In the Workplace

As part of PVLIP’s 2022 research, an employer focus group was formed to consider the roles of regional businesses in the settlement of newcomers. When asked, all employers surveyed indicated that their organizations value diversity, though many acknowledged they were still working toward diversity, inclusion, and belonging in company vision and mission statements, and leadership teams.

When considering the responses from both employers and newcomers, there is a discrepancy in perception, which is a reminder that we should always challenge our assumptions.

Workplace Culture 

While we often use many of the same words to describe ideas, our personal definitions of those words are often different based on our culture and experience, and it is important to come to a shared understanding of what we mean. While both groups (employers and newcomers) identified respect as a factor in a positive work culture, the definitions of how respect is conveyed was different.

When addressing what makes a great workplace culture, the following responses were consistent in the represented groups and indicate that there is a discrepancy between perception about what is needed or helpful in the workplace:

  • Employers believe that positive workplace cultures should focus on clear, open, and honest communication, along with teamwork and respect
  • Newcomers believe that a positive workplace culture focuses on respect and equality

Time-related barriers

We may not always realize that there are social barriers to success for certain individuals or groups of people.

There are two time-related social barriers to success for newcomers:

Showing up on time

One barrier is the difference between On-time and Sometime cultures. In On-time cultures, focus is on logic, efficiency, and speed; times and appointments are precise. For example, arriving to an appointment on time is important.

In Sometime cultures, accomplishing a task is more important than meeting a deadline; time and appointments are merely intentions. For example, arriving to an appointment at its scheduled time is not as important.

Understanding the concept of work ethic in a Canadian workplace may be difficult for newcomers. Our region has a very high production focus, whether goods, services, or agriculture, and timelines are a huge part of work and life structure. It takes time for someone new to understand how to plan, prepare, schedule, and adjust to the Canadian norm, but this does not mean that they lack a strong work ethic. A helpful tip is to explain what you mean when you talk about being “on time”. In some cultures, if your work starts at 9:00 a.m., showing up between 9:00 a.m. and 10:00 a.m. is acceptable. In Canada, “on time” generally means being 5-10 minutes early so everyone is ready to start at the same time – whether that is beginning a day at work, taking a break, going to an appointment, or having a meal with someone. Just telling someone to show up on time is very unclear.

For expectations to be clear:

  • Say what you expect and explain why it matters
  • Have the individual confirm through sharing in their own words
  • Give them opportunity to practice the skill related to the expectation
  • Offer support for adjusting if needed
Prioritizing people over deadlines

Many countries/cultures, including Indigenous cultures, experience time as a function of relationship rather than a function of schedule. The relationship overrules the schedule and if a meeting is not finished or a conversation is not complete, then that takes priority over what was next on the schedule.

For many Canadians/workplaces this might feel like a lack of respect for the schedule or even a personal attack (they do not care about what my time is worth), when it really is about honouring the previous conversation. This misunderstanding may lead everyone to feel a sense of frustration and disrespect for each other and how time is managed.

Understanding the perceptions of time held by different groups of people and taking the opportunity to communicate expectations (with examples of what you mean) helps support positive interaction at work and in the community. Offering helpful tips and tools for adapting to your environment will be useful in building and developing new norms, shared understanding, and a pathway to harmonious working and personal relationships.

Download the full Guide & Toolkit to learn more:

  • Get tips for connecting cultures and communities
  • Learn more about social barriers that might prompt discrimination at work
  • Discover new ways to support your newcomer employees
  • Learn the value in having a diverse and welcoming workplace
  • Learn about the history of immigration in the Pembina Valley
  • Develop effective communication skills for you and your colleagues
  • Gather information to help you conduct diversity training at your workplace
  • Develop a system to support newcomer employees