5 Things You Should Understand About Your American Employees

Rebecca Jackson, Partner at Quanta US



Rebecca Jackson, Partner at Quanta US.

I recently had the opportunity to connect with Deborah Cortigiani, Ed.M., MBA, an American English Language Communication Coach for motivated Italian professionals living in the US. Deborah’s expertise lies in helping Italian professionals navigate the cultural and linguistic nuances of the American workplace. In our discussion, she shared valuable insights into understanding and managing American employees, especially for foreign companies operating in the US. Her experience and knowledge are instrumental in bridging the cultural gap, fostering better communication, and enhancing workplace productivity.

In this article, Deborah highlights five key aspects that foreign employers should understand about their American employees. By grasping these cultural differences, employers can create a more harmonious and efficient work environment, ultimately leading to greater employee satisfaction and retention.



Deborah Cortigiani, 5 Things You Should Understand About Your American Employees

5 Things You Should Understand About Your American Employees

How well do you think you understand your American employees?

As more foreign companies set up shop in the US and employ locals, there is a growing need to better understand American workers—their culture, values, and history. Failing to appreciate the differences between these workers and those from your home country causes misinterpretations and misunderstandings. These, in turn, create negative work environments and decreased productivity.

Looking at American workers and their behavior through a foreign lens can be deceiving. For example, I have recently heard several Italian professionals working in the USA say that Americans are not as loyal to their companies or as hard-working as Italians. They point to their American colleagues’ “unwillingness to go above and beyond their job descriptions,” or not wanting to be a part of something bigger than themselves.

Is this true?

Let’s take a look at 5 things you might be seeing in your American employees, and what it might mean.

1.  They often prefer to work independently, rather than be part of something bigger.

America is an extremely individualistic culture (Hofstede, 1980). Americans have been raised with a “do-it-yourself” mentality, and believe they should master their tasks alone. They appreciate autonomy, independence, and a sense of control. American employees may react negatively if forced to do something with others that they know they could do by themselves. Similarly, Americans can feel micromanaged and resentful towards an employer who is frequently over monitoring their work.

2. They don’t seem to do more than their job requirement.

Americans like rules (Trompenaars, 1993). They also prefer carefully planned-out procedures. Procedures, like rules, are things to be followed. If an employer has listed the job responsibilities of a position, most Americans will follow and stick to it. They may feel uncomfortable going out of the parameters of their position. What may appear like a lack of initiative to an employer may just be someone feeling unsure if they have the authority or permission to go beyond the responsibilities of their position. Employers should communicate exactly what they want to their American employees, and specifically let them know whether going outside one’s job responsibilities is welcome.

3. They would rather stay in and get things done than spend time developing relationships with their colleagues.

Americans have a strong work ethic. They are achievement and action-oriented. You may see that for Americans, getting tasks done is often valued above taking time to develop relationships. Americans aren’t trying to be antisocial. They are just driven to get things done as productivity is a priority. Just check their “to-do” lists.

4. They seem abrupt and too direct with others, and frequently in a rush.

As a result of being so achievement and task-oriented, Americans greatly value their time. When communicating, especially in a professional setting, brevity and conciseness is preferred.

Time is to be used efficiently, so many may sit at their desk eating a cold sandwich while doing their work to “kill two birds with one stone.” Punctuality is valued, and completing meetings, workshops, etc. on time is appreciated. Being organized and using tools like agendas is also important to them as it helps them maximize their time. If Americans feel their time is being disrespected, they feel like they personally are being disrespected.

5. On average, they spend 5 years or less with one company and then leave for another.

In the past, Americans would spend decades with one company. In return for their hard work and loyalty, their companies gave them secure employment, pensions, supplemental health care upon retirement, small percentage payments on their healthcare premiums, and often profit sharing through stock options.

But thanks to globalization, the market crash of 2008, the pandemic, and “at-will” employment, this unwritten “psychological contract” (Ito, 2024) broke. Americans became skeptical after they and their parents were quickly let go as companies traded dedication to employees for dedication to the bottom line and shareholders. So indeed, it may be that Americans won’t sacrifice family and personal time for their company as they once did before. It is a complicated issue, and if you’d like to learn more about it, I wrote a newsletter dedicated to the topic that you can access here.

It’s important to remember that understanding the culture of all your employees, in this case, Americans, is crucial in creating a positive work environment. With this knowledge, you can communicate more effectively with them. This will make your employees feel more understood and respected, increasing their job satisfaction, your employee retention rate, and the productivity of your company.


BIO: Highlighting the cultural differences between Italians and Americans is the foundation of Deborah Cortigiani’s coaching model. Deborah emphasizes that effective communication involves both language and culture. She helps Italian professionals fine-tune their language skills and understand the differences between the two cultures. By bridging these two cultures, her clients are able to elevate their communication skills to match their technical expertise, allowing them to confidently and effectively present their ideas and opinions to be more impactful in the American workplace.

Please check out her LinkedIn profile to learn more, or visit her website at www.effective


Mind Tools. “The Seven Dimensions of Culture.”, 2022,

Ito, A. (2024, January 22). How loyalty died in the American workplace. Business Insider.

Tidwell, Charles. Hofstede Individualism Traits, Accessed 27 June 2024. 


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