Monday, September 4, 2017


For Labor Day week, let’s talk about the many attitudes about work around the world, and how Americans view this aspect of life.

Americans see themselves as hard-working. They prove this by comparing the short vacations they receive –initially often limited to two weeks a year—to the lengthy time-off their European counterparts enjoy. Yet French ex-pats will insist that yes, they may take the entire month of August for a family summer vacation, but on a given workday, they really work, staying later than the Americans and focusing their time better.

ESL teachers will notice immediately among students in an elementary English class that each country represented has its own approach to working and learning. Chinese students will speak very little, take careful notes, and concentrate on their own learning issues. Students from South America will see the classroom experience as a communal time, engaging in spontaneous discussion, taking fewer notes, and helping one another with answers to questions posed by the teacher. Europeans will mix speaking and listening, take notes but fewer than the Asians, and observe the classroom dynamics for non-verbal cues associated with the language.

Working styles will vary by culture, and there is no single best way to work. But in America, it is wise to adjust to the local approach. Here are some pointers: 
  • A serious, uncomplaining approach to work is an indication of mature professionalism and suggests you are involved and open to advancement.
  • Teamwork is admired. Team leaders and colleagues alike will see that you are a contributing member by the way you act in meetings or other group sessions.
  • Using body language to convey your involvement is important – making eye contact, nodding in agreement, “leaning in” and otherwise showing physical engagement with the group, and of course speaking up to make constructive comments.
  • Ways to NOT show team playing can include not actively participating or looking at all group members during discussion; monopolizing the conversation; or generally not participating in give-and-take as conversation-sharing unfolds.
Identify colleagues who are thriving, notice how they communicate their competence and forge relationships at work, and mirror that behavior.