Global Learning Blog - Exodus, Entry and Employability

The ‘Now What’ to Today’s Three Es

There is a little triangular cookie with an intriguing story that some of you may have noticed in grocery stores and bakeries during Purim, the last week of March.

The story goes that a very long time ago (352 BCE, to be exact), Haman, the Prime Minister to the Persian emperor Achashveirosh, whose dominion extended from India to Ethiopia, wanted to kill all the Jews in the land. If it were not for the heroine; Queen Esther, and her cousin Mordechai, who engineered Haman’s downfall, he would have succeeded.

The cookie, called a Hamentashen, is typically filled with poppy seeds, prunes or jam and represents the hat that the evil Haman wore.

The message of the Purim story is unity. We were all in danger together, we celebrate together and we place special emphasis on caring for the less fortunate.

That is a perfect lead into present-day mass Syrian exodus and entry into Canada. Despite media coverage showing refugees’ valiant and dangerous efforts crossing the Mediterrean Sea, it is heart warming to read about the many stories of Syrian families being sponsored by small towns, organizations, businesses, and a few unexpected places such as Mosques and Synagogues – all coming together to welcome the ‘stranger’.

However, what about the practicality of living and working in Canada, as a newly arrived refugee? To succeed, integration needs to be a two-way approach. The onus is not only on them, the ‘other’, to figure out how to fit into our Canadian culture, but also for us as businesses, employers, and individuals – members of this rich global community, to adapt a little too.

Imagine what happens after our Syrian families arrive and get settled. Try to imagine their state of cultural confusion in a new country, after an unimaginable horrible journey. Let’s ask ourselves this question: ‘’what can we do to help restore a sense of reconnection to their roots, a sense of dignity and a bridge to connecting with Canada?”

Start with this premise.

Economics is employment. Make money to support ones’ family.

So the next time you meet or intend to recruit an unemployed newcomer to Canada, demonstrate genuine interest in their culture, and ask two simple questions:

  • How do you find work in your country?
  • What qualities and behaviours are valued in employees?

Then probe a little to better understand ‘the why’ behind the answers.

Conclude with the invitation to share from a Canadian perspective and compare answers, looking for opportunities to learn from each other’s similarities and differences.

The ‘so what’ is insight into the lens of someone different. The ‘now what’ is practicing Cultural Intelligence (CQ) or the capability to be effective in any culture.

Why is it important? The key lies in minimizing interpersonal conflict and maximizing the informational diversity that exists in the variety of diverse perspectives and values.* (Driven by Difference, David Livermore)

Here are four simple steps to start:

  1. Reflect on your motivation to engage with someone from this culture.

Yes, it IS important to tap into your ‘why’ of wanting to conduct an authentic conversation. Being able to distinguish between the following three areas is the first step to CQ success.

  • Would you personally enjoy the opportunity to meet?
  • Is it merely THE JOB?
  • Or maybe your confidence is lacking on the actual ‘how to’ ?

The answer to each question is what drives the amount of effort through the next three steps.

  1. Take the time to learn about Syrian culture.

For example; cultural comparison of five value dimensions for Syria and type in Canada. Notice the difference between the values power and individualism.  Appreciate there are significant implications on how each country typically perceives status, makes decisions and team-work is conducted.

  1. Plan a strategy, using this intelligence, to shape effective communication.

And then use this awareness to continually check out your assumptions for accuracy with the person. Knowledge is based on research and is merely a generalization, while each of us is a unique personality whose behaviors are formed by many cultural factors. Our genuine interest to learn and not make assumptions about the other, is valued and appreciated.

  1. Finally, with your plan in mind, adapt your verbal and non-verbal behavior appropriately.

Keep in mind context- consideration such as the reason for meeting, where the meeting is being held, who sits where and the relationship between the two of you. Look for what is said and not said.

As a final word, it is easy to slip into unconscious biases when dealing with culturally different individuals.  Focus on the positive and broaden your breadth of perspective.

The bottom line is, not only will you learn the power of CQ and the capability to adapt your behavior, so too will the person with whom you are conversing.

How sweet is the chemistry of culture.

Rhonda Singer

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