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“Culture is simply a shared way of doing something with a passion.” — Brian Chesky, Co-Founder, CEO, Airbnb

People worldwide have a wide variety of jobs, and the work culture and office environment may vary across different countries. When you’re from a different culture, with different attitudes about work, you’ll probably meet some unexpected difficulties.

So, let’s check these 5 work habits that will help you navigate your way when working with American people. 

(Let’s make clear, the term “American” is used to refer to the inhabitants of the United States of “America.” North Americans are inhabitants of the North American continent, and South Americans, inhabitants of the South American continent.)

1- “Go-getter” mentality

You’ve heard of the lone cowboy, the self-made billionaire, and the DIY attitude. American work culture rewards a do-it-yourself attitude.

While team efforts and group projects remain an essential part of the workplace, employers like to see employees who take the initiative, speak up, and are willing to go the extra mile to make themselves stand out in the workplace. That’s why all those “Employee of the Month” awards are so common in U.S. companies.

Americans want to have some freedom to choose their way of doing things, and they especially don’t like a manager who tells them how to do their job. So, Americans will strive to be recognized individually for their accomplishments. 

2- Corporate Social Life

Many American companies have social events like Christmas and New Year’s parties, boss’s birthdays or someone’s departure, company picnics, 3-4 days of meetings in a vacation spot like Florida or Las Vegas. For some events, like birthdays or farewell parties, everyone buys gifts for a particular person. 

3- Dress Codes 

American dress codes may vary widely —from the formal, dark business suit, shirt, and tie to T-shirt and shorts.

One general dictum could be that the further West you are doing business, the more likely you will encounter informal dress in business, but this is not always the case. 

Many workplaces allow casual dress, including denim, while other companies have uniforms or strict dress policies.

Some places institute a casual dress code on Fridays compared to other days.

If you’re a worker traveling on business in the States, the best advice would always be to check before departure with others who have visited your particular destination —failing to take various types of clothes to meet all eventualities.

4- Keeping it casual

Americans tend to be very informal in the workplace regardless of their position. You will most likely be addressed and spoken to just like everyone else. 

While every workplace is different, pay attention to how your coworkers address others.

When emailing, titles such as sir or ma’am are often seen as out of place and overly formal.

Depending on the company, you may give your first and last names during introductions, then afterward, you are simply referred to by your first name.

While you may not be greeted by everyone in the office at the start of the day, as the custom in other countries, you may find yourself talking about your weekend plans with a coworker, or your manager insists you call them by their first name.

Hugs and kisses on the cheeks of coworkers are usually frowned upon. 

5- Hierarchy 

Although we have said that Americans tend to treat each other informally, it’s important to respect the hierarchy in the American work culture. This means that if you report to your manager, who reports to the CEO, you shouldn’t directly seek out the CEO if you have questions, want feedback, or request paid time off. Your manager is the person to ask —and often, you will have to do it through their secretary.

Offices with a more rigid hierarchy will often be more formal, insisting on business casual or business formal attire, a particular email etiquette, and other rules. Other workplaces may be much more casual, with a flatter hierarchy. 

In your first few days, it’s best to err on the side of caution and assume a more formal culture until you better understand the company and its specific rules.

WEEKLY VOCABULARY 🗣

Differ: be unlike or dissimilar.

Misunderstanding: a failure to understand something correctly.

Attire: clothes, especially fine or formal ones.

Etiquette: the customary code of polite behavior in society or among members of a particular profession or group.

Hierarchy: a system or organization in which people or groups are ranked one above the other according to status or authority.

PHRASAL VERBS

Work on: to spend time and effort improving something / trying to influence a person.

“I have a lot of problems with my English pronunciation, but I’m working on it.” 

“Mrs. Abadi didn’t want to hire me, but my friend Farid works there, and he is working on her, so I hope she changes his mind.”

Work toward: to work towards is to make an effort to achieve a future objective. 

“Miguel was working toward a position with the new branch in Los Angeles.” 

IDIOMS 📒

Work(s) like a charm: When something functions perfectly.

Work the System: To take advantage of the system, often in an unethical way, to get what you want.

Related Articles:

Business Communication https://www.englishpriority.com/business-communication/

Company Vocabulary https://www.englishpriority.com/company-vocabulary/

Learner Autonomy https://www.englishpriority.com/learner-autonomy/

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