Into the fast lane: what it can be like working with Americans
Thinking about hiring employees for your business in the US? You may need to raise your game.
The popular image of the turbo-charged corporate American getting up at 5am to go to the gym before heading off for a 15-hour day at work is not far from reality across the more metropolitan cities of the USA.
Ask a Scotswoman how she is, and she’s likely to reply ‘not too bad’, even if she’s just been promoted to CEO and the sun’s making its biannual appearance.
Ask a rain-sodden New York exec the same and you can bet your bottom dollar she’ll reply ‘absolutely fantastic’.
If you’re used to the British way — keep calm and carry on; head down; mustn’t grumble — then growing your business in the US could be a culture shock.
Don’t be surprised to find your new American employees punching the air, high-fiving and declaring loud and proud I LOVE THIS COMPANY!
It’s almost too good to be true, but not quite: the best thing is that US workers really mean it. Because although they’re among the world’s smartest, most ambitious and successful professionals, and although they’re emotionally sophisticated and always ready to talk about therapy, Americans still don’t do irony.
So when one of your executive team in the US tells you “I really appreciate what you’re doing … right now I’m just so pleased and proud for you … and it means sooo much to me…” with generous use of your first name, it will be from the heart.
While many Europeans feel holy (which quickly turns to outrage) if they’re still at their desks much beyond 5.30pm, city Americans have a burning sense of pride if they pull an overnighter. Hear that beating noise coming from outside? That’s not road works. That’s corporate America still beating its bench-pressed chest at 3am.
Race against time
Overseas companies that hire US professionals soon notice a pattern: everything is a competition. There’s a whole ‘competitive landscape’ out there ready to conquer. And if you’ve nothing else to compete against, no problem — you make it a race against time. How long should this project take? Five days. Okay, let’s do it in four. Go go go! Project managers rule, taking full control of everyone’s diaries at any given moment 24/7. The project plan is multi-layered, multi-coloured and absolute, but watch out, it could change at any moment if anyone can push those deadlines closer.
Their own language
The tribe even has its own language, which has been adopted so zealously by British executives that their employers now hire people to translate what they write. An analysis is now a ‘deep dive’, the telecommunications industry calls its products ‘ecosystems’, and then there’s a ‘sanity check’, which has nothing to do with your great-aunt Bertha’s state of mind, but refers to a test that quickly evaluates whether a claim or the result of a calculation can be true.
To save time, long words are replaced with short ones. Don’t call it a document, communication, presentation, interface or control panel: it’s a ‘deck’. Don’t say proposal, estimate or prospectus: that’s a ‘scope’. No time for conversation, negotiation, consultation, delivery, monitoring, acquisition, vending, resolution or any kind of consolidation: just talk, call, meet, do, break, fix, check, buy, sell and go for it.
So if you’re hiring American executives to grow your business in the US — particularly in one of the main cities — stand by for a high-energy experience. And enjoy the ride: it’s all good.
If you’re looking to hire in the US, we can help you navigate the cultural differences and advise you about what Americans expect from an employer.