I would like to ask a question about the work culture in the USA. In particular, I'd like to ask about an employee's respect for the company hierarchy. Do they have a lot of respect for their boss and his opinion and back off easily, or do they push their opinion hard even when their boss has clearly indicated that they should let it go.

There are a couple of issues I can see with this kind of question - it's broad because (1) people have different personalities and (2) within a specific country, each company's culture will vary wildly. This is why I haven't asked this question yet and have been thinking about how I will phrase it such that it's not too broad.

That said, entire countries do have certain cultures that can be generally applied to the entire country. Asian culture is an example of this, for example, in South Korea, campany heirarchy is very highly respected and people are very respectful of their superiors. That's an example of how an entire culture can be generalised.

Are questions about an entire country's work culture off topic here, purely because they are too broad? or is there scope for asking about a culture in general (for example, something like my question above)?

  • "within a specific country, each company's culture will vary wildly." - that is particularly true in the US. Don't bother asking this question, you already have the answer. Nov 5 '16 at 13:00
  • This question is extremely worthwhile. Best rephrased as "What general observations can be made about a country's work culture?". Just don't phrase it "an entire country's work culture".
    – smci
    Nov 7 '16 at 12:18
  • Please retitle: "In general in country X's work culture, how hierarchical are employee-boss interactions? Can you disagree with your boss's recommendation?"
    – smci
    Nov 7 '16 at 13:33
  • @smci I eventually asked this question: workplace.stackexchange.com/questions/79201/…. I removed the country factor entirely. While I suspect that it may be possible to phrase a passable question about a country's work culture in general, enough high-reputation people here have indicated that they disagree. This leads me to think that the question would have no trouble getting 5 close votes, especially in this SE network which is known for being pretty quick to close questions.
    – user5621
    Nov 7 '16 at 14:27
  • But a) the "in front of others" makes it a different question! Also b) which "others"? peers? managers? subordinates? customers? c) In some formal review meeting, or hallway conversation, or over lunch? d) The "Is it professional..." wording as opposed to "culturally acceptable", in only going to make it an opinion poll instead of a factual inquiry. e) You're conflating whether it's acceptable to disagree at all vs doing so in front of others (peers) vs (subordinates). It's a hopeless mess!! (Does age matter? Does your/ their experience matter? Does the vocabulary you use matter?)
    – smci
    Nov 7 '16 at 15:17
  • @smci "It's a hopeless mess". That's why stackexchange allows for users to edit questions and has comments for clarification purposes. You're absolutely welcome to help me improve the question.
    – user5621
    Nov 7 '16 at 15:58
  • @stanri I just gave you five specifics. You can't ask 50 variants of a question, all jumbled into one. Pick one, e.g. "Is it culturally acceptable to disagree with a superior's technical decision in front of peers, at a review meeting?" or ask the unasked question "In which settings is it culturally acceptable to disagree with a superior's technical decision?"
    – smci
    Nov 7 '16 at 16:31

It would be too broad because there is no universal US work culture. Work rules and laws change from state to state, and even cities within states.

Alabama laws are different from NY laws and within New York, NY City laws are different from upstate NY laws. The cultures surrounding work vary as much as the laws. You could ask about states and MAYBE regions, but not the entire country.

  • 1
    Additionally, there is no single "Asian" culture in the work place. I work with teams in countries all around the world including various Asian countries and there is not even a single culture within any of those countries. Companies often have their own culture, but even this is not universally true
    – Rory Alsop
    Nov 4 '16 at 11:11
  • 1
    @RoryAlsop There isn't even a single Indian culture. Nov 4 '16 at 12:04
  • By your same argument, no universal work culture exists in any country, not even Korea. But this question is extremely worthwhile. Best rephrased as "What general observations can be made about US work culture?" There are quite a few.
    – smci
    Nov 7 '16 at 12:17
  • @smci I answered the question, you counter by saying that my answer is invalid because of a question not asked in your comment. How does this make sense? Nov 7 '16 at 13:19
  • I said the original intent of the OP is good, just the phrasing "entire country's work culture" or "universal CountryX's work culture" are bad. Your comment "state laws vary" is irrelevant since they were asking "How hierarchical are employee-boss interactions? Can you disagree with your boss's recommendation?" I'll go fix the title now.
    – smci
    Nov 7 '16 at 13:32
  • @smci laws are down-stream of culture and are therefore valid indicators of culture. For example, the Jim Crow laws were indicative of a racist culture in the south. Nov 7 '16 at 13:43
  • @RichardU no state or country law has ever defined anything remotely related to "How hierarchical are employee-boss interactions? Can you disagree with your boss's recommendation?". Cite me a counterexample law if you can, please.
    – smci
    Nov 7 '16 at 13:51
  • @smci I am not going to engage in a comment war with you, Nov 7 '16 at 14:12

How would having an answer to your question help you navigate the workplace?

That is the thing that makes it more off topic than anything else. In general questions here are expected to fall into that category. It sounds like your question is more curiosity about the culture than any practical application.

If there is a practical reason you are asking the question it is probably better that you ask about your specific problem and how your expectations are not met.

  • Good point. I ultimately did that and asked this : workplace.stackexchange.com/questions/79201/… My question stemmed from feeling like I am too polite in the workplace given how much my coworkers disagree with my(our) boss.
    – user5621
    Nov 10 '16 at 21:23

You can't define such a big group using anything except statistics, and there are no reliable statistics, so the question can't be answered.

There are general 'trends' I have noticed in different countries, but I'm not convinced they apply to a country as a whole, or a culture. Some of the Asian countries might have more regimented lives due to their social system and this spills over into the workplace I guess, but I've seen plenty of exceptions to the rule with Asians as well.

  • Trends, generalizations and tendencies are the best that you can do. Even companies that have "corporate cultures" but have offices in different cities in the US can have cultures and laws that cause nightmares for the home offices. Nov 7 '16 at 13:23

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