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Cross Cultural Management Guide - Canada


What will you Learn in this Guide?

In this guide, expatriate managers will gain an understanding of a number of key cross cultural areas when working in Canada:

  • Hierarchy
  • Equality  
  • Leadership style
  • Punctuality 
  • Communication style and; 
  • Negotiation style 


Gain an Expert Understanding:

Once you've read this guide, ensure the success of your Canadian business venture by: 



Being a Manager in Canada

The business set up in Canada is egalitarian and to ensure successful cross cultural management it is important to remember to treat each and every person with equal respect and deference. Areas of consideration include the following:

  • Intercultural adaptability relies on the understanding that in Canada there is a sense that all people in the organization have an important role to play and are valued for their input. Therefore, in this culture, managers are expected to engage junior team members in discussions about events that might affect them, including during decision making. 
  • Since Canada is a cultural mosaic where immigrants are encouraged to retain their ethnic heritage, the business behaviour you observe may vary dependent upon the cultural heritage of the person involved; as such, intercultural adaptability is essential.


The Role of a Manager

Cross cultural communication will be more effective when working if you remember that the most productive managers in Canada recognize and value the specialized knowledge that employees at all levels bringWhen working in Canada, you may find that:

  • Employees expect to be consulted on decisions that affect them and the greater good of the organization.
  • Successful intercultural managers will remember that the role of the leader is to harness the talents of the group assembled, and to develop any resulting synergies.
  • Although you may find that the leader will be deferred to as the final authority in any decisions that are made, they typically do not dominate the discussion or generation of ideas.
  • Due to a greater level of group working in Canada, praise should be given to the entire group as well as to individuals.


Approach to Change

Canada’s intercultural competence and readiness for change is high. What does this mean for managers relocating to Canada?

  • Businesses in Canada have a high tolerance for risk and a ready acceptance for change. The underlying mindset is that change, while difficult, usually brings improvements and that hard work and innovation will bring a better tomorrow.
  • Risk-takers who fail are not deprived of future opportunities as failure is often perceived as a necessary step in the learning process.
  • When discussing plan implementations, Canadian managers will look for a proactive, success-oriented perspective with details about how to make the plan succeed. Without losing sight of the risk, managers are expected stay focused on the opportunity and the positive vision.


Approach to Time and Priorities

  • Canada is a controlled-time culture, and adherence to schedules is important and expected.
  • In Canada, missing a deadline is a sign of poor management and inefficiency, and will shake people’s confidence.
  • The importance of time also extends to meetings and start times.  If you're due to be in a meeting at a particular time then ensure you arrive 5 minutes before it starts as being late is not viewed well. 
  • Since Canadians respect schedules and deadlines, it is not unusual for managers to expect people to work late and even give up weekends in order to meet target deadlines. Successful intercultural management will depend on the individual’s ability to meet deadlines.


Decision Making

Canada is an egalitarian society, which means that employees are free to express their opinions to their managers. In general, you are likely to find that:

  • Information flows in all directions and managers often seek the advice of others within the company who are technical experts.
  • Managers often see themselves as facilitators whose job is to assist their subordinates in reaching good decisions and producing their best work.
  • Relationships are not so important in forming decisions and moving business processes forwards in Canada as they might be in other cultures.  Instead, managers in Canada will look more at the qualifications of the people they are working with and place trust in the contract and related agreements as opposed to trust within the relationship. 
  • Avoid hurrying your Canadian counterpart into making a decision as it's likely that this will be perceived negatively. Although you may achieve a partial decision in a meeting, it's often the case that your Canadian counterparts will want to discuss potential outcomes privately and reach a collective decision before reverting. 
  • In Quebec, which is more hierarchical, there is a greater respect for rank and authority and less discussion with employees prior to reaching a decision. However, in high-technology companies or more entrepreneurial companies, Quebec management style is similar to the rest of Canada.


Boss or Team Player?

The role of the leader is to harness the talent of the group assembled, and develop any resulting synergies. As such, you will find that managers collaborate fairly seamlessly with team members:

  • In Canada, groups collaborate well together as teams. Members are generally chosen to participate based on tangible skills or the knowledge base they bring, and are equally welcome to contribute to any discussion that may arise.


Communication and Negotiation Styles

Although personal relationships are not required to conduct business, expect some small talk before delving into the business discussions. You may also find that:

  • Communication is generally direct and Canadians have no difficulty in saying no. They are typically fairly easy going and relaxed in their attitude. 
  • They tend to be fairly calm and measured negotiators with a preference for working towards a win-win outcome. They are not given to hard or pressurised tactics.   Don't negatively impact your relationship by trying to pressurise your Canadian counterparts as they will be aware that you are doing this and the move will likely backfire.
  • Due to the egalitarian nature of Canadian culture, boasting or presenting an exaggerated image will not be viewed positively.  
  • As a rule, French Canadians are proud of their culture and heritage. They take special pride in their language and speaking it well. If you do not speak French, it is a good idea to learn a few key phrases, since it demonstrates an interest in maintaining a long-term relationship. Also ensure that any materials are well translated if necessary. 

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