Five Business Practices to Remember in U.S. American Culture

If you are one of the young executive candidates looking for career opportunities in a leadership role working with U.S. American colleagues, this is for you. This article covers basic business etiquette to keep in mind as you prepare to bring your executive career to the next level.

A word of caution, avoid preconceptions or over generalizations concerning any culture, especially one as diverse as the U.S. Having said that, these five business practices have been observed to be a common feature of American corporate settings:

  1. Individualism

    Generally, Americans are more comfortable with keeping some physical personal space of two or three feet and avoid encroaching on other peoples’ space. While having some physical distance and casual touching, like hugs, is not advisable in office settings, having eye contact with people you converse with is a must.

    When addressing colleagues, calling people by their first name (including one’s boss) is quite common. This is not a sign of disrespect but a way of practicing the American value and belief in equality.

    Likewise, Americans can also be quite direct and frank when having conversations, especially in giving feedback, since the concept of having the need to “save face” doesn’t exist especially when an employee is giving feedback to his or her boss, or an older colleague. However, everyone is still expected to express themselves politely, clearly, and word criticism carefully.

  2. Friendliness

    Instead of shaking hands in business events, Americans may greet you with a casual "Hello," “Hi” or "How are you?" Whenever they do, don’t panic, this is merely a pleasantry and not an invitation to divulge your personal life. You may simply answer back with “Fine,” “Great,” "How do you do?," "How are you?" or "How are you doing?"

    Likewise, if they tell you "See you later", don’t expect them to really be planning to meet you again. If you are interested to see them again, you must be the one to initiate and set a specific schedule for a meet up.

    If small talk follows after an exchange of pleasantries, safe topics usually revolve around US sports teams, local arts and entertainment, or dining and nightlife. Controversial issues, especially involving politics and religion, are a no-no during these small talks.

    On the other hand, be ready to hear things that may seem private, since Americans also tend to share such details even with strangers in casual conversation. When asked a sensitive question that you don’t want to answer, you may respond with: "In my country, that would be a strange question."

    The use of “Please" and "Thank You" are commonly used even for the smallest kind gestures. Saying "Pardon me" or "Excuse me" is used whenever you encroach on someone’s space or when sneezing, coughing, or missing a point someone made which you would like them to repeat.

  3. Efficiency

    Americans are very strict when it comes to punctuality. They view latecomers as rude, disrespectful and unprofessional. “On time” means being there five minutes early. Keep appointments as much as possible. You may not be able to get another chance if you fail to do so. The same goes with work deadlines. Employees who miss deadlines are considered irresponsible and undependable.

    Americans consider the written word of utmost importance. Having a written contract is the end-goal of meetings and negotiations. Never enter any contract without consulting or hiring a lawyer. Make sure to have the correct name spelling and titles. Call the person’s assistant to ensure accuracy.

    Although generally informal and relaxed, meetings are serious in content. An agenda is distributed prior to a meeting, and participants are expected to be prepared to be actively involved in discussions. The mark of a successful meeting is short and to the point, ending with a summary and plan of action for everyone to execute.

  4. Competitiveness

    When working with American colleagues, you will be exposed to a vibrant, international world, due to the huge number of expat professionals and global companies who operate in the Philippines and the Asia Pacific region. The role of networking must never be underestimated. Contact building even in social events is a must. There is also a need to be knowledgeable about your industry and engage in conversations about recent developments, especially when key players are present.

    You should also be willing to walk the extra mile, and be available to do favors like giving some of your time and skills, and sharing other details. E-mails from colleagues and contacts must never be kept waiting. You risk getting sidelined if you don’t do so.

  5. Openness to Innovation and Change The use of social media is increasingly a staple for businesses. It is very common for American companies to have a Facebook and Twitter account, and for individuals, LinkedIn is widely used. Although business cards are still exchanged, LinkedIn is the new to way to meet contacts and share details.

    Still job-hunting?

    Your LinkedIn profile and number of connections will be a huge factor. It is now customary to connect with anyone you met at business meetings or networking events on these social media sites and via e-mail.

    Unlike other cultures where women are still considered second-class citizens, Americans consider women as capable leaders in all aspects of life, from business to education to government. Don’t ever make the mistake of assuming a working woman in the office has a subordinate position.

    These are only some basic examples of business practices one must know and remember while working in an American corporate setting. Mastering these would help you gain an edge over other hopeful executive candidates to American companies.

    Too overwhelming to remember?

    As a rule of thumb, just remember two things: practice respect and professionalism, and you will be well on your way to success.

Taking clients out for breakfast, lunch or dinner can help build relationships or seal a deal. Follow our blog to read on the basic etiquette to make your dining experience enjoyable, rewarding, and productive.

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