Danger Of Working With Compatriots

The danger of being employed by, or working with compatriots…

This is a hot and interesting topic for new or future immigrants. Even educated and experienced immigrants struggle to find appropriate job in a new land, which often compel them to work with compatriots. If I were to rely solely on my own personal experience and reports gathered by interviewing many other immigrants that I have met, I would encourage anyone to avoid working for compatriots in their new country.
I am sure that thousands of positive stories are out there that would demonstrate the opposite of what I have just suggested, but the predominant reality is that in the initial phase of immigration, working with a compatriot is potentially dangerous! Later on…. it could be a great opportunity.

These are the possible scenarios you might find:

1. Employers that have had their own traumatic experiences as employees of their compatriots, who were victims of psychological and financial abuse when being in a delicate position of need and vulnerability.
Their behavior could most likely be extreme in either polarity. On the one hand, they could subconsciously behave as an over-caring parent and be there for you all the time, and even spoil you, simply because they love to help compatriots; many see it as a cultural responsibility and try to satisfy their own need to not be like their former employers.
The other extreme behavior for these types of employers would be to mirror an updated version of their experience as employees, projecting this onto the new immigrant! These types will make your experience as traumatic as theirs, if not more so, and their intention will seem vicious; but they are just acting out a role, they think that this is just the way it must be done between compatriots in a foreign country. They will feel that they are almost doing you a favor, they are toughening you up!

2. Employers who, as employees, had a great experience when employed by compatriots. They will most likely mirror their experience too and share everything they have learned, inspire you and take you under their wing. They will probably be very personal and open the doors of their homes, inviting you to be part of the family in the most extreme cases. I can see how situations like this promote comfort and make the initial phase of your immigration experience a very positive one; however, as I mentioned in a previous article, don’t let too much comfort distract you from becoming who you wanted to become when you left home! Comfort is a slow and silent dream killer, and when you finally come to realize this, it may be too late because your need for comfort has become a habit. If you find yourself in a situation like this, I encourage you to emulate your employer instead of staying under his wing and find your own purpose.

I will share my experience with you, as a potential employer/compatriot that you could find if you are a cabinetmaker and decide to immigrate to Toronto ☺. I had to face the decision of whether or not to hire a compatriot employee about half a dozen times, and I ended up hiring only one. It was very convenient for my business, but not the best scenario for him. His name is Giovanni, an unbelievably skilled worker.
Let me explain why. Giovanni, a 49-year-old man that moved his family to Canada without his wife’s full blessing, the only Italian that ever worked for me, did not get the best out of this experience. This immigrant is intelligent, clean, an unbelievable genius with his hands and an incurable maniac for precision as a plumber, framer, taper, trimmer, electrician, tile layer, bricklayer, etc. He was over-qualified for the job at my business and he knew it! Even though I was paying him the same as my best employee, with his skills, he could have doubled his wages working somewhere else.

He had one little problem: when he arrived he could only speak Italian, and because he could not wait until after he learned English to make money, he decided to work with me because I was happy to speak Italian with him; so far, a win-win deal.

This is where he messed up; working many hours and being treated nicely without going through the stress of forcing himself to learn English put him in that “comfort” state mentioned earlier, and silently weeks became months and then years. An issue that was supposed to be temporary (not speaking English) became a habit. Now, even after three years, he is not working with us anymore, but he is being underpaid because he is not able to communicate.
While I have contributed to this terrible crime, he is the only one responsible for it, because he went for “easy” but he got “hard”. Sadly, because three years have gone by, he thinks he is not capable of learning English and he is accepting the situation!
I have noticed that, as immigrants, we crave to have contacts with compatriots because in many aspects we are in tune with them; the language, the culture, etc.
It is a need to feel safe, the search for a surrogated family that makes us feel accepted and loved in this new country that seems at the time so scary, so complicated, so different! For us, it is like a warm, motherly hug.
The truth is that, whether we find a compatriot that is a nice employer or a nasty one, it presents the vivid possibility of our falling into the “comfort” trap that will choke our growth!
Didn’t we immigrate to grow? To expand our horizons?
Let’s think like empowered immigrants and go for “challenge” instead of “comfort”!
Let’s look for jobs that feel right in tune with our big goal, our purpose… instead of looking for jobs and employers that make us feel at home.

Stay tuned,

Frank.


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6 responses to “The danger of being employed by, or working with compatriots…”

  1. […] Canada is a place known for its culture and diversity; people from around the world come to this country to study, for employment and to pursue other life goals. However, being an immigrant is a tough thing, not just in Canada but in all over the world. Life of an immigrant is tough to pursue obvious reasons; you are new to the place, you don’t know the local language, you are not well-versed with policies and regulations, your values don’t resonate with the native social norms and more. These reasons are genuine and real and have intense effects. Most of the effects are in employment. The level of immigrants’ struggle, in respect of employment, can be judged by the fact that even educated immigrants struggle to find work. […]

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