What if we could just be ourselves?

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I’m always a bit conflicted when I’m writing and teaching newcomers about soft skills.

In its most basic form, I realize what I’m saying is, “You should act like the Canadian-born people in your office. Here’s how.”

With newcomers such a big part of the population, with so many skills to offer, I wish we were talking more about how Canadian workplace culture must also adapt to the work styles of different people, to fully benefit from what newcomers offer.

I agree wholeheartedly with the point in Ricardo Roa Beltran’s December guest post, that we need to tap the full potential of all Canadian workers, including newcomers, to have a strong economy.  We’re missing out on important contributions if we insist on waiting for newcomers to conform. 

I relate to this issue personally because so much career advice to women boils down to how we should adapt to a masculine workplace culture, to reach our full career potential.  Here’s an NPR radio piece about women actually adjusting their voices and speech patterns at work to be more like a man’s.

It can be tricky territory.  I was recently at a career seminar for women where the speaker told us we should talk less at work about our kids than men do, or risk seeming uncommitted to our careers.

Even more confusing, women can be criticized for behaving in ways that earn praise for men, as this Pantene video powerfully shows.

It’s encouraging that the idea of accommodating and capitalizing on differences, rather than trying to eliminate them, is getting some attention with author Susan Cain’s popular TED Talk, The Power of Introverts.

In 2016, I hope we see progress toward a workplace where everyone’s potential can be realized, differences and all.

Let us know your thoughts, and enjoy this stirring 90 second ad with an inspiring refugee story from Australia!

Kim Koster

Photo credit: Thomas Leuthard

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