Examples of workplace situations involving cultural differences:
Nel came from Southeast Asia
- She can speak English. But the English in her country is different from the English in Manitoba.
- Nel’s supervisor speaks fast. He uses many idioms that she does not know.
- Nel does not understand her supervisor.
- Nel does not tell her boss that she doesn’t understand.
- People don’t ask questions at work in her country.
Elvira works with Louise
- They work in the same department.
- Elvira is outgoing. She likes telling jokes. Co-workers talk about personal matters all the time in her culture.
- Elvira made a joke about Louise’s body. She thought it was funny.
- Louise got mad. She did not speak to Elvira for days.
- Elvira apologized. But their working relationship was never the same again.
John gets a lady boss
- John came from a culture where women were never in leadership roles.
- A man is not allowed to touch a woman who is not family in his religion.
- John got a job where his supervisor was a woman from a different race.
- She introduced herself. She reached out to shake John’s hand.
- John did not know what to do. He walked away. He kept avoiding her.
- The supervisor thought that John was discriminating against her because she is a woman.
Peter the supervisor
- Peter is a newcomer from Europe.
- He was hired to supervise five people in a team.
- The team complained to management at the end of his first week. They said that Peter was mean.
- Peter was surprised. He was a top manager in his home country.
- A boss is expected to be direct with his subordinates in his culture.
Habib the micro-manager
- Habib’s team complained that he micro-managed.
- They said that he watched them do every action. He checked to see if they are doing their job correctly. Habib told them each step they should take.
- Habib told each staff their duties in his home country.
- He expects each member to ask before doing anything that is not within their duties.
Have you seen any of these situations?
Five strategies for working in a multicultural workplace:
- Treat every person as an equal. It also means understanding that we are different.
- If you are in a conflict situation:
- Understand before you judge.
- Pause before you act. Ask and listen.
- Empathize. Some of your co-workers are also new to the country. They are also learning and adjusting to new things. See things through their eyes.
- You don’t have to agree about everything. But you have to respect people.
- Communicate by using respectful, common language.
- Watch your language, gesture, touch, and space.
- Say sorry when you have said or done something to offend a co-worker. Conflicts are avoided by being humble. Be honest.
Adapt your communication style
- Watch how people communicate at work.
- Check the tone and volume of their voice. See how they move.
- Be clear and brief when you talk.
- Communication tips:
- Keep eye contact when speaking to others. It shows that you are respectful and trustworthy.
- Use respectful language. Say, “please”, “thank you”, “could/would you …”
- Be tactful when objecting to or commenting on something.
- Don’t talk about politics, religion, and money. Keep private matters private.
- Speak up when you have concerns about work. Suggest ways to improve your work or workplace.
- Ask if you don’t understand something.
- Know your limits. Don’t overshare details about your life. Don’t ask personal things when talking with co-workers.
- The supervisor works together with his team.
- They guide, mentor, support, and resolve conflict within the team.
- Supervisors should not watch your every move. They should not tell you what to do all the time.
- Employees should work independently. Take initiative to make their work better.
Use Canadian time
- Come to work ahead of time.
- Adjust your work pace to your co-workers.
- Don’t waste your co-workers’ time by chatting.
- Don’t ask them to do tasks you should be doing yourself.
Build credibility the Canadian way
- Education, awards, job titles, and political or social class make a person credible in other countries.
- Education and experience are important for getting a job in Canada.
- But these build your credibility:
How to build credibility:
- How well you do your job
- How well you work with others
- Do your job really well.
- Do your job better than what other people expect.
- Talk and act kindly to people even when they don’t.
- Show that you are a learner.
- Be flexible and open to change.
- Have good English communication skills.
- Speak clearly and respectfully.
- Show positive attitude in the face of difficulties.
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