By Leonard Fuld, Harvard Business Review – August 1, 2012

I can’t stand it when someone writes “obviously” in at the beginning of a sentence, any sentence. Nothing is obvious to everyone, especially when it comes to appreciating the impact a person’s culture has on interpreting — or preventing the acceptance of — information.

A case in point: I facilitated an important global marketing meeting in Beijing not long ago with a U.S.-based multi-national food company, which had just purchased a specialty food product line from one of its rivals. The newly-adopted subsidiary had recently become a market leader under its old ownership, based mostly on very good market research that was informed and driven by a deep cultural understanding of the habits and behavioral preferences of the average urban Chinese.

Read the full article here.

Although Leonard Fuld’s blog from Harvard Business Review online is focused on working across cultures in a global environment, lessons can be learned here about dealing with different immigrant cultures in Canadian workplaces.

I often talk about the importance of improving communication skills for immigrants who want to succeed in Canada. But those skills are not just about grammar and vocabulary. Effective communication goes beyond accommodating language. It also must recognize that different world views and cultures have different perspectives, and that’s where cross-cultural understanding and etiquette come into play.

As immigrants to Canada, it is ultimately our responsibility to fit in and learn the ways that are accepted here. For example, a firm handshake and direct eye-to-eye contact may seem aggressive in some Asian cultures, but is respected here. So is it up to us immigrants to adjust our cultural viewpoint on this now that we’re in Canada?

It is, if you want to avoid miscommunication and not have others misinterpret your intentions.

On the flip side, I believe that Canadian employers and hiring managers must do a better job in being less rigid and more aware of cultural differences. Diversity in the workplace can bring new ideas and innovation, and accommodating cultural differences without judgment is an effective way of welcoming immigrant talent into Canadian organizations.

What do you think? Email me at [email protected]

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