© Submitted photo
Innovation Minister Al Roach, left, Matt Adolphe, centre, and RDEE PEI president Martin Marcoux.
MONTAGUE — Newcomer success in Canada often hinges on a variety of challenges even for the most prepared, says a renowned Alberta author who was a keynote speaker at an immigration conference here this week.
“We should always remind ourselves to be more open and understanding of cultural differences,” said Matt Adolphe, a guest speaker at the three-day conference hosted by RDEE Prince Edward Island.
The conference was a LIENS project, Linking Economic Immigration to our Success, and held at the Rodd Brudenell resort and was attended by professionals in the field from across Canada and P.E.I.
“In most Canadian workplaces there is a general tendency to avoid conflict and because of this, there is indirectness in communication which people coming from a direct culture may not be prepared for,” he told the Tuesday night banquet. “For example, in an indirect culture there is an avoidance of hot button issues, whereas in a more direct culture, a little spirited debate never hurt anyone.”
Adolphe preaches 10 unspoken rules in his book, Canadian Workplace Culture: Mastering the Unspoken Rules, ranging from learning to put others first in conversations to understanding the relationship with one's colleagues and supervisors.
“There are unspoken rules in the Canadian workplace which sometimes impede a newcomer’s success. The focus is to emphasize that when working with a traditionally owned and operated Canadian company or organization, there are certain cultural expectations which are not normally made known.
“Navigating indirectness in the workplace can be a challenge. You tend to have to read minds,” said Adolphe, an instructor at the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology. “Like what did they mean when they said that? “
People from direct backgrounds, he said, may see small talk from those of an indirect background North America as an insincere exchange.
Adolphe said issues of politics and religion are also part of the challenge and the sense that a certain amount of agreeableness is expected.
“If I were to say ‘It’s a hot day today, eh?’ The eh, is asking for an agreement of sorts. So the only answer in this case is, ‘Yeah it’s pretty hot.’ But coming on too directly and saying, ‘Actually, I think it’s kind of cool,’ you may just have stepped on that person's toes.”
Adolphe has been teaching English, history, culture and communication for over 15 years in Korea, Japan, Macao and Canada.