Unwritten rules a mystery for foreigners

Many immigrants in the workplace have problems interpreting the less concrete communication forms used by their Danish colleagues

Danish workplace culture is often difficult for employees of foreign background to understand, and their unknowing failure to follow accepted behaviours can discourage them, according to a new study.

Integration consultant Mehmet Yüksekkaya conducted the study with support from the Integration Ministry and found that certain practices - such as questioning your superior, and that non-membership in unemployment insurance funds is looked down upon - were generally not understood by immigrant employees.

'Immigrants' understanding of the unwritten workplace rules is very poor, and that lack of knowledge can lead to job dissatisfaction, isolation and misunderstandings,' Yüksekkaya told Berlingkse Tidende newspaper.

'The informal rules - the workplace culture - isn't apparent, neither in relationship to recruiting and promotion nor as to how tasks are completed or reciprocal relations operate,' said Yüksekkaya.

Gunda Sjøberg from labour union 3F's career centre agreed and said she has witnessed the phenomenon often in her work.

'It could, for instance, be about how we deal with rules. Even though the rules may be very clear there can be an implicit understanding or a way of interpreting the rules that is difficult for employees of foreign background to understand,' she said.

Sjøberg recommended a broadening of the mentor network, where a management level employee is responsible for helping workers from foreign cultures become acclimated to the ways of the Danish workplace.

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