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Career Focus

Canadian Workplace Etiquette

By LISA TRUDEL - July 1 2023

Why is workplace etiquette important? What is the most important part? Is it saying “please and “thank you” or dressing appropriately? 

These 3 questions are often asked by newcomer job seekers, so to expand on what I know I sat down recently with Angela Mohan, a Career Specialist with Achēv in downtown Toronto. Angela is originally from Trinidad and relocated to Canada in 2008. In her home country, she had a successful career in Human Resources which included performance motivation, so when she moved to Canada, she decided to return to College to become a Career Counsellor. Angela graduated from George Brown College’s Career Counselling Diploma program in December 2010 and has been busy ever since working as a Career Specialist providing information and motivation to job seekers. I asked Angela about workplace etiquette.

“Trinidad is a third-world developing country less than 7 miles off the coast of Venezuela. It only became independent from Britain in 1962, so all of my education and employment have been grounded in British workplace etiquette. Even though Trinidad is the birthplace of the steelpan drums and the renowned Carnival, J’ouvert, the gregariousness and sociability that are associated with the Caribbean are not encouraged in business workplace settings. So, I didn’t have to change too much of my business etiquette except for one major thing. In Trinidad, the dress codes where I worked and went to school were very different from what I have experienced in Toronto. I used to wear lots of business attire that was conservative and tailored such as fitted and custom-made suits and tops. Nothing off the rack, and never any sleeveless tops or leggings or capri pants. I would dress up for work! In Canada, I immediately felt over-dressed since many organizations including the Community Colleges where I studied and worked have very casual dress rules. It is as if every workday is Dress Down Friday! I realized I had to make a truly concentrated and significant change regarding what I wore to work in order to fit in.”

I asked Angela why she thinks workplace etiquette is important. “It creates a mutually respectful atmosphere. People feel better about their jobs when they feel respected and being heard and understood is the basis of communication. Etiquette also conveys the type of professional you are and the values that nurture your self-motivation.”

Finally, I asked Angela if she considered dressing appropriately or saying “please” and “thank you” the most important. “There are 5 more than these two!” Angela exclaimed. “When I assist job seekers, I always tell them about the top 7 workplace etiquette rules”. Angela shared them with me, so I could share them with you:

  1. Dress code: In Toronto, employers have the right to establish workplace dress codes they believe are needed for the safety and function of their business as specified by the Ontario Human Rights Code. Some companies might have a conservative dress code yet that is becoming increasingly rare. Others might prefer a much more casual dress code and it can be acceptable to wear a t-shirt and leggings. Always ask what the dress code is before you start your job. Every company has different rules.
  2. Punctuality and time management: Canadian employers appreciate punctuality and will usually not wait more than 10 minutes if you are late for an in-person appointment or remote meeting. Being late for employment or volunteer work is considered very unprofessional and could harm your dreams of advancement or securing an impressive reference.
  3. Business hours: The typical work week in Toronto is Monday to Friday, from 9 AM to 5 PM, however, longer and different work hours can be common in some sectors. It is important to know the Ontario Employment Standards Act which outlines the maximum hours per week an employee can work with one company: 48 hours. The Employment Standards Act and other valuable resources can be found at www.workersactioncentre.org. Always know your rights as a worker in Canada.
  4. Phone and voice mail etiquette: Remember the 3 “always”: Always answer phone calls in a friendly manner. Always have a clear voicemail message using your own voice. Always check your voicemail messages several times a day.
  5. Leaving phone messages: When leaving a message state your first name and last name, and phone number, clearly and slowly. If someone needs to listen to your voicemail message more than once, they might never connect with you again.
  6. Email etiquette: Most business connections in Canada are done by email. If you are job searching, you should be reading your emails several times a day. Always try to respond immediately since not replying can mean that you are unprofessional and disinterested.
  7. Following up and calling back: If you don’t call an employer or networking connection back, it might equal a costly mistake that you cannot rectify. If someone contacts you and you do not call them back you lose credibility. Always return phone calls and emails.

There are many more expected etiquette business rules in Canada. However, start with these 7 points and make them your foundation if you want to succeed in your career. To learn more about business etiquette, career planning, or job search, contact your local Employment Ontario-funded Career Centre and find out if you meet the criteria to use their free services. 

This article was written by Lisa Trudel, Career Specialist with Achēv at 100 Lombard Street in downtown Toronto. You can contact Lisa at ltrudel@achev.ca


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