplaces have safety and emergency guidelines. Know them.

Back to top

Community Resources

Read Soft skills: the key to getting and staying employed.

Back to top

We'd love to hear from you!

Please login to tell us what you think.

Join a Virtual Coffee Chat

10 Pointers to help you fit in at work

March 6, 2017 @ 7:00 pm

This event has passed. All dates and times are Winnipeg local time.

10 Pointers to help you fit in at work

March 9, 2017 @ 10:00 am

This event has passed. All dates and times are Winnipeg local time.


Related Learning Activities

Employment equity in Manitoba

Two people shaking hands with charts on the wall in the backgorund

What exactly is employment equity? Why is it necessary? Attend this workshop to get answers to all these questions.

How to build your professional network

Two people shaking hands with charts on the wall in the backgorund

We always hear that to advance your career you must build a network, but exactly how do we do this?… Read more »

Workplace Communications

A woman giving a presentation at work

Course Description Workplace Communications (WorkCom) is a 4 week course. This course focuses on must-haves for successful communication at work: speaking formally,… Read more »

Webinar for Internationally Educated Engineers

desk with two laptops with two persons discussing paperwork

Disclaimer The views and opinions expressed by guest speakers do not necessarily represent those of  English Online  or Immigration, Refugees… Read more »

Back to top

CC BY-NC-SAText of this page is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA, unless otherwise marked. Please attribute to English Online Inc. and link back to this page where possible. For images and videos, check the source for licensing information.