Ask The Headhunter Home Page
Ask The Headhunter Home Page
More about Nick's book...

frequently asked questions about

New Job
New Job
Topics including:
Showing off?
First day
Culture change
Took the wrong job: now what?
Back to FAQ Categories

Q  "Culture change"
Since emigrating to the US, I have been confronted by two issues which are:

  1. The inability to look at people in my place of work straight in the face while talking to them, especially my superiors.
  2. A tendency to downplay my accomplishments.

Within my culture these two things are considered rude. I have been able to overcome the first problem and I would appreciate your suggestions for dealing with the second problem. I really like my new job and I have been making some improvements, however I have not been too good at relaying this back to my boss.

Thanks for everything.

A  Good to hear from you again.

I think it will be difficult for you to get comfortable with discussing (or otherwise calling attention to) your accomplishments because you come from a culture where that's discouraged. If you force yourself to talk about your successes, you're likely to overdo it and make yourself and others feel awkward. But I think there's another way, where you won't feel like you're bragging.

Try to take time regularly with your boss and with your coworkers to review your work. Start with people who know you well and whom you trust. Let them do the talking. Here's a way to get them started: "I really value your opinion, and I'd like to ask your advice. I'm trying to produce the best work I can, but I also want to make sure my work style fits in with that of the team. It would mean a lot to me if we could take a few minutes to review what I'm doing well and what I'm not doing so well. It seems to me I do a pretty good job with [give an example], but I could probably use some guidance with [give another example]. What do you think? If you were to evaluate my work and the way I do it, what do you think I've done well, and where do you think I could use improvement?"

This approach accomplishes two things. First, it turns this into a two-way discussion, where you don't have to feel you're bragging about your work. You're letting someone else talk about the quality of your work. Second, it forces you to analyze the strengths and weaknesses of your performance. In analyzing what you do best, you will develop a better ability to talk about it. You should also become more comfortable discussing it as a result.

Asking for advice and opinions from others engages them. It gets them involved. It tells them you care about what they think. It also makes it easier for them to give you a pat on the back. As you experience more positive reinforcement of your work, I think you'll come to enjoy it and not feel so awkward about it. This should make it easier for you to give yourself credit in public more often.

Final point: as you get into these discussions, feel free to explain that in the culture you come from it's very difficult to discuss one's accomplishments. "I like being able to talk about my work, and I enjoy doing a good job, but I don't ever want to sound like I'm bragging. If I ever sound like I'm overdoing it, do me a favor and give me a kick, okay?" Say that with a smile and I think your friends at work will recognize that you're trying to deal with the culture change, and that you have a sense of humor about it, too. In the American work culture, I think having a sense of humor makes it possible to talk about all kinds of things, from success to failure and everything inbetween.

It sounds like you've come a long way. Let your co-workers and friends help you enjoy the next steps toward your success.

Best wishes,
The Headhunter


The contents of this site are Copyright (c) 1995-2015 North Bridge Group LLC.
All rights reserved. This material is for personal use only. Republication and redissemination, including posting to news groups, is expressly prohibited without prior written consent. Ask The Headhunter, Fearless Job Hunting, the ATH logo and other ATH titles are trademarks or registered trademarks of North Bridge Group LLC and Nick A. Corcodilos.

User agreement, legal information and disclaimer.

Visit the Ask The Headhunter Blog and sign up for your free subscription to the weekly Ask The Headhunter Newsletter.

We welcome comments and
suggestions. Please email to
Ask The Headhunter.