If you have recently moved to the U.S. you will find the following pointers useful to understand the office environment and work culture in U.S.
The office environment is informal, and there is no apparent hierarchy between managers and their subordinates. Employees are treated as equals and independent views are welcomed.
American work culture involves a lot of meetings. These meetings need not deal with big decisions, but are more like discussions, and are centered on analyzing, planning and reviewing of a project. Opinions and ideas are shared and objections are made.
Water, aerated drinks, tea, coffee and vending machines are available at all offices.
- Working hours are flexible as far as IT companies are concerned. Normal office timings go from 9 AM to 5 PM.
- If you are a contractor, then you do need to maintain a minimum of 8 hours per day or 40 hours per week. Results matter more than anything; you must be able to deliver the result.
- Contractors and temporary employees may have to fill up weekly time sheets, which are signed by their Manager.
- Few IT companies allow telecommuting where an employee can work from home, as and when required.
- Americans are very time conscious. They believe in the principles of time-management. They come to office early and leave on time. You will rarely find them working late hours, or on weekends. They plan their weekends ahead of time and value their privacy.
- Generally, Americans are very polite, friendly and helpful, but have less tolerance for people who interfere in their private lives.
- They value their leisure time, health and hygiene.
- Exercising is important, and they usually go for aerobics, swimming, tennis or a jog a few times during the week.
- Don’t be surprised if strangers greet you. Be polite and greet them back.
- At work or elsewhere while talking, if you want to say yes, just say ‘yes’. Don’t nod your head up and down. Moving your head side to side is found to be very confusing, and it is mostly taken as ‘no’.
- Avoid talking in your native language in presence of people of other ethnicities in a social gathering. It is not courteous.
- Don’t say, “I’ll ring you back.” or “I’ll call you later”. Here ring is the engagement ring, rather say “I’ll call you, or buzz you”.
- Don’t say “the Phone was engaged”, as engaged means getting engaged for marriage. Instead say “there was a busy tone”.
- Be mindful of respecting the personal space of others.
This post is written to encourage cross-cultural literacy. If you understand some of the work norms discussed here you will find it easy to adjust to the new environment. At the surface all of us eat the same food, listen to the same music, and drink Starbucks. However, underneath the modern surface deep cultural and social difference often remain. Being empathetic and responsive to these differences can help you go a long way.