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Struggling again - work culture is depressing...

Struggling again - work culture is depressing...

Old Jun 8th 2012, 4:53 pm
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Default Struggling again - work culture is depressing...

Well, it is another semi-rant, but there are questions somewhere....

We've been here 18 months so far in Silicon Valley, and whilst the work that I do is interesting, engaging, challenging, etc, there are a number of aspects of what seems to be behaviour peculiar to the Bay Area that is starting to really p**s me off.

Now, I come from 20+ years working in and around The City (London) in what is really a 24/24h environment, and given the stereotypical view of "Americans" as hard-working, go-getters, I was expecting a very similar kind of culture here.

It has been a real shock, and I suspect that I am guilty of doing what all Brits do in thinking that one huge country is the same from coast-to-coast.

So, I'm interested in whether the aspects that really wind me up are winding other people up.

1) Trying to tie ANYONE down to an email, phone call, meeting time is impossible. Emails go unanswered, phone calls are constant voicemail. I started to think that this was just a "my company" thing, but we've noticed it with everything.... And often times the response is curt, bordering on rude - "k" instead of "OK." Top that with the fact that meetings/conf calls get canceled, re-arranged at VERY short notice.

2) Mondays and Fridays the office is empty. And by 5.30 EVERY evening. And not in that early. In our City office, unless you were in by 07.30 the chance of getting a desk was zero.

3) People moan at "Europeans" for taking long holidays, but then disappear for the occasional day/hour/week, or pop-up "working" from a hotel in Hawaii with his family. Is that work or holiday ? How can the two mix ? The only people that seem to work truly hard are the Latinos/Latinas. I've never seen anyone graft quite as much as the guys that tend the HOA land. Back-breaking, manual labour. But everyone moans about them as "immigrants !"

4) Shops may be open 24/7, but they really don't have much "stuff" in them. The expectation seems to be that they are where you go to look, but they you buy on-line. But, here's the rub - delivery is horrendously slow. Next-day delivery just doesn't seem to exist unless you pay a fortune for it. An example - I've just ordered a bag for my wife which is made in the US. In the UK, next-day delivery is free for the same item. In the US, delivery is free, but "order acceptance" can take 48 hours and delivery is 5 days ! There is NO next-day delivery option at all. And that is in a country where fuel is essentially free.

5) Everything just seems so slow. Cars drive slower, people walk slower. Waiting for pedestrians to amble across is painful. There appears to be no sense of urgency in anything. It's all very relaxing at the weekend, but during the week, when you just want to Get On and Get Stuff Done, it's annoying.

- Is this an East Coast/West Coast thing ? Would I find in different in NY, for example ?

- Given the sedentary pace of life here, how come this is a technological hot-bed ?

- Is my judgment being unfairly coloured by my workplace experiences ? That would also include my wife's workplace experiences (different company, still West Coast based).

- How do Brits from a similar background deal with this ?
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Old Jun 8th 2012, 5:07 pm
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Default Re: Struggling again - work culture is depressing...

Originally Posted by dlake02 View Post
Well, it is another semi-rant, but there are questions somewhere....

We've been here 18 months so far in Silicon Valley, and whilst the work that I do is interesting, engaging, challenging, etc, there are a number of aspects of what seems to be behaviour peculiar to the Bay Area that is starting to really p**s me off.

Now, I come from 20+ years working in and around The City (London) in what is really a 24/24h environment, and given the stereotypical view of "Americans" as hard-working, go-getters, I was expecting a very similar kind of culture here.

It has been a real shock, and I suspect that I am guilty of doing what all Brits do in thinking that one huge country is the same from coast-to-coast.

So, I'm interested in whether the aspects that really wind me up are winding other people up.

1) Trying to tie ANYONE down to an email, phone call, meeting time is impossible. Emails go unanswered, phone calls are constant voicemail. I started to think that this was just a "my company" thing, but we've noticed it with everything.... And often times the response is curt, bordering on rude - "k" instead of "OK." Top that with the fact that meetings/conf calls get canceled, re-arranged at VERY short notice.

2) Mondays and Fridays the office is empty. And by 5.30 EVERY evening. And not in that early. In our City office, unless you were in by 07.30 the chance of getting a desk was zero.

3) People moan at "Europeans" for taking long holidays, but then disappear for the occasional day/hour/week, or pop-up "working" from a hotel in Hawaii with his family. Is that work or holiday ? How can the two mix ? The only people that seem to work truly hard are the Latinos/Latinas. I've never seen anyone graft quite as much as the guys that tend the HOA land. Back-breaking, manual labour. But everyone moans about them as "immigrants !"

4) Shops may be open 24/7, but they really don't have much "stuff" in them. The expectation seems to be that they are where you go to look, but they you buy on-line. But, here's the rub - delivery is horrendously slow. Next-day delivery just doesn't seem to exist unless you pay a fortune for it. An example - I've just ordered a bag for my wife which is made in the US. In the UK, next-day delivery is free for the same item. In the US, delivery is free, but "order acceptance" can take 48 hours and delivery is 5 days ! There is NO next-day delivery option at all. And that is in a country where fuel is essentially free.

5) Everything just seems so slow. Cars drive slower, people walk slower. Waiting for pedestrians to amble across is painful. There appears to be no sense of urgency in anything. It's all very relaxing at the weekend, but during the week, when you just want to Get On and Get Stuff Done, it's annoying.

- Is this an East Coast/West Coast thing ? Would I find in different in NY, for example ?

- Given the sedentary pace of life here, how come this is a technological hot-bed ?

- Is my judgment being unfairly coloured by my workplace experiences ? That would also include my wife's workplace experiences (different company, still West Coast based).

- How do Brits from a similar background deal with this ?
Well we are in Silicon Valley, and I disagree with most of things you have said.

1) I don't have any problems getting people to reply, and I certainly wish more of my husbands meetings were cancelled.

2) People do tend to start work later here, 9ish. I work from home, so my situation is different, however hubby never (and I mean never) leaves the office before 7pm, and twice a week 10pm. These are the earliest times he leaves, the entire team is there working these hours.

3) What's a holiday? or day off come to that. I took 1 day off to move house last month, hubby took 3 hours, and that was to get the ATT man to put something where he wanted it.

4) You're shopping in the wrong places.

5) Cars drive slower, what than central London? Pedestrians do walk slower, i'll agree with that. That's because most of them are walking for leisure rather than to commute...
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Old Jun 8th 2012, 5:14 pm
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Default Re: Struggling again - work culture is depressing...

I haven't worked in the US but my husband says that most are in the office early and stay until late. Also that people do not take more than a week off at a time and even that's unusual...they tend to take long weekends off instead. They also seem to be on the ball with emails...being on time for meetings etc.

Here there seems to be a lot of choice in the stores...sometimes too much. Regarding driving...although I think the general quality of driving is poor compared to the UK...it does tend to be slower. There isn't that 'wellie to the floor' when the traffic lights change to green like there is in the UK. Saying that when the lights change to red...another half a dozen cars drive through...you don't often see that in the UK with cameras on every light.

I find that on the whole people here are more courteous.
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Old Jun 8th 2012, 5:23 pm
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Default Re: Struggling again - work culture is depressing...

Well as I said, maybe it's our perception being coloured by our own environment.

I don't have any problems getting people to reply
We have a real issue with this. We typically reply to all emails within 4 hours. I'm used to using SMS a lot and find that people don't respond to that well here. I find emails here go unanswered for days and have to be chased. Now, that IS all work related - obviously personal emails are a different matter entirely. Given that no-one seems to take a holiday and everyone has smartphones, I would have expected people to be replying to emails, returning phone calls quicker than I was used to similar people doing in Europe, and I just don't find that to be the case.

What's a holiday? or day off come to that.
And that's my point entirely ! I would never give up my 5 weeks holiday - I cherish that time to disconnect from work. But attitudes seem very different here even where a sensible leave entitlement is given.... I suppose I will always be a European in that respect !

Cars drive slower, what than central London?
Not in central London - no-one needs to drive there..... My main driving areas in the EU are London and the SE, M4 corridor, M1, northern France and Belgium and the pace is substantially quicker. Here, even in a crapped-out 1.4L Kia, I am often first away from the lights ! But I do take your point on commuting. Most of my walking in Europe would be to/from railway stations, between buildings for meetings, on/off the bus. Essentially commuting. But even the walk to school against a dead-line just seems slower, as if no-one is worried if they are late or not.
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Old Jun 8th 2012, 5:28 pm
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Default Re: Struggling again - work culture is depressing...

I find that on the whole people here are more courteous.
There is less (virtually no) swearing, no raised tempers, no shouting. More courteous, yes; but less genuine.

Lot of smiles, handshakes and "great to meet you; let's do lunch; let's catch up again" which are never followed up.
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Old Jun 8th 2012, 5:33 pm
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Default Re: Struggling again - work culture is depressing...

I can't say I agree with much of the OP's first post in terms of my own workplace experiences.

I find my colleagues are pretty hard working and professional. Emails are answered promptly.

Our company is relatively progressive in terms of vacation and time off but the parking lot is full by 8am. For me this contrasts starkly with my old the UK where the office was a graveyard until a few minutes before 9am. Also Brits in my experience are far more fond of having everyone drop tools for a half-hour coffee break twice a day. I don't see that here really. People are much more likely to do that kind of thing on the go.


The only thing I do agree is that Friday afternoons are a write-off in California. However since most people are trying to beat traffic on their way out to Yosemite/Big Sur/Mammoth/Tahoe, I think that is totally acceptable. It's the California way of life and you should embrace it!

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Old Jun 8th 2012, 5:34 pm
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Default Re: Struggling again - work culture is depressing...

Maybe it's my company then...

Time to sell the stock...
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Old Jun 8th 2012, 5:37 pm
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Default Re: Struggling again - work culture is depressing...

Originally Posted by dlake02 View Post
There is less (virtually no) swearing, no raised tempers, no shouting. More courteous, yes; but less genuine.

Lot of smiles, handshakes and "great to meet you; let's do lunch; let's catch up again" which are never followed up.

Agreed.
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Old Jun 8th 2012, 5:47 pm
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Default Re: Struggling again - work culture is depressing...

Originally Posted by dlake02 View Post
There is less (virtually no) swearing, no raised tempers, no shouting. More courteous, yes; but less genuine.

Lot of smiles, handshakes and "great to meet you; let's do lunch; let's catch up again" which are never followed up.
I'm with you now, I had misread your post as people took more holiday days or hours here, but I think your saying people take random hours off.

I think this is true, but it's mainly because they can't take vacation days. The 3 hours my hubby took off weren't clocked anywhere, due to the fact that he works at least 20 hours more a week than his actual hours. Therefore not being able to take 3 hours off when needed every blue moon would be a real kicker. It's not that he doesn't have the vacation time, he will max out at 25 days accrued next month. But doesn't have the time to take vacation days. Me and my daughter have just booked to go back to England in the summer, as he can't take a vacation.

Also, we went to Hawaii in February. He was still working, and he would send emails asking for info and state 'I'm on vacation at the moment, so it may take me a while to respond' Most people seem to take vacation days, but still work while they are away.
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Old Jun 8th 2012, 6:02 pm
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Default Re: Struggling again - work culture is depressing...

I'm with you now, I had misread your post as people took more holiday days or hours here, but I think your saying people take random hours off.
Correct - I've always had a hard line between work and holiday. If I have a leave entitlement, I've always taken it to the max as it is part of my T&Cs. It is a priority and has always been treated as such by my employer. No phone, no email, always booked at least 3 months in advance so that everyone knows and can arrange cover for anything urgent.

Now, if someone needs to do something such as wait at home for the plumber to arrive to fix the washing machine again (me week ago) then fine; take an hour off to do that. We all work longer than the contracted 40 hours.....

But I have co-workers who announce that they can't make pre-arranged meetings because they'll be in a different town "visiting" the day before. Not at a business meeting. Not taking leave. Some grey area between the two that I didn't know previously existed.

Why not just take your leave entitlement ? The world is not going to collapse if you head out for a week-or-two ? It smacks of an underlying insecurity to me....
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Old Jun 8th 2012, 6:04 pm
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Default Re: Struggling again - work culture is depressing...

Originally Posted by dlake02 View Post
2) Mondays and Fridays the office is empty. And by 5.30 EVERY evening. And not in that early. In our City office, unless you were in by 07.30 the chance of getting a desk was zero.
I don't understand the issue with the desk. Every place I worked at in the Silicon Valley for 35 years, everyone had their own office or cubicle. What kind of job are you working in?

I've usually found Silicon Valley employers to be very lax about enforcing policy and people can take long lunch breaks, arrive at work whenever they want, take personal time off without recording it, etc. Some people work long hours and others work 8-5 but if someone is an 8-5er and over abuses the policy, he/she will likely be on the top of the list when the next layoffs occur.

Even the Japanese company that I worked for had very strict policies but the policy was never enforced (fixed start time but everybody ignored it, no telecommuting allowed but employees did it, etc.).

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Old Jun 8th 2012, 6:04 pm
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Default Re: Struggling again - work culture is depressing...

The email or getting back thing. That really depends on people, can be very hit or miss. What I do find very different from experience is accountability, if someone makes a mess of something no one seems to want to take responsibility here and the buck gets passed around. Back home, you cock up, you get called a cnut and everyone moves on and that's the end of it.

The working hours, really depends on people. Some folks work really early and leave early, while some others come really late and don't necessarily leave later. There is from experience, just more time wasting and blagging going on, get in late, waste time, have a lame meeting, waste a bit more time and occasionally do some work in between. Ok, that's a bit exaggerated, but there does seem to be more time wasting here, but that's okay because they're taking shorter lunch breaks and no beer, so obviously more professional.
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Old Jun 8th 2012, 6:09 pm
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Default Re: Struggling again - work culture is depressing...

I don't understand the issue with the desk.
Ah - sorry... Should have explained better. Here (HQ), everyone does have a nasty horrible cube. That appears to be "their" property. In our other offices, we have 80% hot-desking, at a loading of about 60% (in other words, if everyone came into the office, only 60% of hot-desking people would get a desk that day).

Often times here, I'll walk round the floor in the middle of the day where every cube is allocated and not be able to count more than 10 people on a floor of 250.

In London City, the 60% loading is hit somewhere between 0730 and 0800 EVERY day.

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Old Jun 8th 2012, 6:13 pm
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Default Re: Struggling again - work culture is depressing...

Originally Posted by Michael View Post
...but if someone is an 8-5er and over abuses the policy, he/she will likely be on the top of the list when the next layoffs occur.
They're likely to be cut anyway, because they wouldn't be seen as a team player, because they don't put in the longer hours. Even if they are more productive and have less issues with their work.

It's all about appearances, well it just seems to be from experience.
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Old Jun 8th 2012, 6:19 pm
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Default Re: Struggling again - work culture is depressing...

Originally Posted by dlake02 View Post
Ah - sorry... Should have explained better. Here (HQ), everyone does have a nasty horrible cube. That appears to be "their" property. In our other offices, we have 80% hot-desking, at a loading of about 60% (in other words, if everyone came into the office, only 60% of hot-desking people would get a desk that day).

Often times here, I'll walk round the floor in the middle of the day where every cube is allocated and not be able to count more than 10 people on a floor of 250.

In London City, the 60% loading is hit somewhere between 0730 and 0800 EVERY day.
I guess your job is a different type of job than the typical Silicon Valley job. I only worked in software/hardware engineering during my 35 years.
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