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Curious Pax
8th Sep 2008, 14:36
Been outsourced in the last few months, so instead of working for a huge European monolith I now work for a huge American one. All pretty chaotic as you would expect, but it has thrown up an aspect that is totally against what I would have expected.

My former employers were fairly hierarchical, but there was (within reason) generally an attitude that issues could be taken up the line where appropriate, and you weren't limited to being able to contact just your next level. However the new crew seem to be intimidated by higher ups, even one level up, and communication any higher is a definite no-no. A colleague had an approval that was stuck 3 levels up the hierarchy, so in order to try and move things along he tried to call the guy (but just got his secretary). It being an American company I expected that he would be praised for his 'can do' attitude, but instead huge b*llocking, no tea or biscuits ensued.

Is this the normal culture in American companies, or just peculiar to this one?

Binoculars
8th Sep 2008, 14:40
Another bloody America-basher, just what we need here.

brickhistory
8th Sep 2008, 14:42
Is this the normal culture in American companies, or just peculiar to this one?

It's certainly not unique, but it's not every company either.

Poor management is a universal trait, I fear.

Curious Pax
8th Sep 2008, 14:44
4 minutes, and you're not even American!! For what it's worth it isn't a crack at things American, but a sense of puzzlement at the way the company in question seems to operate.

If your point was meant ironically then so was the above ;)

CherokeeDriver
8th Sep 2008, 14:48
It's just poor management / company culture.

Try working for an American investment bank:mad:

Binoculars
8th Sep 2008, 14:51
Ahh,, don't you love those each way bets?

I apologise for the intrusion, I just have this theory that brickhistory has an alarm system on his computer which monitors every thread for possible US-bashing? I was secretly wondering if I would be quick enough to beat him to the punch, and I was, but only just!

Curious Pax
8th Sep 2008, 14:57
I never win when only backing a sure fire winner Binos!

The comments on the Terms and Endearment forum header seem very apt at the moment. The grass looked greener, but strangely seems to have turn a worrying shade of brown at present.

Is it a truism that the only managers worse than those in your current employer are to be found in your next one?

corsair
8th Sep 2008, 15:06
Often these companies have what the like to call an 'open door'. In effect any employee can talk to anyone up to CEO. In practise.................

Open door, closed mind.

I have noticed a tendency for the lower orders to be scared of the higher ups. Thus they avoid any form of slightly risky decision that could impact their careers and pass everything back and forth like a ping pong ball. On top of that if there's a problem there are very quick to find someone lower down the ranks to blame.

I'm guessing the company you mention is American but staffed by locals? I came to the conclusion that the problem isn't about the American way of doing things. But the way it's implemented by the local staff. It might work great in the USA. But we're not Americans and we bring our own way of seeing things. I suspect if your friend did exactly the same thing in the New York office the result would have bee quite different.

denis555
8th Sep 2008, 15:07
Same thing happened to me Curious - I had a major grilling for daring to contact a manager 3 up from me in order to get some support for a coming sales campaign - and the campaign hadn't kicked off yet ( but I knew he would be travelling to the country of one of our main targets and was suggesting that he visited said target).

My manager wanted to know the, quote "REAL reason you contacted Jim X" ... which made it clear to me that he thought my motive was to slag him and his boss off for lack of initative.

Never again.

angels
8th Sep 2008, 15:08
Interesting.

My ultimate bosses are American, but here in London we are virtually ring-fenced, with a generally European management. We can and do go up the ladder if necessary.

I had a spell in the States where there were a couple of line managers who needed a kick up the arras to get something done so I just went over their heads and it got results.

Maybe this prompted everyone over there to throw up their hands in horror, but I don't think so.

Also, a mate of mine once e-mailed our American Chairman moaning about a dispute over 400 quid he'd being having with the HR department.

The money was couriered to him the same day!

IMHO I think your situation is more down to the style of management rather than the nationality.

If you don't believe me, ask my boss.....:ok:

Binoculars
8th Sep 2008, 15:09
Is it a truism that the only managers worse than those in your current employer are to be found in your next one?

Subscribe to the Daily Dilbert cartoon. It's scary.

brickhistory
8th Sep 2008, 15:19
Rigidity often seems to be the forte of those long established and no longer hungry companies. They think they've 'made it' and can adapt a more controlling, but much more inflexible culture as the size grows.

Forgetting that 'being hungry' got them to the top in the first place.

One once worked for a (the) major US aerospace company. One was unimpressed with (middle) management's risk aversion in my division. One was impressed by the history of the company in making things happen and think the lack of competition of the past few years has made it fat and unresponsive. Hence their porking of the USAF tanker competition. They thought they were 'owed' the deal instead of being competitive.

I don't think that mentality is unique to long-established American companies.

As was posted above, I'd believe it's more the company than the nationality.

Polikarpov
8th Sep 2008, 15:42
Try working for an American investment bank

and....

Subscribe to the Daily Dilbert cartoon. It's scary.

Did the former for several years too many and yes, it's very much like the latter. It's strange to look back from the outside, I'm now working for a privately owned company of less than a hundred employees and it's a completely different world; I'd never go back to a corporate.

It may well be all large (huge) corporates regardless of nationality, my experience on that isn't wide enough to comment with certainty, though from similar experiences related among ex-colleagues I presume there's a critical size beyond which inertia and bureaucracy take inevitable hold.

Regarding the original point: yes, everyone afraid of the higher ups, thus the middle management layer was stuffed with pointless types who's only purpose was to provide one extra iteration of slightly increased accountability through which to pass requests.

Jimmy Macintosh
8th Sep 2008, 15:54
I've worked for three American companies, one large, old and established, another, middle sized and young and the last small and young.

Both the young companies have instant access to all of the managers at any level. Frequently had conversations with the CEO of the middle sized company, highly approachable. All of the companies provide an alternative route through HR for any reporting even if it was job specific. The large comapany allowed access to same grade managers not directly related to your employ or one step above.

But this has been pretty consistant across all of the companies I've worked for (7).

West Coast
8th Sep 2008, 18:21
has an alarm system on his computer which monitors every thread for possible US-bashing?

Looks like your alarm is in fine shape as well, better than Bricks as you beat him to the thread.

zalt
8th Sep 2008, 18:44
Yep - if you go 3 levels up to expedite in a US company you show 2 levels as inefficient so sh!t-storm ensues. American managers are generalist administrators (look at the title of the head of the FAA) and they don't like being shown up.

Ever noticed how many people Americans CC on e-mails? Its all to be seen to be busy and ensure everyone 'Knows' and can't complain later if they don't like what you were doing.

West Coast
8th Sep 2008, 18:49
You CC when you want the recepients boss and peers to see how a situation is being handled.

A tactical tool to help your own cause and to protect yourself.

brickhistory
8th Sep 2008, 18:59
Yep - if you go 3 levels up to expedite in a US company you show 2 levels as inefficient so sh!t-storm ensues. American managers are generalist administrators (look at the title of the head of the FAA) and they don't like being shown up.

Ever noticed how many people Americans CC on e-mails? Its all to be seen to be busy and ensure everyone 'Knows' and can't complain later if they don't like what you were doing.

I see.

Fortunately, we've got all the efficient Canadians to be able to judge all American companies. Because, obviously, all of each nations' businesses are exactly as you describe.

Also, while most of us couldn't do it (I couldn't), our "CC's" don't have to be repeated in French...

Curious Pax
8th Sep 2008, 19:03
Some interesting insights - thanks to everyone for replying in the spirit the thread was meant. Looks like the 'monolith' rather than the nationality is the key to the culture, although it still surprises me that my previous monolith was so different in that regard.

The CC trick is certainly not US-specific - used it as a tactic myself many times in the past, not so much as a "look I'm busy thing", but rather an "I'm working on this already so don't hassle me about it" thing.

Interestingly the heat for going up several levels came from the senior guy downwards rather than the middle managers.

West Coast
8th Sep 2008, 19:35
The CC trick is certainly not US-specific - used it as a tactic myself many times in the past, not so much as a "look I'm busy thing", but rather an "I'm working on this already so don't hassle me about it" thing.


Nope, not my intent if it came across that way. CC'ing be tool number one taught to new employees over the water cooler.

ChrisVJ
8th Sep 2008, 22:49
I think companies vary hugely, even in the US but certainly once you include other countries and just as much from a customers point of view.

Several times when I have been particularly frustrated by those who profess to represent the face of their company I have phoned and been put through to company presidents, a couple of them even answered their own phones! There are other companies, however, whose personel seem take it as a code of honour not to let anyone get beyond their level, worse, they do not even understand the request or know who the company president is or even where the head office is located.

Sometimes the president's personal assistant or secretary is just a powerful as he is and one hopes that she tells him what problems she is fixing for their customers too.

I notice though an increasing trend to "customer service" departments whose whole job is to avoid giving the customers any service at all. While I recognise that the purpose of a company is to earn money and not to give it away I am often astonished at the attitude of some employees who will avoid giving any service at all and seem happy to lose a customer doing so.

I do my very best to avoid giving such people any further business. We used to have two house phones (one for fax) an internet connection and five cell phones with our local telephone company. We are now down to just one local line with an independent long distance supplier and our cellphones are with another company. When we terminated the internet connection we pointed out to the "supervisor" we had to get speak to that through just plain pigheadedness and poor customer relations his company had lost about three hundred dollars a month of our purchasing but he could not see the point of the comment let alone make a suitable suggestion. We moved to our cable connection.

notmyC150v2
9th Sep 2008, 05:14
I tried corporate life for a short time but hated it and came back home to my small (3 people) firm and will never try it again.

Interestingly the conglomerate I worked for had its head office in England.

Talk about rigid hierarchy...

During my probationary interview after three months I was advised that I had upset quite a few people because I spoke to their superiors about matters they were not aware of. Apparently I was supposed to clear all planned conversations with superior management with lower management before I was allowed to open my mouth. I won't go into details of the difficulties of dealing with people who had a close relationship with the Regional Director or CEO regardless of their place in the organisation.

YUCK!!!:mad::mad::mad: