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Corporate Culture Shock in America – Part 4

"Think globally-act locally", Sofia ...

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In this 4-part series, “Corporate Culture Shock in America,” author Susan Davidson explains the cost of lost productivity incurred by American corporations because of months of isolation, confusion, and frustration experienced by expatriates and foreign nationals who relocate to the United States to live and work.

In this section Davidson focuses on Conquering Corporate Culture Shock.

Click here to read part 1 of this 4 part series

Click here to read part 2 of this 4 part series

Click here to read part 3 of this 4 part series


By Susan Davidson

Conquering Corporate Culture Shock

If global companies would take the following four actions, they would help to ease the transition of foreigners into the U.S. workplace and greatly enhance their productivity.

  1. Provide community orientation and logistical support beyond finding housing and schools. Help the transferees acquire basic survival skills and social ties with their community.
  2. Take the time to explain employee benefits, policies, and laws. Do not assume foreigners understand the policies and plans or the words associated with them. They are unique to America. Give them an easy way to get their HR questions answered. Be proactive versus reactive.
  3. Assign a trained American mentor or external coach to foreign transferees during the first few months of the transition process to hasten acculturation. Foreigners in the study strongly favored this idea. “Having a coach or mentor is absolutely essential for getting direct first-hand feedback, asking questions, learning how Americans see the situation, culture, work practices, even for subtle differences. The fact is, the U.S. is different!” said a Swedish program manager.
  4. Build American cultural awareness and competence by offering cross-cultural training, multicultural team coaching, and cultural events. Many foreigners in the study referred to their American colleagues as culturally “insensitive,” “ignorant,” “egocentric,” or “isolated.” As a result, the foreigners believe that Americans do not fully appreciate and use their unique backgrounds, talents, global perspectives, and connections.

As global mergers and acquisitions continue and as America’s multicultural workforce expands, it is vital that both Americans and non-Americans understand each other and learn to work together to prevent cultural differences from getting in the way of good business. As Sheila (could this be Sheida?) Hodge states in her book, Global Smarts, “The trick is to capitalize on similarities without being ambushed by differences.”

If both Americans and non-Americans will adopt the mantra: “Think globally, act locally,” then their employers stand a much greater chance of bringing better ideas and approaches to the workplace and better products and services to the marketplace.


Susan Davidson is founder and president of Beyond Borders, Inc., an Atlanta-based coaching, training and consulting firm that specializes in improving the business performance of global managers and teams. Susan has worked with Fortune 500 and global corporations for more than 25 years to improve the sales, leadership skills, communications and business effectiveness of leaders, employees and salespeople.

Ms. Davidson has published several articles on her groundbreaking research with foreign business professionals who experience “corporate culture shock” in the U.S. workplace. She is also a featured speaker for human resource, international and training organizations. She can be reached at 770.451.997 or by visiting

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