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Three Critical Skills for Employers and Daily Work Case Managers

By Teiana Nakano, former Case Management Intern 

Once you’ve had more than one job, you quickly learn that every workplace has its own unique culture that employees have to adapt to in order to be successful. However, there are also many unwritten rules that most Americans are expected to just “know” about working in the U.S. 

Some of the American workforce norms we assume everybody knows include: making good eye contact, having a firm handshake, and taking initiative on the job. If you’re like me and have lived in the United States for most of your life, you likely don’t remember learning any of these “rules”; they are just things you’ve always known. Growing up, I remember explaining a lot of these “rules” to my dad, a Japanese immigrant. Even when I explained things to him in Japanese, the “rules” were often difficult for him to understand. Some things just don’t translate directly.

People who are new to the United States and looking for jobs don’t have the advantage of knowing assumed workplace rules. The unfortunate reality… if someone wants to succeed in the American workforce, they need to appeal to American workforce norms. At Daily Work, we seek to bridge that gap by informing our job seekers about these norms so they will succeed in landing a new job…and keeping it. Here are three things that both employers and Daily Work case managers can do to help their employees or job seekers succeed.

  1. Words Matter.

Unfamiliarity with American workforce culture is likely because of growing up in a different culture with a different set of norms. When talking to someone who is unfamiliar with American workforce culture, it is important to stress that their way is not wrong, it is just different. Similarly, American standards are not objectively “right,” it is just our way of doing things. Wording is critical: Avoid phrases like “this is the right way” and “this is the wrong way” to do things.

  1. Patience is a Virtue.

Sometimes it can get frustrating when someone doesn’t understand something that you find so natural. Recently, I met with a job seeker who wanted to use a friend as a professional reference. I explained that it is preferable to list either a co-worker or a supervisor, but he still wanted to use his friend’s name.  It took some time, but eventually he understood why he should use a different person for his reference.  It takes time to work through language and culture barriers, but it is critical to remain patient and understanding. Remember…the person learning is probably just as frustrated as you are. It’s not easy to be told something different than what you’re used to, especially if it contradicts values or experiences you have known to be true your whole life.

  1. Be an Active Listener.

Don’t just wait to respond….truly listen to the person you are talking to and learn about their cultural experiences. Showing interest in and empathy for their experience demonstrates respect and can go a long way in helping someone to feel more receptive to change. It also demonstrates that you believe that the American way is not better; it’s just different. Forcing cultural expectations onto someone may create feelings of anger, resistance, or even shame, none of which help someone be successful at work. People who feel confident, accepted and respected are more likely to succeed in interviews and the workforce alike.  

Have you had ever had an experience where your understanding or expectation was different than your supervisors? What happened and how were you able to resolve it?

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