Communication is key when dealing with cultural differences

Some of the biggest misunderstandings at the workplace with people from different nationalities

Some of the biggest misunderstandings at the workplace with people from different nationalities stem from not knowing each other’s culture, which leads to frustration.

In some cases, people will lose their job due to that miscommunication.

This is why Lionel Laroche, owner of Multicultural Business Solutions, feels the best fix is knowing how different cultures work. He spoke to students at Maskwacis Cultural College Friday, Feb. 27 to give them an idea of what it means to work in an English Canadian work environment.

Laroche himself has firsthand experience of what it means to be in a workplace with a different culture and have coworkers resent him for his seemingly brash nature. Coming from France, Laroche says he was working in California some years ago and was used to being somewhat blunt about his subordinates’ work.

“That would not be my intention, but that would be my impact on you,” told Laroche to the class.

Specific skills in different cultures will help a person move forward in their job: technical skills and soft skills have different impacts in different areas. The former relates to direct knowledge of the job and the latter relates to strong interpersonal skills.

This is how Laroche defines soft skills:

• Your ability to work with other people.

• Your ability to manage yourself, time, motivations and emotions.

• The ability to manage the system.

Laroche said in most Asian countries, it is the technical skills that gets a person promoted but in Canada, while technical skills are important, a person is usually promoted to a higher position because of the soft skills.

“Somebody can be technically brilliant without others liking to work with them,” said Laroche.

Likewise in most Asian countries employees see the boss as the person who has the final say. Sometimes confusion and frustration can happen when Asian immigrants move to Canada and they have the all the skills to be promoted yet a person with a lower education gets the job.

“The higher you are in a Canadian organization, the more important soft skills are to your success,” said Laroche.

He says it is important for employers and employees to have a clear definition of how their performance is measured. If they do not, the employees usually feel they are being mistreated or profiled.

What tends to happen is employees become resentful and they start to look for other jobs or speak with their peers from the same culture. He says it is like the blind leading the blind because neither understands the culture.

He recalled a time when he asked a Canadian for advice and while he did not understand why, it helped him find solutions to communication problems at work.

“All of this because we have different ideas of what being a good manager and being a good employee is,” said Laroche.

He recommends specific tools to help in these situations:

• Awareness is 50 per cent of the solution;

• Patience is a virtue;

• Communication is not only sending a message, but seeing it is received;

• Continue to monitor your impact on people;

• Stop and clarify when the impact you have is not what you want;

• Monitor a person’s emotional state to see if it impacted them negatively;

• Don’t act on negative feelings;

• Analyze your own emotions to identify what triggers them;

• Separate impact from intention;

• The Golden Rule: treat others as one would like others to treat oneself, should be replaced by the Platinum Rule: treat others the way they would like to be treated.