Adjusting to work culture in the US: Know the surprisingly simple etiquettes

Contributed by: Sukanya Dasgupta

Have you succeeded in landing your dream job in the United States? Well done! Before you set out on your cushy yet demanding job, though, you should learn a thing or two about the work culture in the US. Frankly speaking, you should be cautious of over-generalizations concerning a countryís work culture, particularly if the country is as diverse and large as the United States. Needless to say, how we look upon the workplace etiquettes of other cultures depends heavily on how we perceive the world from our own cultural milieu.

Acceptance and the keenness to learn about a new culture is the key to survive. The US has its ways to rock workplace culture. But if a certain newness, corporate clichťs make you quiver, you should rather get a grip on your cynicism. The US work culture is the epicenter of the entire world and can teach us a lot about accomplishments at business. Individualism, efficiency, informality and competitiveness form the core traits of US work culture. US is known for its candidness to innovation, so itís time for you to learn the more challenging and unwritten rules of doing business and adjusting to the workplace.

A stress on the first impression

First impressions are essential. Americans know its importance and expect that others would make an equally good effort to sell themselves in a distinct way. Be very presentable and convey your willingness to work hard, your eagerness to devote time and effort to the work. Appearance must be vivacious. The dress code is rather informal, a perfect business attire for men and a smart business suit for women will suffice, while a tie for men is not always essential.

Meet and greet people

If you meet your employer, a co-worker, or a business associate for the first time, a firm handshake, a smile and maintaining eye contact while talking is appropriate in the corporate setting, despite the other personís age, gender or seniority. You must respect a 'bubble' of personal space of 2-3 feet. In any US company, calling everyone by their first name is standard approach. Co-workers would ask you to do so immediately. Ignoring such requests might be misinterpreted. If you arenít introduced officially, take a moment to introduce yourself. When you introduce other people during business trip or a meeting, add a few details about the person, like area of responsibility, job title, or where they are from.

Meetings and communication style:

The prevailing style of communication in US work culture is friendly and to the point, you donít need to read much between the lines. You are supposed to express yourself clearly, but politely, and if there is something you donít understand or know of, it is necessary to ask directly. Be prepared to be liberal with your compliments, avoid criticism carefully. In meetings, getting down to business without too much beating around the bush is paramount. Thereís usually a clear agenda and distinct goals. Avoid being overly negative or rude as it appears unprofessional, and emotional displays like anger or disappointment in a corporate setting is not appropriate.

Being nice:

Treat co-workers with respect, even those younger than you, and keep in mind that in a bustling city with busy people, patience can take you long way. Take your cues from the coworkers, and you would soon fit in.


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