Q: My friend works for a Japanese-owned company. He said he doesn't get paid sick time, and if he misses a day, he must bring a doctor's note when and it will still be up to the manager whether it will be accepted. I thought companies had to offer paid sick days.
I have another friend who works for a German-owned company and loves it. She said they are serious about their work, have high standards, take performance seriously, are given positive feedback when they do well and are promoted due to high performance.
As a comparison, another friend works for a French-owned company. He said the company insists on employees maintaining a work-life balance and it holds events and retreats that involve travel and entertainment mixed in with business. The company pays all expenses -- even for sightseeing time. The drawback is that they are not paid very high salaries for all the work they do, and they don't have assistants to help. But he did say that their attitude about work is relaxed and compassionate. Management doesn't pick on a person who may be in a slump or makes mistakes, or restrict someone who has a family emergency that requires time off, even when the person has no time off due. He said they don't punish employees for the spontaneous situations that are part of life. He makes enough to live comfortably, but not luxuriously, and he has no advancement opportunity.
I had never thought about company management being that different according to the country that owns the company since they all operate in the U.S. Don't they have to operate under the U.S. laws?
A: Companies with operational offices in the U.S. must follow our laws. If a job requires an employee to speak their country's language, its management can't restrict hiring only employees born from their countries. But benefits are optional and corporate culture is created according to management's values. Foreign owned companies often establish a similar corporate culture to what exists in their own countries, but salaries and benefits are often according to the industry and location. In a market where good employees are hard to find, companies may offer more to attract and keep good employees.
But corporate culture is set by attitudes, and this is where countries and industries can have opposing values. Compare your friend's Japanese owned company that doesn't believe in paid sick days to the French owned company that values and seems to demand a work-life balance. Even U.S.-owned companies have great differences among each other -- work ethics, social attitudes and performance expectations. Some companies allow employees to bring their dogs to work, while other companies would scoff at the idea. Some small companies have open-ended sick day policies because they know each employee. If a person calls in sick, management accepts it as truth and allows the person to stay home until well again. Larger companies have to enforce a rigid application of benefits, such as time-stamping attendance, since bad hires happen and it is management's only means of stopping those who lie and take advantage whenever possible.
When you start interviewing, ask questions before accepting an offer. Department interviewers will explain the overall job and expectations. They might offer information on corporate culture, but you must do your own digging into what the actual culture is. Pay attention to when the interviewer hesitates before answering your questions; you're receiving unspoken information. An employee with common sense will not present any negatives to you since that kind of honesty may threaten his or her own employment.
In large companies, the human resource department will explain its benefits and policies, but department heads within a company may vary in how they treat employees, which can be the difference between working for a dream boss or dealing with a daily nightmare. Weigh the pros and cons to decide your values. Then analyze your industry and company research before you accept a job. If you choose poorly and know you won't be able to tolerate the job for at least a year, create a polite excuse for a quick exit, leave the job off your resume and continue your job search.
Email your workplace questions to Life and Career Coach LindseyNovak@yahoo.com. For more information, visit www.lindseyparkernovak.com and for past columns, see www.creators.com/read/At-Work-Lindsey-Novak