Canadian Workplace Behaviouradmin2019-04-05T00:20:36+00:00
CANADIAN WORKPLACE BEHAVIOUR
Canadian Workplace Behaviour Quiz
Check your answers below.
1. Easy Question:
In Canada, smiling at somebody means:
a) I’m happy b) I’m friendly c) I’m honest
2. Easy Question:
In Canada, it is usually acceptable to be late for work on occasion if you are
a) 5 minutes late b) 15 minutes late c) 25 minutes late
3. More Difficult:
When in the company of another person and/or having a conversation, how do Canadians feel about long pauses or silence?
a) relaxed b) uncomfortable c) curious d) concerned
4. More Difficult:
In Canada, who can use the words ‘Sir’ and ‘Miss’?
a) anyone to show respect b) customer service representatives c) business people d) co-workers
How close do you stand to a Canadian person so that they feel comfortable during a conversation?
a) 15-20 cm b) close enough to touch c) 30-40 cm d) one meter
Canadians ask the question “How is your family?” at work:
a) every time they see each other b) sometimes c) after work d) never e) during business lunch
Check your answers:
13 Things every Newcomer Needs to Know about Canadian Business Culture
1. Eye Contact
Making eye contact means that you are honest, trustworthy and interested in the conversation. Not making eye contact means you are dishonest, shy, rude or not interested in the conversation. Remember that staring is rude – 2 seconds is a good amount of time you should be looking a person directly in the eye, after which you are expected to shift your gaze onto the person’s hand, shoulder, forehead, etc. However, continue looking in the direction of the speaker – do not let your eyes wonder around the room – or you risk sending the wrong message.
Smiling doesn’t mean you are happy – it means you are friendly. If you are not smiling, people will think you are angry, sad or upset about something. Remember to smile even if you’re talking on the phone – people can hear the smile in your voice and it makes a good impression.
Firm handshake means you’re confident. Weak handshake means you are shy, uncomfortable and not confident. A good handshake should be two pumps and must be accompanied by direct eye contact. Canadians shake hands only when they meet a person for the first time.
4. Personal Space
Canadians require a lot of personal space. The intimate zone of a typical Canadian is about 45 cm and is reserved for family and close friends. Immigrants who come from more densely populated countries, such as India or China, may often need time to become comfortable standing further away from people than they used to. If you ever notice that a person you are talking to has taken a step back away from you, it could mean that they are uncomfortable because you’re standing too close. As a rule of thumb, try to stand at an arm’s length or one meter away and let the person step towards you if they want.
For more information about Personal Space and other aspects of Non-Verbal communication, click on ‘Body Language in Canada‘.
Silence translates as hostility for most Canadians. A very long pause may make them uncomfortable. When listening to a Canadian, remember to say such words as ‘Okay, I see, yes, all right, go on, good, sure’, etc. which means you’re listening.
You will be judged by the way you dress. Different companies have different dress codes. After you join a company, observe what the people are wearing. Many newcomers are surprised at the North American casual style and the fact that some companies have casual Fridays when people can come to work wearing jeans. However, it’s also good to remember the expression “Dress for the job you want, not for the job you have.” While colours and styles change, neat and clean appearance (fresh shirt, only worn once) is always important.
People in Canada address each other using their first names. Formal titles ‘Mr, Miss, Ms.’ as well as the words ‘Sir’ and ‘Miss’ are only used by people in customer service when addressing clients whose names they don’t know. Also, an employee in any position, no matter how low, can freely approach a CEO or VP of the company and start a conversation. The only situation where some hierarchy applies is the unwritten rule that a manager can touch an employee on the arm or shoulder while an employee cannot touch their manager.
8. Down to Business
Canadians, just like Americans, prefer to get right down to business. While in some countries this may be considered rude, people in North America prefer not to ‘waste time’. In meetings, small talk is kept to a minimum. If somebody was coming to a meeting from a different location, he/she may be asked how their trip to the meeting site was. It is very important for newcomers to understand that in Canadian culture there is a separation of business and personal lives. People in this country tend to see work as means of earning money. A company is not a family, unlike in some other countries. The question ‘How is the family?’ is reserved for before and after work, and is usually asked between people who have been working together for a long time. Even during ‘social’ business gatherings conversations tend to revolve around business or acceptable topics for small talk like sports, movies, etc.
Canadians believe that ‘time is money’. People who are punctual make a good impression. Meetings should start on time and end on time. If you’re running late for a meeting/appointment and you estimate you are going to be more than 5 minutes late, you are supposed to call, apologize and explain that you will be late.
Some newcomers find Canadian style really unfriendly because when a meeting starts people in this country prefer to jump right into business. You may also notice among your co-workers that they get impatient if a start of a meeting is delayed by more than 5 minutes.
10. Management Style
In Canada, you will come across a variety of management styles. This can be very confusing for newcomers who are used to one management style in their first country. If you do shift work and have several supervisors, you will discover they all have different management styles. If you work under a manager, you might be surprised that your new manager does things very differently than your previous one.
The two main management styles are Autocratic and Authoritative and they are very different. New immigrants who come from countries with predominantly autocratic styles may have hard time adjusting to authoritative way of managing employees. Autocratic style means ‘do as I say’ and is often accompanied by micromanagement – the manager checking every detail, keeping a close eye on each employee and their actions.
On the other hand, authoritative style managers share their vision and provide some general directions but then take a step back and give employees freedom to do the work. These managers will only step back in from time to time to reiterate their vision and provide some feedback. This can be confusing to many newcomers who expect to be told exactly how to do the job and may think that the manager doesn’t care.
Taking initiative means that you care about the success of the company. Employers tend to value those employees who know how and when to take initiative. When a manager says they need a volunteer to do a task, take the initiative and say you would like to do it. Someone who waits to be told what to do at every step is seen as less motivated than someone who is a self-starter. Managers would give more responsibility to those who can work with less supervision.
12. Office Parties
When invited to any party, whether workplace or not, it is considered good manners in Canada to answer clearly “Yes, I’m coming” or “Sorry, I’m not able to attend.” In some cultures, it is not polite to refuse directly and many newcomers make a mistake of answering ‘Maybe’ which is confusing and frustrating for the organizers in Canada.
For some office parties, for example around Christmas time, you may be asked to bring a gift for the gift exchange. The amount you should spend on this gift is usually specified (e.g. $20) and it’s a good idea to spend exactly that much. If you spend less, people will think you are cheap and don’t care, while if you spend more, they will think you’re trying to show off.
Other parties could be for someone’s retirement or it could be a baby shower. This usually involves collection of money, a few dollars from each employee, to buy a bigger gift for the person. Try to always contribute, even if just a little. However, if it’s a real problem, talk to the person collecting the money and explain your situation.
13. Conversation Rules
Knowing what topics are considered appropriate for workplace conversations is crucial. While in some countries you could ask your co-workers how much money they make, in Canada this question should not be asked directly. The fact that health problems are to be discussed in the doctor’s office and not with your colleagues at work is another surprising discovery some new immigrants make. To learn more, click ‘What Canadians Talk about: Forbidden Topics‘.
It is also important to learn how to speak in a ‘politically correct’ way – which words are okay to use and which are not when describing people. For example, in Canada we say ‘firefighter’ and not ‘fireman’, ‘police officer’ and not ‘policeman’ to include women who do this type of work. We say ‘disabled’ instead of ‘crippled’, ‘visually impaired’ instead of ‘blind’, ‘overweight’ instead of ‘fat’, etc. in order not to offend certain people who belong to those groups.
Canadians tend to be polite when they speak. It’s important to notice how they phrase their ideas, for example, people would say:
“That’s not smart.” (not: “That’s stupid.”)
“Sorry, I’m trying to finish this email. Can we talk later?” (not: “Can’t you see I’m busy?”)
“Let me see what I can do for you.” (not: “That’s impossible.”)
It’s important to remember that Canada is a multicultural country. The general rules described above may not be followed by all individuals living here. As always, it pays to observe and notice what is acceptable in a particular environment and to keep in mind what your goals and aspirations are. If you are looking to build a career in Canada, following these and other unwritten cultural rules will help you make a good impression on people who can be key to your career advancement.