Tool: Uncovering My Culture and My Workplace’s CultureTool: Uncovering My Culture and My Workplace’s Culture

The following tool can assist you in bridging differences in experience and perspective in the work environment. For Aboriginal individuals, these questions can help describe the norms and expected behaviours in a Canadian construction company. For the construction firm, knowing what might be done differently in other places will help prevent misunderstandings and will also take advantage of new ideas and better ways of working. 1

Remember some of the typical Aboriginal and construction firm cultural expectations explored above. Start by filling in the second column with what you would expect to find in your culture. What feels “right” to you? Then try to complete the third column based on the construction firm you work in, or are applying to. You could ask the hiring manager, the ASET holders job placement advisor, or friend and family member who works in or with the firm. If you currently work in the firm, to complete the third column observe carefully, demonstrate interest, and collect clues and information in a manner that is appropriate to the culture and your relationships with your colleagues. Take some time and note what you find here to better understand cultural expectations in the workplace, and how these “fit” with your norms.

Key Question Indicating Cultural Expectation

  • How are compliments given for a job well done?
    • Privately?
    • Publicly?
    • Directly?
    • Indirectly?
  • Are teams common, or is the bulk of work carried out by individuals?
  • Is individual achievement valued and/or publicly acknowledged?
  • In bargaining or negotiating in general, how close to the final offer is the initial offer (e.g. start at double what is expected or start very close to one's final offer)?
  • In almost all cultures, laughing signifies amusement, delight and happiness. In some cultures, laughter also occurs if someone is nervous or uncomfortable.  What does it signify in this workplace or in your culture?
  • How important is punctuality?
    • What is the normal period of grace?
    • Is it expected that people arrive early for an appointment?
  • How important and valued are written contracts?
  • In successful business relationships, how much importance is placed on personal relationships?
  • What is the organizational structure?
    • Are decisions made in a primarily democratic or autocratic manner?
  • How common is it for people to be available to discuss matters related to work after working hours?
  • What are the subtleties of language used in business or negotiations?
    • Does "yes" mean "I agree", or "I understand what you are saying"?
    • Does "maybe later" mean "we can still talk", or is it a polite but strong indication of "no"?
  • How formal are business meetings?
    • Is it essential to be well-dressed? (what does this look like?)
    • Are first names ever used?
    • Are meetings focused and stay on a single topic, or can many things be happening at once?
  • How is credit given for successful work?
    • Is it normally attributed to the supervisor or team leader, or do all the team members or those who contributed get acknowledged?
  • Is it common for important decisions to be made in a meeting, or is it more likely that information will be gathered in a meeting and decisions will be made in a less public forum?



  • 1. Adapted from Centre for Intercultural Learning, Canadian Foreign Service. Institute Based on Jonamay Lambert, Selma Myers and George Simons, Global Competence: 50 training activities for succeeding in international business, (Amherst, Mass.: HRD Press, 2000).