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The work ethic is strong in the United States and most people
feel that they are personally responsible for their own
success. As a result, workers are more mobile and
labour costs more flexible than Europe. The standard
of living of most Americans is among the highest
in the world.
There are fairly wide differences in average incomes
between Sates, and in the rates of welfare and other
payments to those in need, and these differences
have tended to increase in recent years. There
are also considerable price differences between
various States, and between cities and rural areas.
In a country where distances are vast and public
transport limited or non-existent, many items that
may be deemed luxuries in other countries (such
as telephone and car) are absolute necessities.
Employers receive fewer 'fringe benefits' than in many European countries; for example, in most companies, only a travelling salesman will be provided with a car. However, employees are often able to choose their own 'basket' of benefits.
Business people are expected to dress smartly even though there is much less formality than in, say Europe. Dress codes vary depending on the industry sector; some companies have adopted the casual look on Fridays and out-of-town offices may allow more casual dress than those in city centres. Appointments should be made in good time and business cards will be exchanged. It is discourteous to be late for a business meeting.
Business negotiations are generally conducted between people of equivalent educational, social and financial standing. However business culture is very varied depending on the nature of the company; for instance, there are differences if the company is a multinational; or if it is a small American concern. Many Americans in particularities or industry work very long hours and expect to remain in contact with their company even when at home or on vacation. Most people get only two weeks vacation a year, with a maximum of four weeks for those in senior positions or after a long service.
Companies in the US are much more ready to dismiss employers who do not perform well or whose job no longer fits in after a reorganisation. In turn, Americans are far more mobile and flexible in their approach to work than in many other countries. Vertical reporting lines are more important than relationships with peers which can be extremely competitive. Hierarchies are well defined and status depends on power, which in turn is defied by the amount of business the job-holder controls. The bottom-line and the overt, and sometimes aggressive, pursuit of profit, both company and personal are hallmarks of American business. Generally, there is a positive, go-getting attitude with the expectation that nothing is impossible.
The importance of corporate culture is growing and conforming to company culture in the larger firms is important. Job titles are considered extremely important since these define status and the perks that go with the position.