Just like countries, each company has its own culture. All employees need to adjust to the new company culture when starting a new job, but this can be particularly challenging for someone who is also new to the country.

Companies have two types of rules: written and unwritten. For someone new to Canada, the written rules tend to be easier to navigate. You’ll be given a job description, the company policies and procedures, and access to other internal communication.

You can learn the unwritten rules by observing your surroundings and asking questions. Here are some general guidelines for the Canadian workplace, but keep in mind that Canada is a large and diverse country so workplaces and personal preferences may vary.


All people are to be treated with respect in the Canadian workplace. This can include gender, race, position (such as management and assistants), or education.

Manager/Supervisor Expectations

In most Canadian companies, you will be working in a hierarchical system, which means you will likely have a manager or supervisor. While you already have your job description, it is a good idea to ask your manager or supervisor what their expectations for you and the job role are. This can include understanding their processes and procedures for achieving the duties in your job description and acknowledging their preferred means of communication (such as phone, email, or face-to-face meetings).

While in some cultures, asking questions and speaking directly to authorities may not be acceptable, in Canada, this type of communication is encouraged and seen as a way to ensure everyone is clear and able to work together.

Managers and supervisors value initiative and problem-solving skills. Moving forward in your career may take time but is your responsibility to manage. Set goals and find appropriate ways to communicate and achieve them.

Training & Education

Employment in Canada is regulated provincially, not federally. Therefore, some training may be recognized in one province but not necessarily the next. Additional training may be required depending on what part of Canada you work.

Working Relationships

Canadian workplaces tend to encourage participation in work discussions and working relationships. A working relationship is a friendship appropriate to the workplace, though socializing should be limited to breaks.

Be aware that asking about personal affairs (such as religion, politics, or income) may be perceived as impolite. Romantic relationships with clients, customers, and colleagues are often considered inappropriate and may be against the company’s written rules.

Language & Accents

Canada is a bilingual country, recognizing English and French as the national languages. Certain provinces and regions tend to speak more of one language than the other. Speaking the local language may not always be necessary at work but practicing the local language can encourage working relationships with those who are unable to speak your language and open up opportunities.

Understanding accents even within the same language can sometimes be difficult, so try to have patience if you don’t understand someone or if someone doesn’t understand you.

Want to know more? Learn how to help others understand your accent: How to Make Yourself Understood with a Heavy Accent

Phrasing Messages

Phrasing, especially in writing, affects the tone of a message. Most Canadians are accustomed to a friendlier approach, especially if they do not have a familiar working relationship with you yet. For example:

  • It is more common to say: “Are you able to meet in the conference room at 2:30 pm?” rather than “Meet me in the conference room at 2:30 pm.”
  • Or be less direct and say: “There is room for improvements in Document A.” instead of “Document A has to be rewritten.”

Likewise, use courtesy words as a sign of respect such as please, thank you, and you’re welcome.

Canadians tend to be concerned with politeness and teamwork. Adjusting the way you phrase verbal and non-verbal messages can help avoid misunderstandings and can foster good working relationships.

Addressing Colleagues

In Canada, people will typically introduce themselves how they would like to be addressed (such as formally by Mr., Mrs., Ms., Miss., Dr. or informally by their first name). Most often, people in the workplace will refer to one another by their first names. If unsure, ask how people would like to be addressed. When making an introduction, it is customary to use a person’s first and last name.


Shake hands when first meeting an employer, client, customer, or colleague. This is customary regardless of gender or job role.

When arriving at work or passing colleagues in the workplace, offer a greeting like “Hello” or “Hi.” Also acknowledge people in passing when leaving the workplace such as “Goodbye,” “Have a good night,” or “See you tomorrow.”

Show respect by knocking before entering a colleague’s workspace regardless of position.

Dress Code

In Canada, the dress code can vary from workplace to workplace, and sometimes from day-to-day. Ask about the dress code and note what your coworkers are wearing. Are they wearing business suits or dressed more casually? Canadian workplaces tend to be more casual or have a ‘dress for your day’ policy. In other words, if you are working in an office, blue jeans may be acceptable. However, if you have a client meeting, you may have to dress more formally.

Personal Space

Keep a comfortable distance, typically an arm’s length, when speaking face to face or working side by side. Don’t stand too far away so as to seem disinterested or too close so as to cause discomfort.

Eye Contact

Make eye contact when speaking and listening to others. Don’t stare or avoid eye contact.


In Canada, being ‘on time’ means being ready to work at the scheduled time. This is not to be mistaken as arrival time. Likewise, work is expected to continue until the end of your shift.

Don’t be late or make people wait for you.

Want to know more? Read an Immigrants Guide to Success in the Canadian Workplace is a resource for more information: You're Hired Now What?

Just like countries, each company has its own culture. Adjusting to a new company culture can be particularly challenging for someone who is also new to the country.

Employment Standards

Canada Labour Standards Regulations outline the minimum standards for how an employer must treat their employees, and each province has additional employment standards. (such as minimum wages, work hours, sick days, and termination of employment) If you are unsure if either the written or unwritten rules in your workplace are appropriate, you may consider discussing the matter with the company’s HR department, a mentor, or the channels provided by the provincial or federal government, depending on the level of your concern such as the provincial Labour Board.

Want to know more? Learn more about your rights as a Canadian employee: Canadian Employment Regulations

Find your Match!

Ready to become a mentor or find a mentor? Connect to a mentoring organization in Alberta.