Succeed in America

Overcome Cultural and Linguistic Barriers. Improve Effectiveness

nara@SucceedinAmerica.com 



coin-1549051__340   In the current economic conditions, it is not unusual that your salary doesn’t increase each year that you have worked for a company.

   If you haven’t received a raise each year you have worked for a company, the value of your salary has gone down.  

  Even a cost-of-living increase (COL) of 3 – 4 percent is not considered a raise. It just keeps your salary even with inflation. It is wise to ask for a raise above a COL increase under any circumstance.

            If your boss does not give you a raise, you need to ask for it. 

            When is it a good time to ask for a raise? 

  • When you are very good at what you do
  • When you have taken on more job responsibilities 
  • When you have learned that you are being underpaid 

According to Wall Street Journal, nowadays, employers give out more raises based on performance than on years spent with the company. It is important to [pullquote] develop a strategy to ask for a raise at the appropriate time[/pullquote]. (There are two dominant notions here “ask” not “demand”, and “appropriate time“).

Here are some tips: 

Toot your own horn (promote yourself). Make sure that your boss knows which projects are yours. [pullquote] Very important! Keep a diary or a special list of your accomplishments (results of your work)[/pullquote] and learn how to make them known to your boss.

Do not ask for a raise. Prove that you deserve it. When discussing the raise, keep in mind the challenges your company and supervisor face and how your own work has helped them to overcome those challenges. 

-Determine what a competitive salary in your field is. Two well-known websites that provide information on salaries (at cost) are www.SalaryExpert.com and www.Salary.com.  The  information  is provided at no cost (free)  at the Department of Labor site www.bls.gov. However, the information maybe somewhat out of date. 

-Don’t wait until appraisal time to ask for a raise. By that time the resources will be distributed and decisions made. So, start asking for a raise well before the process begins. 

-Don’t expect to get a raise right away. Rather, view it as a campaign and expect to win after several interactions. 

II you asked your boss about a raise and did not get a definite answer. Wait a week or so and ask again. Ask him or her “What do I need to do to make it happen?” or “May we talk about this again in four months?” 

If everything fails and you think that you are treated not the way you deserve, start looking for another job. It is always an option. Good luck!

tn[2] (2)**Dr. Nara Venditti is the author of  How to Get a Job in the USA available at SucceedinAmerica and  Amazon.

 You Might Also Like These Articles:

Sexual Harassment or a Compliment?
Business English: Useful Phrases for Cell Phone Calls 
3 Vital Tips for Building Confidence in Business Meetings 

 

 

One of the most common questions I get from my seminar participants is “How do I begin a conversation at work?” In other words, “How do I start small talk?”  This is a great question because the importance of small talk is huge in business and you need to use it to your advantage.  And if you are a non-native speaker of English, as added benefit, practicing small talk will increase your English language proficiency.

First, what is small talk? Let’s define it. It is non-business related conversation. It is discussing things unrelated to business and work, such as weather, family, hobbies, or weekend plans.

Why making small talk is important? Here is why. You can be the best specialist in the field but,  progress in your career, is highly dependent on your ability to build good working relationships with people at work. Why? Let’s face it — our success depends on people. Small talk is an effective way to connect with people and to build relationships, including relationships at work.

Can you engage in small talk at a business meeting?  Yes, you can, but you need to know when and how.  Here are a few important tips:

1. When. Always make sure you arrive at the meeting a few minutes before start time. You can and should make small talk while you wait for the meeting to start. Dominant word here —“before.”

2. What topics to discuss? You should discuss things unrelated to the meeting (general-interest subjects)  such as weekend plans, weather, family, hobbies, mentioned above, and movies, theater, sports, books, food, travel.

3. What small talk topics to avoid? Generally, avoid any topic that may concern private or personal matters. There are three major topics you should avoid when socializing in the United States: personal finances, politics, and religion.

  • Personal finances: Personal money management in the US is considered to be a private matter. Asking about personal spending or income is considered very rude. Especially, do not discuss salaries or how much another person makes. Matters of general interest, such as prices of gas or groceries would be acceptable. 
  • Discussing politics: Avoid political discussions. Politics is a very complicated and personal topic and is not an acceptable friendly small talk.  
  • Discussing religion: Religion and religious views  are also considered to be a private  and very personal matter and should not be discussed in business environment.

My best piece of advice for polite  small talk  —  always avoid any subject that may be of  an emotional nature.

Here are some more tips and examples:

  1. Look approachable: smile, have eye contact with others, have an upright posture, and open stance.
  2. Don’t be afraid to initiate a conversation. Say: “Hi, John (Eddie, Laura), how are you?”
  3. Keep a positive, light tone, don’t get too emotional, and listen.
  4. Always finalize a conversation graciously. Don’t simply cut it off. Say something like “It’s been great talking with you.”  “I really enjoyed hearing about…” “I’d love to hear about it when we have another chance to talk.”  “It was nice chatting with  you… (catching up with you…) Or just  say: “Nice talking to you” and smile.

Here are two possible scenarios that suggest techniques for small talk.

1. Gloria arrives a few minutes early for an office meeting. Jayesh, a colleague she knows well is already in the room. 

Gloria:   Hi Jayesh, how are you?

Jayesh: Great thanks, and you?

Gloria:  Well, I’m well. And enjoying the golden fall (autumn) in New England.

Jayesh:  Fall is great.  But I am also looking forward to winter. I love skiing and snowboarding.

Gloria:  The meeting is about to begin. I’d love to hear about it when we have another chance to talk.

2. Jayesh arrives early for a departmental meeting. A colleague from another department that he does not know, is already sitting at the table.

Jayesh:   Hi I am Jayesh. Are you here for the meeting on…?

Peter: My name is Peter, nice to meet you. I am from the Los Angeles office.

Jayesh:  Is it OK if I sit here? 

Peter:  Of course.

Jayesh: How do you find Washington this time of year?

Peter: Very hot, it is hotter than LA (Los Angeles).

Jayesh:  Really? Amazing! Listen, I have a pool party today at my house. If you are free, would like to join us? 

Peter: Sure. Thank you.

Jayesh:  The meeting is about to begin. Let’s talk about it after the meeting.

Listed below are sample conversational  phrases and questions that you can use to start and maintain small talk before a meeting starts.

Can I sit here? Is it OK if I sit next to you?  Is this seat vacant?

Did you get to the presentation on…(related to the meeting)? What did you think?

How are things working out with your new manager? (new boss/new colleague)

Have you been involved in this project before? How is it going so far?

Have you travelled far? How do you find our city? our weather? Is it your first visit?

Which department do you work in?

Did you see/watch football (soccer, basketball) last night?

How was your holiday? 

How did you like Florida (New York)? 

Have you been to this part of the country before?  

Have you been here before?

Want to watch the video on this topic? Click here

 You may also like: Three Vital Tips for Building Confidence in Business Meetings  http://www.succeedinamerica.com/?p=1396 

tn[2] (2)**Dr. Nara Venditti is the owner of Succeed In America specializing in business communication skills for foreign-born professionals and cross-cultural communication in the workplace. She is passionate about helping non-native speakers of English succeed in the American workplace and educates on Business English and communication across language and cultural divides. She is  the author of numerous articles and books on the topics available on SucceedinAmerica  and  on  Amazon amazon-underground-app-us-black.    

When I teach my course on American business etiquette to multicultural audiences I get a lot of questions on appropriate and inappropriate behavior in the American workplace.  Because norms vary across cultures, behavioral norms across cultures can be inappropriate, at times shocking or even legally unacceptable and subject to a law suit. Despite the growing focus on cultural understanding during the last few decades, managing cultural differences of the international professionals and their families is often on the bottom of the priorities.  The human resources professionals need to keep in mind that although many cultures have same values and concepts (e.g. punctuality, business etiquette, romantic love, and revenge) the real difference is in how they are interpreted.  For instance, there is no doubt that romantic love in France will be different from romantic love in Iceland or Egypt. So, we need to keep in mind that socially acceptable behavior varies across cultures. What holds right in one society will not be so in the other. Consider this passage by Laura Klos-Sokol, cited in R. Nolan’s excellent book “Communicating and adapting across cultures”: “Imagine a professional meeting beginning like this: a woman enters an office and introduces herself, extending her hand to shake only to have him kiss it. Next, he helps her off with her coat and takes her by the arm to usher her over to a chair three feet away.  This is the Polish way: she could sue for it in the United States”.  Many times I have encountered similar behavior in my native Armenia and Russia. This  was part of good manners and was considered  “classy” behavior.  In some cultures, males are expected to be dominant and gallant.  On the other hand, when I first experienced the American “bear hug”[1] in Armenia with a man from the US, it made me very uncomfortable and I was relieved that my fellow countrymen were not there to witness such a “frivolous” gesture. Professionals moving  to the United States must take into consideration the unspoken rules of gender interaction accepted in this country.  Not knowing the rules may become traumatic and even dangerous from a legal perspective – the employer may be sued for sexual harassment.   On the other hand, a female student of mine from Northern Brazil told me once how she missed that whistle of admiration (or tease, I thought) the men would produce when she would pass by.     It may be normal in some Northern Brazilian workplaces to whistle when an attractive woman will pass by. Whistle – is not something you would expect a man to do in American streets or workplace, even if you are a Sophia Loren or Miss America.  Men in Italy are notorious for whistling at attractive women in such a manner that would make most American construction workers blush. …  Italian, Brazilian and Armenian  women may not take offense at such behavior and even take it as expression of appreciation. As a rule, professional women in the US would not appreciate it.  This can be very disturbing and threatening for Northern American women and they may consider this humiliating and discriminating. As a nation, Americans are committed to equal rights for women.  For this reason women are expected to be treated as equal to men. Many countries throughout the world have sexual harassment laws in place.  However, different nations have different interpretations of them.  That is why I define sexual harassment as “inappropriate (from American standpoint) behavior when interacting with the opposite sex.” (Ameri$peak, Succeed in America Books, 2006, p. 66). In business world, lack of information about etiquette and unspoken rules on gender interaction and norms can create misunderstanding crucial for an individual’s success.    

 

To help your foreign-born employees understand behavioral norms in the US workplace  
  1. Consider the possibility that you actually have a problem.  Never assume that your employees know the intricacies of gender interaction in the US or you will have a problem or even… get sued!
  2. Think about getting a professional to conduct a training program and set expectations about American workplace culture.
 
[1] Bear hug is a rigorous, emotional embrace which signifies a greeting  (the individuals’ hands embrace each other and upper parts of the body come in close contact for a second or two) –NV, see Ameri$peak™ update at www.SucceedinAmerica.com .