Business Formality

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Business Readings and Questions

American Business Culture: Formal vs. Informal

In most modern American offices, successful people are those who know how to be formal in their work performance while appearing to be informal on a social level. Degrees of this vary based on your profession. Overall, you want to wear clothes that appear well-groomed without seeming like you put effort into it. Your speech is the same. You want to use natural speech–let words flow together, use some idioms–at the same time, be quite aware of what you are choosing to express.

Companies know that an employee is most expensive during the first three months. This is the time when other employees are using their energy to train the new person, and the manager is exerting energy to understand the new person. For these reasons, companies prefer to avoid employee turnover. This leads to a work environment that has the appearance of informality: the place appears welcoming to new recruits. As an employee, you too have to play into the environment. Keep your appearance and speech “informally formal.” In other words, appear to be informal socially while remaining formal and goal-directed in your work performance.

1. In your country, are most businesses or companies similar in their degree of formality? Or do businesses vary a lot?

2. Describe an average business in your country. What do people wear to the office? How do they address each other? Are the work emails or messages very formal or more casual?

3. In American culture, it is important to be informal without losing professionalism. This is a subtle point. Describe a subtlety from your business culture. 

4. In your culture, do people network outside of the office? For instance, do business colleagues meet for dinner or drinks frequently? What is the degree of formality at these times?

5. If you could choose an ideal office environment, what would it be? What would people wear? How would people speak to each other? How productive would people be?
750 Business WordsBusiness Culture
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