Showing Respect at Workadmin2019-04-04T21:58:52+00:00
SHOWING RESPECT AT WORK
Showing respect in Canadian workplace might be done differently than in your first country. Here are some simple rules that should make your life easier as an immigrant adapting to a new job.
Rule #1: Respect People’s Time
In Canadian workplace environment, making someone wait for more than 5 minutes can be considered as disrespect. While in some cultures time is a more flexible concept, in Canada showing up at work and meetings 5 minutes before the appointed time is a typical expectation. If you are running late for work or an appointment, you must call to apologize and inform them how late you would be. If you’re entering a room full of people after the meeting has already begun, come in very quietly and sit on the chair closest to the door.
When getting a person to help you, for example a co-worker, don’t take up more of their time than needed. If asking somebody for help, always begin with ‘Could I talk to you for a minute?’ or ‘A quick question: …”
Rule #2: Respect People’s Personal Space and their Property
For many Canadians, the only acceptable physical contact in business in a handshake. Canada is not a ‘high-touch’ society – people generally don’t touch each other unless they are friends or members of the same family. Most of your co-workers will smile at you and be friendly but that should not be confused with being friends. In some cultures, a light touch on the hand or arm is used several times during a conversation to establish and maintain trust, but this will be considered as intrusion in one’s personal space by many Canadians.
When you are talking to somebody and there is enough space, take a step back to ensure you have at least 45-50 cm of space between you. If you notice that a person is not making eye contact with you, taking deep breaths, or trying to step aside, that means you are too close.
Working in an office environment? It pays to remember that cubicles have virtual doors. Stop at the perimeter and make eye contact before stepping in. Also, do not take anything from you co-worker’s desk, neither a stapler nor a pen – they are not yours. While many cultures are collective and people share a lot of things, Canada is highly individualistic. Always ask for permission first.
See a document somebody left at a photocopier? It’s considered good manners to put it aside without reading. Again, it’s not yours and it was not meant for your eyes.
Rule #3: Respect People’s Privacy and Personal Information
In Canada, certain topics such as age, marital status, salary, health and many others are considered highly personal. To learn more about which topics belong to this category, please click ‘What Canadians Talk about’. Knowing how to make Small Talk is a good skill to learn if you want to respect people’s personal lives and cultural boundaries.
Another way to respect people’s personal information is not to gossip. If you hear something (and you will hear things because some people love to gossip), do not pass it on.
Rule #4: Ask Questions and Listen with your Eyes
It is expected of the workers in Canada that they make an effort and express their opinions during the meetings. Keeping silent will be interpreted as disinterest, boredom and unwillingness to contribute to the work of the team. Your manager will respect you if you speak up in the meeting, as long as you are being polite. Canadians don’t like strong debates in the workplace – speak calmly, without raising your voice and you will demonstrate that you are respectful towards your co-workers and the manager.
We also show respect to the speaker (your manager or co-worker) by looking at them. Canadians listen with their eyes!
Rule #5: Respect other people’s right to speak – do not interrupt
In some cultures, interrupting a speaker is a way to show that you are engaged in a conversation. Not in Canada! Always let a person finish their sentence before starting yours. Practice good listening skills by making eye contact, adding your relevant insights and asking additional questions about the topics mentioned. Do not suddenly change a topic as it could be considered disrespect.
If you are struggling with ‘when is my turn to speak’, listen to the speaker carefully until they finish their thought and jump in right away, before somebody else does.
Rule #6: Stay Positive – do not complain
Respect other people’s right to have a good day. Do not complain too much or you could be viewed as a whiner. Remember to stay professional at work. You could share certain challenges you’re facing but choose your words carefully and always try to stay positive. Smile at all times, no matter what. In Canada, people smile to show that they are friendly, not that they are happy. If you get emotional and need to cry, do it in the bathroom.
Rule #7: Respect other people’s right to enjoy their lunch in the shared kitchen
Office kitchen is a shared space. Respect your co-workers by not bringing the smelly foods, such as fish or very spicy dishes, especially if you’re planning to warm them up in a microwave! Canadians are extremely sensitive to strong smells.
Another thing to remember is that lunch room is a place to relax and take a break. Don’t fill that time with venting, complaining and gossiping, all of which create a very negative atmosphere.
Rule #8: Respect other people’s culture
Your co-workers might surprise you with certain cultural behaviour. Do not criticize them for that – keep your opinions to yourself. Canada is multicultural so we need to be adaptable and flexible and respect our differences.
Rule #9: Respect other people’s choices and their right to make mistakes
Canadians see work as a place to make money. Unfortunately, not all your co-workers are going to be be nice and friendly to you but remember: no conflict is worth damaging your career. Keep it professional at all times – nothing personal. Have your own plan, short-term and long-term, and always keep in mind where you are going – if you want to get promoted, leave the company after having gained experience, apply for a better job, or move to a different department. Choose to be smart about your actions and reactions even when other people are not.
Every workplace is different. When you start working for a company, observe how people do things. For example, if most of your co-workers come from a ‘high-touch’ culture and they not only touch each other but give an occasional hug, it is perfectly fine to reciprocate. Canada is a multicultural country and you need to adjust and adapt your interaction to each individual person in order to succeed in the workplace.