Americans at Work: A Cultural Guide to the Can-Do People

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Americans at Work reveals the subtle aspects of American culture in the workplace. Storti explores the American attitude on straight talk, power, feedback, email and nonverbal communication, taboo topics, and more in this extensive guide to succeeding in the American work environment. Learn how to work more effectively with your colleagues from Storti’s practical advice.

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Editorial Reviews

Soundview Executive Book Summaries
A Guide to the Can-Do, Go-for-It People
Writing a book describing a group of people as diverse as Americans in general terms is an intimidating task indeed. But doing so while providing guidance to those from as broad an audience as the rest of the world can make the task even more difficult. To tackle this complex undertaking, Craig Storti has tapped the skills he has developed in his international communication training and consulting firm. These vast skills have allowed him to produce a guidebook that aims to help non-Americans understand those from the United States with whom they work, as well as help Americans understand how they might be viewed by people from other cultures.

Intended more for white-collar managers than their blue-collar underlings, Americans at Work provides cultural observations about office people who "work at desks, usually in front of a computer, go to lots of meetings, and almost never sweat." Storti acknowledges that there are many different types of workplaces and people throughout the United States, but writes that he focuses primarily on the dominant American culture that has grown from the assumptions, beliefs and values originally derived from the early European settlers in the United States and later amended by their experiences during the first two centuries of American history.

All Art and Very Little Science
Storti notes that his generalizations are bound to oversimplify, and that predicting human behavior is almost all art and very little science. But he explains that his goal is to provide useful generalizations of Americans at work and, despite the problems inherent in doing so, take the guesswork and surprise out of interacting with them. By providing details that help readers anticipate how Americans will feel about or respond to certain ideas or actions, and describing how Americans expect others to respond or act, Storti shows readers how they can find ways to act that will improve their chances of getting the response they want.

After giving readers a big-picture view of Americans (those from the United States and not its neighbors to the north and south who could also be considered "Americans"), Storti examines six fundamental American values that he believes account for many common workplace attitudes and behaviors. After he describes each, he explains how it shows up in the workplace and influences how Americans think and behave. Covering topics that range from efficiency to favoritism, and from directness to indirectly saying no, Storti describes the basics of workplace relationships and the do's and don'ts of life on the job.

The six most important American cultural themes that Storti details in Americans at Work include the following ideas as well as these tips for how to work with those who embody them:

  • "The Land of Opportunity." Try to sound positive. Being merely realistic or objective may get you branded as a pessimist. Try to act excited about taking risks. Never suggest giving up.
  • "The Can-Do People." Don't be too afraid of trial and error. Americans admire trying almost as much as succeeding. Be careful about too much analysis or planning. Don't expect Americans to be impressed by tradition.

Don't Play Favorites

  • "Equality for All." If you're a boss, don't play favorites, obviously treating some subordinates better than others. Try to judge everyone by the same standards, which should be as objective and transparent as possible (such as results or performance).
  • "You Are What You've Done." Clear away obstructions that keep people from getting things done, such as elaborate procedures, a long chain of command, or excessive testing. Never act complacent or satisfied. You can always do better.
  • "On Your Own." As a boss, sketch out the big picture and then let subordinates "do their own thing." Give instructions and guidance, and then disappear. Don't expect corporate loyalty from American workers, and don't interpret being challenged as a sign of disrespect.
  • "Time Matters." Be on time for appointments and meetings, so you don't waste other people's time or throw them off their schedule. Get to the point quickly in a conversation, meeting or presentation.

The rest of Americans at Work provides guidance for better communication, working with subordinates, and the proper etiquette to use in the office.

Why We Like This Book
Storti's clear generalizations about American businesspeople are both telling and accurate. Not only are they informative, but his suggestions to help others deal with those American traits offer helpful guidance to those unfamiliar with the American workplace, and a refresher course for those who wonder why those from other cultures respond to their idiosyncrasies in the ways they do. Copyright © 2005 Soundview Executive Book Summaries

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781931930055
  • Publisher: Nicholas Brealey Publishing
  • Publication date: 6/28/2004
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 216
  • Sales rank: 747,678
  • Product dimensions: 6.17 (w) x 9.11 (h) x 0.49 (d)

Meet the Author

Criag Storti is founder and director of Communicating Across Cultures, a Washington DC-based intercultural communication training and consulting firm. With work appearing in the Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, and Chicago Tribune, he is the author of six books, he is the author of six books, including Speaking of India: Bridging the Communication Gap When Working with Indians and the bestselling Cross-Cultural Dialogues, The Art of Crossing Cultures, and The Art of Coming Home. After living nearly a quarter of his life abroad, he now lives in Maryland. For more information, please visit his website:
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Table of Contents

Pt. 1 The big picture 11
Ch. 1 Americans and foreigners 13
Ch. 2 The land of opportunity 19
Ch. 3 The can-do people 33
Ch. 4 Equality for all 51
Ch. 5 You are what you've done 63
Ch. 6 On your own 79
Ch. 7 Time matters 87
Ch. 8 Communication, American style 97
Ch. 9 Of Bosses and subordinates 125
Pt. 2 The details 143
Workplace relationships 146
Personal and professional 149
Women in the workplace 151
Sexual harassment 153
Meetings 155
Presentations 158
E-mail etiquette 161
Telephone etiquette 164
Giving feedback 168
Training 170
Nonverbal communication 171
Greetings and leave-takings 176
Dress 178
Gifts 179
Taboo topics 180
Going to lunch 182
Smoking 183
A guest in the home 184
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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 21, 2004

    Highly Recommended!

    In a global economy, you inevitably will work with people from other cultures. But since culture determines behavior, how can people from outside the United States best adapt to working in the American workplace? And, how do they perceive American workplace behavior? Author Craig Storti examines American culture and extracts six key themes that drive the U.S. workplace. In the process, he teaches his fellow Americans about their unexamined workplace behavior. That's refreshing. Looking at yourself from the outside helps you re-examine how you work with others. The process opens doors to a whole new evaluation process that could revitalize many businesses. Unfortunately, while Storti makes interesting cultural points, his book is repetitive and belabors obvious ideas. His practical advice on such topics as table manners, fashion, gift giving, eye contact, touching and even sending e-mail is valuable, but could have been presented better in succinct bullet point summaries. However, we appreciate his introduction to behavior, manners and morés in the cross-cultural workplace.

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