Filipinos’ Presumed Changing Cultural Values in Canadian Workplaces

Filipinos’ Presumed Changing Cultural Values in Canadian Workplaces

Written by Dr. Porfiria Pedrina

There are always two sides of the coin that one should be able to see in order to create a sound judgment regarding the appropriateness of the action of the individual towards co-workers and subordinates. Some may deem it as acceptable while others might argue that the action is not acceptable. This all depends on the personal and cultural background of the person and the knowledge and awareness of the situation. Different personalities, perspectives, educational backgrounds and even cultural values come into play when analyzing the human behaviours and dynamics in work places.

While it may be presumed by many that Filipinos who have moved and settled here in Canada successfully also know and understand better how to navigate the corporate culture, some may think that the said statement is flawed and inaccurate.

In any situation, there are two sides of the story that we should analyze; two different worldviews to consider. Let us analyze the situation by taking the perspective of the subordinate and the perspective of the supervisor. Assuming that the scenario is in the workplace where the subordinate is a Filipino newcomer who is being trained by a Filipino supervisor who has been here in Canada much longer than others.

In order to take the perspective of the subordinate, there is a need to understand what Filipino newcomers have to undergo in navigating the Canadian work system. In one of the academic articles I previously wrote for my work place, titled, “Never Again an Outsider,” there were three major challenges identified that new immigrants experience such as; identity crisis, mirage and disintegration. In mentioning briefly, when people experience identity crisis, the people, education, experience and/or things that newcomers may hold dearly from their home country may somehow slowly and painfully drift away for just a matter of days or weeks upon arrival to a new country. It is a great challenge when they do not know and understand or are confused as who do they really are and what they can offer to their new environment.

Another challenge that newcomers may experience is the fear that their hopes and dreams can no longer be achieved due to their present situation. Absolutely, it has a negative emotional effect when one only sees a mirage and not a clear vision that can be attained later. It is difficult for new immigrants to not have a clear picture of where they are heading. A lack of sense of purpose why they have to keep or change their job or training might result in an increased anxiety level.

As well, newcomers may experience disintegration to their own world, the people around them and even in their workplace. For many newcomers, it may take several years to get acclimatized to a new environment or maybe not at all.

Beginning a new life with their family, in a new setting, can be an arduous and long journey to take. In terms of career, the realization of not being able to resume one’s education and/or career right from where one left off can be a tormenting experience to newcomers.

In summary, the importance of the successful integration of newcomers cannot be underestimated. Newcomers may never feel like outsiders again and may easily adjust to their new work environment when people around them assist in creating a warm and welcoming environment while providing appropriate, honest and necessary mentorship. This is where expectations play a role and personal and cultural values come into place.

On the other hand, when we take the perspective of the trainer/mentor, as Filipinos, we have high expectations and regards to others who have come before us.

But some are forgetting that we need to be flexible; we need to adjust to Canadian work system and adjust to diverse human dynamics in our workplaces. Dr. Lionel Laroche, author of over 100 publications and well-known keynote speaker in the academic and corporate world on issues pertaining cultural diversity in the workplaces, argued on one of his talks at TESL- Toronto that, “What can be misunderstood as personality issues are often culturally-based differences in attitudes toward management, teamwork, decision-making, feedback, humour and a host of other human interactions.

Disappointment, confusion, and even rancour can occur when people with different expectations around the importance of hierarchy, individualism, and risk tolerance attempt to work together to achieve the same goals.”

On a personal note, I still feel that we are all held accountable in our words and actions. Establishing effective communication with others as we work collaboratively and collegially will result to a more productive and fruitful day. At the same time, we should be mindful and sensitive with those who are just beginning to learn the work system here.

Some people who have established careers here may need to develop more patience and understanding towards their new co-workers who are adjusting to a new and diverse work environment. There is no room for arrogance but plenty of room for humility and empathy for others; knowing that once, they also struggled as newcomers. The newcomers also have adjustments to make. To be successful, they need to develop more of a repertoire of technical (intellectual/manual work) and soft skills (intrapersonal/management) that Canadian employers are looking for in their employees, especially if they are new in the position or wanting to get a position in any work places.