The Future of Work: Working the American Way

Americans have a national character that’s grounded in “effort-optimism” that allows them to “roll up your sleeves” and get to work. Americans welcome new challenges and situations, especially when dealing with the newness of strangers. Business is merit-based and employees are rewarded for initiative and self-reliance with positive reinforcement of advancement and salary increases.  According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, while you may be from one of 134 countries that have laws setting the maximum length of the work week, the U.S. does not. Nearly 90% of American men and about 70% of American women work more than 40 hours a week.  Americans work 137 more hours per year than Japanese workers, 260 more hours per year than British workers, and 499 more hours per year than French workers. Paid vacation time and sick time will seem less than you are accustomed to (13 days/per year) according to recent ILO statistics. The general consensus is that the US is a great place to advance your career, but the trade-off is job security or work life balance.

Though nearly 85% of the world’s business based on relationships in order to do business, this is not the case in the USA where business is done the other way around and relationships are a consequence of doing business, not a prerequisite. Everyone takes care of himself or herself or as the expression goes “looking out for number one” and has less time for quality relationships. Networking is used as a way to “get” business not just a tool to build relationships. The workplace culture is likely to feel more informal and personable than you’d expect, and be ready to “get down to business” quickly, or “hit the ground running”. U.S. interactions are informal which demonstrates the value of equality. Americans are usually on a first name basis, even in high-level meetings and anyone in authority positions which may feel oddly forward. (See Globiana Minute “Informality”). Ask direct questions Keep people in the loop and be accessible.

Most American organizations are either modeled like a guided missile (traditional organization) or incubator (start-up venture). The guided missile type organization is largely lead by Baby Boomers; project-oriented, egalitarian, decentralized, with a set of tasks or goal and objectives that need to be achieved. Status is achieved by project group members who contribute to the targeted goal. Ways of thinking and learning are problem centered, professional and practical. Co-workers or people on the project, or your colleagues in general, take pride in being specialists and experts. The typical business environment is “flat” everyone will sit in an open plan bull pen style seating arrangement, even the top executives and advancement is based on performance and achievement. The incubator, on the other hand is a reaction to this business model by Millennials and for them, success depends on transparency. Employees are viewed as co-creators and relationships between them are diffuse and spontaneous growing out of shared creative processes. When it comes to change, they manage it by improvising and becoming attuned. Advancement and status are achieved by people who exemplify creativity and growth. They’re ways of thinking and learning are process oriented, creative, ad-hoc, and inspirational who seek to explore and search for ways to grow and change which may cause confusion to co-workers who may be of the guided missile model.

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