12 helpful hints to survive the US workplace

Today marks 6 months since being in New York (and my 100th blog post!), so I thought I was now well placed enough to impart some wisdom.


Dress Smart

First impressions stick, and in New York this counts for double. When everyone around you is wearing $2000 suits and Prada heels, you could at least iron your blouse (I never do but I like to dole out advice I don’t follow).

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Be on time

Punctuality is really important here, and if you’re five minutes early, you’re just about on time. When you have a meeting starting at 10, you should be seated, with your prep and a pen ready at 10, not just walking through the door.

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Swearing is okay

Swearing is totally okay, but wait for someone else to do it first.

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Don’t say sorry

It’s a British thing and we do it without realising. American’s get confused by this and assume you’ve actually done something wrong rather than you just being polite. Just avoid.

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Say it with conviction

Again, we Brits tend to say ‘maybe’ or ‘I think’ or ‘possibly’ a lot. This is not okay. Americans want to hear that you can do it, and you are certain it will be with them by end of day.

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Don’t take it personally

The workplace here is straight forward. There is no beating around the bush, and if someone thinks you’ve done a shit job on something, they’ll tell you to your face. It’s just the way it is. I’ve observed near shouting matches in meetings one minute, and then friendly chatter between the same people the next.

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Always be busy

I’m not sure if I’m allowed to say this but I’m gonna go with it anyway. Americans like to look busy. Even if they’re not really doing anything, it’s important to give the illusion that you’re! just! really! busy! Never sit at your desk drumming your fingers.

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More so than at home, the office in the US is all about how you get along with people. Join a conversation, say hello to people in the break room and introduce yourself to new people. You never know when you’re going to need internal contacts or perhaps even be given some useful advice on vacations or things to do.

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Quick response is key – use email like instant messenger

American’s LOVE email. They don’t bother coming around to your desk to tell you something, they email you. And when they email, they don’t wait until they have all the information before clogging your inbox, they give it to you in separate emails line



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Don’t talk religion, politics or guns

Just don’t. Even with people who you think are on the same page as you. Dangerous territory.

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Make some friends – invite someone to lunch

Having American friends is never a bad thing. They can give you happy hour recommendations, invite you to places and just make the office a better place to be.

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Elevator Etiquette

This is a thing here. I still haven’t quite figured it out but mostly it goes: no talking, if someone behind you needs to get out you don’t move – you also get out and then get back in, and men let women out first (in general) and hold the door for them.

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