3. Canadian Workplace Culture

This video introduces two internationally-educated professionals who have established themselves in the Canadian healthcare sector. They join other managers, employers and our team of IEHPs in offering tips and insights into the topic of Canadian culture.

(To read along click here.)

Dealing with culture shock

One definition of culture shock is “a feeling of confusion, doubt, or nervousness caused by being in a place (such as a foreign country) that is very different from what you are used to”. (Merriam-Webster Dictionary)

Culture shock is real, if temporary, and cultural adaptation takes time. The goal is never for you to lose your own identity; who you are enriches the organization and the system in which you work.

Adapting to a new conversational style
Canadian workplace conversations are both less formal and less direct than you might have experienced at home. In cultures where the doctor is the decision-maker, period, it is acceptable to tell colleagues what to do; in Canada you ask colleagues for help, or request that something be done. Similarly, if you come from a culture where everyone is addressed as ‘sir’ and ‘madam’, the Canadian custom of addressing people by their first names can be jarring.

Understanding feedback
If feedback is needed over concerns, the Canadian model is to avoid calling someone out in public. Private discussions, with the goal of reaching some kind of consensus and win/win situation, are the ideal. In the interest of affirming and encouraging even when something negative has to be said, it might be possible to get stuck at the affirmation and miss that there are also other issues to be discussed. It is always a good idea to ask, “Can you be more specific about that?” That gives the other person permission to be more open and direct in what they are saying.

The job hunting process
In some cultures, getting a job is almost entirely about knowing the right people. No matter how competent or accomplished you are, without the right connections you won’t get very far up the career ladder. In Canada, when everything is working as it should, if you work hard, you get rewarded.

The competition for jobs is supposed to be open and fair, and you can expect helpful performance appraisals once you have a job. The workplace here is about productivity and about your development; there are opportunities for you in Canada.

Learning Exercise: Canadian Workplace Culture

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