America was built on hard work, innovation and a passion to be the best. While Europe has had a similar history, America did it faster and not over several centuries. In addition, many American innovations were actually created by immigrants. America provided a venue that dispensed with class status, markets closed to new ideas, and not holding to tradition. Are we still on that path? 

The American reputation of innovation—blended with efficiency to produce quality—is now being questioned by some. European managers are seeing a new business management program that they find hard to swallow; some even call it offensive. The overarching message is, “You must learn to have a passion for your work and for this company.” These programs are perceived by some to originate from American corporations on business management practices. Some even use American success stories as examples. The question my European friends ask is, “Why would they think this would resonate with us?”

A Work Different Approach to Work Culture 

Americans tend to be more focused on their job than their European counterparts. It is not common to ask a European about what they do for a living.  

For the most part, Europeans rarely talk about their jobs or work activities. Conversely, Europeans think Americans talk too much about their jobs. Europeans work to live. Their job is just that—just a job. This is not them being lazy or even disinterested in work. In fact, most are reliable and hard-working individuals. 

Some of the retreat management programs suggest they should build better bonds with co-workers to become teams outside the office. They have friends and family that they want to be with in their free time and generally not their co-workers. Adding to the reluctance of this concept is that European upper management are generally very highly educated. Unlike American industries, where workers in the factory could potentially climb up to become a CEO, that just never happens in Europe. 

There is a disconnect between management levels in Europe and America that is following that path. Our country was built on not letting the lack of a college degree determine one’s future potential. 

European middle managers sit and listen to top-level executives, who have never been in the field or the factory, tell them what they are doing wrong because a book or class told them so. The middle manager knows they are stuck at that level and the ceiling is not related to their lack of passion for their job or the company. Most of the top-level executives started with the company only recently, while a middle manager has put in time with the products and the company. This can make it hard for middle managers to swallow criticism being pushed on them. 


Spending significant amounts of time in other countries and asking questions can help one better understand realities. Most European citizens like Americans and even continue to believe America is the place where a person can break through and find real success. Recent management programs and events have Europeans a bit confused. Stories like the Boeing plane losing its door mid-flight, yes, they heard about that, makes them wonder. Is passion for the workplace really working in America? It makes me wonder if America is still on the right track of innovation, quality, and being able to provide opportunities for everyone, regardless of their education level? Is it possible we are becoming a continent that looks to graduates of business schools to save us or is it a deeper issue? 

How we blend work and personal life is ingrained from childhood and that trait takes time to change. My upbringing comes from being raised in America; I inherently have a passion for work and feel guilty taking time off. My wife is European and after 30 years, this has rubbed off on her, as well. I have a difficult time realizing that the retirement age is upon me. I should be thinking how to enjoy family and friends more, yet I continue to seek out new opportunities and work more. This behavior has my European friends scratching their collective heads. They count the days to retirement. I often think I would be far better off thinking the way they do. 

Work is work—take holidays and cultivate family and personal relationships better. However, I continually find myself thinking about my career. Do I dare to say I have a passion for it? And why? I guess it depends on what continent you stand or were raised in. But I am beginning to think we are the crazy ones.