In the Workplace

Workplace Culture

What is the culture of the workplace in Nova Scotia?

Culture is the character and personality of an organization.  It is what makes an organization unique and is the sum of its values, traditions, beliefs, interactions, behaviors and attitudes.  While workplace cultures vary depending on the employer and the type of job, below are some common qualities valued in Nova Scotia and across Canada.


Interacting Positively with Others

  • Greet everyone warmly, smile and be approachable.
  • People often shake hands when they meet someone for the first time.
  • It is common to call colleagues by their first names, even managers and supervisors. When introducing someone, use both their first and last names.
  • Respect personal space. Many people prefer you to keep an arm’s distance away when talking to them.
  • Maintain eye contact when interacting with others.
  • Be honest and open, but considerate of others’ feelings.
  • Be a good listener and try not to interrupt others when they are speaking.
  • It is common to engage in some “small talk” with colleagues at work – be careful not to ask direct questions about personal issues such as religion, age, salary, etc.
  • Always be courteous by using polite language and knocking on office doors before entering.


  • Make sure you understand work requirements and job expectations.
  • Ask question if you do not understand procedures or instructions!
  • Work together as a team with other teachers or colleagues.
  • Be resourceful and contribute to meetings and discussions.
  • Manage your time and resources wisely.

Punctuality & Attendance

  • Arrive 10-15 minutes early for work, meetings, interviews, etc.
  • Submit work assignments on or before the deadline.
  • Report for work regularly.
  • Give advanced notice to your supervisor if you are late or absent.
  • Inform your supervisor if you have to leave the office during regular hours.


  • Suggests ways to improve your work and/or workplace.
  • Work hard and show initiative.
  • Offer to help others when you have time.
  • Volunteer information that may be helpful to your colleagues.


  • Treat all your colleagues with respect, regardless of position, gender, race or ethnicity.
  • Listen to the ideas and opinions of others.
  • Ask for suggestions when appropriate.
  • Dress formally until you know what the dress code is in the workplace.

Cross-cultural Communication

  • Learn about the customs of other cultures.
  • Share elements of your own culture.
  • Be careful of body language and tone of voice.
  • Do not tell “risky” jokes.
  • Use the common language in a group of people.
  • Do not stereotype people.

Continuous Learning

  • Identify your professional learning goals
  • Keep up-to-date by reading education journals and other teaching resources
  • Take workshops, courses or professional development programs
  • Join professional associations and attend conferences

Conflict Management

  • Be a team player
  • If you disagree with a colleague raise the issue clearly and respectfully
  • Listen to the “other side” and try to understand their perspective
  • Figure out win/win solutions
  • If needed, ask for additional support or assistance to resolve the situation

Personal and Professional Management

  • Set short and long-term goals for yourself
  • Be realistic about the time you need to complete tasks
  • Balance your time for work and family
  • Look after your physical and mental health
  • Keep learning!

Workplace Involvement

  • Participate in events & special activities at your school or organization
  • Volunteer for extra-curricular activities
  • Get to know your colleagues and share some of your own experiences

Written Rules

Written rules are standards and expectations which are documented on paper by a school, regional centre or other organization. You will find them in documents such as human resource manuals, workplace handbooks or Codes of Conduct. Theses rules help everyone understand their work responsibilities and usually cover topics such as hours of work, sick leave, vacation and employee benefits. Workplace policies may also cover topics such as workplace harassment and conflict of interest.

Labour Standards

In Nova Scotia, there is labour standards legislation that sets minimum rules for all employees and employers in the province.

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Protection of Human Rights

In Canada there are provincial, territorial and federal laws to protect human rights. This includes addressing discrimination in the workplace.

(Read More 2/3)


Find out about the workshops offered by ISANS. They can help you understand these topics better (see Supports & Resources).

Unwritten Rules

Unwritten rules are values and expectations that vary from one workplace to another. Since they’re not documented anywhere, the easiest way to find out about them is to observe the way employees behave and interact with each. If you’re not sure about something, don’t hesitate to ask a colleague, team lead, manager or principal. Some examples of unwritten rules may be:

Email and Phone Use

  • Work email and phone lines are intended for work purposes and in most workplaces, its best not to use them for personal reasons except for emergencies.
  • In many workplaces, it is usual to turn off your cell phone or set it to vibrate.

Personal Business

  • Find out about how you can deal with personal or family issues such as caring for sick children, medical appointments or making personal phone calls. Sometimes there are written rules on these topics.


  • In some workplaces and in some jobs, breaks are formal, requiring you to take a coffee or lunch break at a specific time. This includes school teaching. In some workplaces, you may take your break whenever you choose.


  • Many workplaces in Nova Scotia ask that employees not use perfume or other scented products because others may have allergies. Certain foods may not be allowed as well. For example, peanuts may not be allowed in a school if a student has a food allergy.

(See Source 2)


What is similar or different to the work culture in your first country?

  • Source

    Source 1: Workplace Culture

     Canadian Workplace Culture Dos and Donts Article

  • Source

    Source 2: Workplace Culture

    Skilled Immigrant Infocenter Webpage on Workplace Culture

  • Source

    Read More 1: Employment Rights

    Labour and Advanced Education: Employment Rights

  • Source

    Read More 2: Nova Scotia Human Rights

    Human Rights Nova Scotia

  • Source

    Read More 3: Human Rights

    Canadian Human Rights Commission