The Globe’s bimonthly report on research from business schools.
U.S.-born professionals who work in Canada say it’s no joke how much anti-American abuse they endure from friends and colleagues north of the border, and that has employment experts concerned that the country could be in for a serious talent shortage if the practice isn’t stopped.
“Don’t forget, the world tends to think of Canada as a really nice place filled with really friendly people, so this trend towards anti-American sentiment could really hurt our reputation,” says Eddy Ng, an economics professor at Dalhousie University’s Rowe School of Business in Halifax and co-author of new research examining the experience of U.S. workers in Canada.
The study, conducted in partnership with Thomas Kollen of the University of Bern in Switzerland, was initiated in the spring of 2017, shortly after Donald Trump was sworn in as U.S. president. Mr. Trump’s inauguration is important to the researchers as they seek to scientifically measure an anticipated rise in anti-American sentiment directly linked to the political landscape, and any subsequent fallout on the labour market.
Anti-American feelings are nothing new to Canadians, says Dr. Ng. Long before Mr. Trump, we’ve relished unflattering stereotypes and negative stories about the United States as a means of setting ourselves apart – even above – a much more powerful and culturally dominant neighbour.
Controversial or shocking issues, such as this week's U.S. Supreme Court nomination, a transgender bathroom ban or a mass shooting typically invite a spike in anti-Americanism in Canadians.
Mr. Trump’s term as president, with his late-night Twitter rants, trade-war threats, sex scandals and allegations of collusion, is expected to have a much longer and lasting impact, including hurting recruitment efforts of high-skilled workers from the United States to Canada.
“Americans who come up here generally have a choice, unlike refugees or other immigrants who come up here for economic reasons,” says Dr. Ng.
Drawing from a recent survey of U.S. professionals working in Canada, the study suggests U.S. citizens are already uncomfortable, reporting feelings of exhaustion and discouragement over jokes and comments at their expense by Canadian friends and colleagues. Among descriptives most-frequently heard by Americans of their countrymen are “stupid,” “gun-loving,” “right-wing," “loud,” “obnoxious,” “aggressive,” and “uncompromising.”
“Thank you for doing this research,” one anonymous respondent wrote. “In completing the survey, I found myself relieved that you are asking me the questions I often think about and struggle with as an American newcomer to Canada. It often feels isolating. I feel alone, but you even asking the questions makes me think that likely I am experiencing much of what others in my situation also experience.”
The survey also found that more than half of Canadians don’t believe it’s politically incorrect to bash Americans, potentially making it difficult to institute change. However, the survey results doesn’t suggest Canadians dislike Americans as individuals. Rather, says Dr. Ng, “We just disagree with some of what the U.S. stands for in terms of its politics and institutions.”
Dr. Ng says the study will remain open for years to come in order to get a clear picture of Mr. Trump’s impact on the relationship.
In the meantime, he says Canadian employers should be aware of what’s happening in the workplace and take care to encourage employees to be respectful of their fellow workers, regardless of where they were born.
“It’s not like racism or sexism, but it is discrimination based on nationality and you should put in place a respectful workplace policy … and let people know that certain things are unacceptable to talk about in the office,” he says. “Having a policy helps because people might think twice before expressing certain views.”
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