Watch for cultural biases in assessing employees

Differences in power structure and expectations make appraisals tricky
By Rhonda Singer
|Canadian HR Reporter|Last Updated: 06/16/2006

It’s no secret. In the next decade, Canadian organizations are going to have to increasingly turn to immigrants as the supply of workers dries up in Canada. This demographic shift is going to pose some unique challenges for organizations in integrating these new Canadians into the workplace, particularly when it comes to performance reviews.

Values, beliefs and perspectives vary by country of origin. Typical group and individual behaviours in countries such as Canada and the United States are not commonly seen or understood by people from other cultures.

The performance appraisal, with its goal-setting procedures and inherent feedback process, is a western concept that can be a cultural disconnect with individuals from some countries. In Asian corporations an employee’s appraisal (and their prospects for promotion) is as likely to deal with attributes such as co-operation and sociability as achievement of results. And, because status within these cultures is so crucial to an individual’s sense of worth and contribution, it is important to navigate this cultural minefield with sensitivity so the employee does not become insulted or lose face.