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You may be surprised at some of the characteristics you find in the U.S. workplace. Supervisors may share personal information that you would normally share only with close friends and may allow you to call them by their first name. Socializing on the job is common, and your boss will often join in. Despite this friendliness, you are always expected to do your job and act appropriately. To succeed in your job, you will be expected to:
Be a Team Player
American society reflects a historical dependence on group support. Americans often use "team sport" vocabulary in the workplace. Americans are accustomed to working and playing as a team, and it is important that you are able to adjust and fit into this team atmosphere. Help your co-workers, and don"t be afraid to ask for their help when you need it. Your employer may even ask you to perform tasks outside of your job description. This is normal! The ultimate goal in the American workplace is completing the job. Members of a workgroup, including your boss, will be very flexible about the work each team member does to achieve that goal.
Being "on time" is essential, and showing up earlier than expected makes a good impression on your employer. Showing up late is unacceptable -- if you are late repeatedly, you will be seen as a person who doesn"t take their job seriously. You will find that during business hours, conversations are usually short and to the point. You will have plenty of time to get to know your colleagues during breaks.
Look at how others dress to see what is appropriate clothing. You should attempt to match the look of the workplace. If in doubt, dress conservatively! You should also dress conservatively for job interviews - even if the workplace dress is casual, you should dress somewhat formally for the interview. During the interview you can ask about the style of dress required for your particular job.
Do as the Americans Do
Americans shake hands often, and do not kiss cheeks as often as other nationalities. Shake hands firmly. Try not to be too quiet - Americans enjoy seeing emotional reactions, and a reserved attitude may suggest that you are unfriendly.
If you have agreed to work a certain amount of time for your employer, you should keep your promise. Employers, especially those involved with summer or winter tourism, rely on their staff to work until the agreed date. If you do end up leaving your job before the agreed date, you should give two weeks written notice before leaving.
Have a positive attitude towards the job you accept. Participants who arrive to work with "wrong" expectations irritate employers. Employers are looking for workers who are enthusiastic and willing to learn. Flexibility, enthusiasm, and teamwork are very important in the U.S. workplace. Without these, you risk losing your job.
Your Salary and Paycheck
You will most likely be paid weekly or sometimes twice per month. Check with your employer. You will always receive less than your "gross" salary, as there will be deductions taken out of each check. If you have any questions, talk to your boss.
As a temporary employee, you have the same rights as any of your co-workers. You do not have any extra benefits. U.S. employers and employees do not usually sign contracts, so employers can hire and fire when they want. Job benefits that you may be accustomed to in your home country are not guaranteed by U.S. law. Vacations, sick leave, medical insurance, and other items are sometimes provided by employers, but they will vary.
All employers are required to provide their employees with a workplace free of recognized hazards. These are hazards which may cause serious illness or death, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 (OSHA). All employees must comply with safety and health regulations in this Act.
Employers have the right to request that their employees take a drug test. Employees can be tested before starting work as well as throughout the time that they are employed. You may also be tested if you are involved in an accident. If you test positive for drugs, expect to be fired by your employer, and terminated from the Work & Travel Program.
Problems at Work
If you are having problems with a supervisor or co-worker, try to resolve it in a strictly professional manner. You are a new employee and may encounter problems that other co-workers have already experienced. Speak to them about these conflicts; perhaps they can help you resolve them quickly and harmlessly. In any job, you may meet people you do not like, or feel you cannot work with. You may find that speaking to the person directly will help take care of the problem.
Remember that sexual harassment and racial discrimination are very serious matters in the U.S. If you feel that you have been the victim of either sexual harassment or racial discrimination in your workplace, please contact your sponsor as soon as possible.
Layoffs and Firings
You could be laid off (lose your job because business is slow) for any number of reasons, which may not reflect on your performance in that job. Layoffs are often the result of financial issues within the company. You are usually given some kind of notice before this occurs.
If you are fired, it is because the company is unhappy with you. You will rarely be fired because of lack of job skills. Most often, people are fired for being consistently uncooperative, or for disciplinary reasons.
If you are doing something wrong, you will usually be told so before the situation becomes serious.
If you are laid off or fired, you MUST contact your sponsor organisation immediately.