Dear Susan （スーザンの悩み相談室）
2005年 02月 08日
（Globe and Mail ２月２日）
【Globe and Mail読者からの質問】
the Canadian Labour Congressのウェブサイト
Can employer loans trap immigrant workers?
By SUSAN PINKER
Wednesday, February 2, 2005 - Page C2
When I attend interviews and get hit with the line "We are all one big family here," I immediately turn off. I am so fed up with this line that I will not take the job.
There is no such thing as a family environment in a business. You are not in a job for fun but to work. One company I worked for hired workers from the owner's country of origin, whom he paid poorly. When these workers went to purchase homes, the boss helped them out with guarantees, loans, etc. In the meantime, the workers felt they could never leave that company and had to endure abuse indefinitely until their debts were paid. Workers from poorer countries endure this kind of attitude and think that it is okay because they are thankful they have work. Don't you think the word family in the context of work just means someone is about to take advantage of you?
-- Been There, Done That
Dear Been There,
Call me naive but many workplaces are like families. Both feature multiple players with multiple intersecting motivations. Money is the big one at work, but it's not the only one. Similarly to what goes on behind the scenes at home, work provides a backdrop of power struggles, jealousy, and conflicted loyalties. Sure, people work to support themselves. But research shows they also work to feel productive and part of something bigger than themselves. So when a prospective employer says "we are all one big family," understand it as family in the broad sense: We're stuck in this together.
There are always strings attached. And there is a pervasive lack of control. It's hard to deny the saccharine gloss to using the family word in economic contexts. But given the role of the family in economic survival, being scared off by a little cliché is churlish.
What about your example of immigrants coming to this country beholden to their employer and ignorant of their rights? The point system in place for recent immigrants makes them an educated and accomplished lot. Many native-born Canadians who try to answer the skill-testing questions on the federal government's Citizenship and Immigration website would not make the passing score of 67. It's a quiz where a PhD or a university degree plus 14 years of education is considered a good start. The paradox is that these high standards have not improved the economic prospects of the skilled immigrants who make the grade. Census data show two unsettling trends: New immigrants are earning far less than native-born Canadians, and each wave of immigration over the past 30 years has lower rates of employment than the previous one. Everyone knows a foreign-born pharmacist, economist or doctor working as an orderly or cleaner because professional associations are reluctant to evaluate their qualifications and bridging programs are thin on the ground.
Whatever their qualifications, immigrants have the same rights in the workplace as native-born Canadians. They can become more informed by consulting the Canadian Labour Congress's website (http://www.workrights.ca) which outlines labour standards.
Whatever their background, just because somebody helps you put food on the table doesn't mean they can have their way with you. That's the rule in a family and that's the rule in the workplace, too.
After three years, I was about three months shy of job security as an administrator in a lab when I got a new boss who needed to maintain my position but wanted to hire someone new into it. He could abolish the position with me in it, or make my life so miserable that I'd leave with the position empty and intact.
He succeeded in the latter. I never wanted to close the door to his office in meetings because it always ended in questions like:What did I really ever do in the department because he can't figure it out? Since I had no job security, the management employee association was no help at all. I left and he hired someone new into my position. I don't think my story is unique but it has obvious ethical implications. I was able to quit, being a woman with a spouse who is gainfully employed. What would I have done if I had had no choices?
Dear Born Again,
This is existential, but I think there are almost always choices. But you're right to suspect that women often make different ones than men. It's not just a question of being married. In a recent study about why people leave careers in science, Anne E. Preston, a professor of economics at Haverford College, surveyed 1,688 science, math and engineering alumnae who had graduated over the past 30 years. Despite women comprising more than 50 per cent of undergraduates and masters students in those disciplines, by the late 1990s, twice as many of the women had abandoned science careers as men. Overwhelmingly, they said they left to find more meaningful work. A smaller proportion said they decamped because they lacked a mentor. Compare that to the men, who said they left science because they could earn more money elsewhere. No mention of meaning or mentors for those guys.
I suspect that you left your job because your boss succeeded in making you feel lousy and you were not prepared to duke it out in order to stay. Recently, a male reader wrote in response to a letter about a boss like yours. "The screamer needs to be confronted aggressively and simultaneously by a number of co-workers, hopefully some of whom will contribute a physically intimidating presence to the discussion." That's also a choice, but I'll bet that wasn't one of the choices you considered.
Susan Pinker is a psychologist, educator and writer.