The Canadian Workplace

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Canada is a diverse country where people of all races, ethnicities, genders and religions respect each other and work together peacefully. Before you come to Canada, it’s important to understand what to expect in the Canadian workplace so you can work effectively and successfully with others.


What is ‘workplace culture’?

Workplace culture consists of the attitudes, behaviours and actions considered acceptable at a place of work. It includes how you greet others, the clothes you wear, personal hygiene, how and what you eat, appropriate topics of conversation, and more.

You can find articles, books, videos and more online to help you better understand the culture of Canadian workplaces. Try typing the words “Canadian business etiquette”, “Canadian business customs and protocols” or “Canadian manners, practices or culture” into a search engine to see what information you can find on Canadian workplace culture.

You may also find that the Canadian Employment Standards Legislation  determine the culture of many workplaces in the private (non-governmental) sector. These Canadian laws help protect workers by setting minimum employment standards, including rules for equal pay, normal working hours, vacation times with pay, health and safety and more.

The public (government-related) sector also has its own set of employment standards; Employment and Social Development Canada can provide you with more information.


What is Canada’s position on multiculturalism and religious freedom?

People of different cultures, beliefs and religions are welcomed and accepted in Canada. This multiculturalism is celebrated and promoted in Canada, so you must be able to listen to what other people say and accept that you may have different viewpoints. Everyone has a right to say what they believe, and is expected to act professionally by avoiding loud arguments and physical fights as well as by tolerating and trying to understand others’ thoughts and ideas.

For more information on this topic, visit the multiculturalism section on the Citizenship and Immigration Canada website.

The following guide book may also be of interest to you, Discover Canada: The Rights and Responsibilities of Citizenship.

Do men and women have equal opportunities in Canadian workplaces?

In Canada, women make up about half of the workforce and are equal to men. The interview process that both men and women go through is the same. Women also have the same rights and freedoms as men, and can work at any job for which they have the skills and education. When you come to Canada, you will have female co-workers, team members, supervisors, subordinates. Everyone is expected to treat women as equals or superiors depending on their position within your workplace.

To learn more about equality, rights and freedoms in Canada, visit Human Resources and Skills Development Canada , the government department that promotes workplace equality.

If you want to know more about women in the Canadian workplace, you can read Statistic Canada’s report, Women in Canada: Work Chapter Updates.


Are there expectations about communication in the workplace?

While being fluent in English or French is important in Canada, you also need to be able to communicate in an appropriate and professional way. Here are some tips to help you be an effective communicator in the Canadian workplace:

  • Take the time to work on your language and communication competencies.  Ask your employer, other successful professionals, friends and family to help you understand the Canadian workplace and culture
  • Pay attention to how others react to what you say and do and ask for help if their reaction doesn’t seem right to you
  • If you’re not sure you understand what someone is saying, ask them to explain exactly what they mean

It’s important to put these tips to work and ask questions about anything you don’t understand. They will help people respect you, will improve your communications and will help you avoid some of the potentially big mistakes that can happen if you make assumptions or pretend to understand something you don’t. 

For more information on communication in the Canadian workplace, MOSAIC —a Vancouver non-profit organization that helps immigrants—has an article presented by Lionel Laroche, an internationally renowned expert on immigrants and integrating into Canadian society. Laroche also has YouTube videos  to help you learn more about workplace communications.

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