3 Ways to Make the US Transactional Orientation Work for You

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(image: Jeff Bauche)

US Culture | Transactional vs. Interpersonal Relationship Orientation

3 Ways to Make the US Transactional Orientation Work for You

by: Grayson Leverenz

You walk into a basement study room for the first team meeting of your MBA career. A couple of members socialize, discussing life before business school. Another member sits, computer open, ready to take notes, and looks anxiously at the group. Where do you fit in?

If you believe people need to get to know one another personally before they can work together successfully, you lean towards an interpersonal relationship orientation. If you’re ready to begin working as soon as the meeting is scheduled to start, you approach work with a more transactional orientation.

On the RW3 CultureWizard Relationship scale where a 1 equals a Transactional orientation and a 5 equals an Interpersonal orientation, the US rates a 1; our culture is one of the most transactional in the world. Americans need very little evidence to trust someone enough to work with them. Often just being in their professional circle (e.g. in their MBA program) establishes the foundation of a professional relationship. If this idea seems wrong to you, don’t worry; culture embeds itself as deeply as DNA. The important thing is that you understand where your US teammates are coming from, and figure out how to benefit.

Here are three ways to make the US transactional relationship orientation work for you:

1. Divide and conquer.
You’ll quickly realize that there are not enough hours in the day to accomplish everything you would like to in your MBA program. When faced with this problem, Americans often use the “divide and conquer” approach. To divide and conquer, teams break down projects into pieces and different members complete sections that align with their strengths.

This division of labor happens very efficiently. Usually, people will state their strengths one at a time (e.g. my specialty is Marketing), and then assume tasks accordingly. The divide and conquer approach can turn a 3-hour meeting into a 30-min session.

2. Gather intelligence.
One of the best tools to gather information about companies you think you might want to work for is the informational interview, and being in a transactional culture makes scheduling easy. Typically, your standing as an MBA student provides enough credibility for alumni to agree to an informational interview with you.

Tell them who you are and what you want in the subject line of your email (e.g. First year student seeking informational interview). Being likeable and direct in the body of the message appeals to the US transactional culture, and will help you book the interview. If you’re interested in learning more about scheduling informationals, here’s a link to my post “Top 5 Tips for Crafting an Effective Informational Interview Request.

3. Build your network.
Transactional people think in terms of give and take (i.e. “What can I do for you? What can you do for me?). When you meet people throughout your MBA, absorb information; it becomes currency in transactional cultures. Call upon that information when you’re looking for industry contacts. You can do that formally through networks liked LinkedIn or informally through conversation.

You can also build your network with the proper close to an informational interview. After thanking the person for their time and the information, my #1 recommendation for closing an informational is to ask, “Is there anyone else you think I should speak to?” Assuming the discussion went well, the person will want to promote you throughout the organization by helping to build your network, and will provide you with a name or two.

Special thanks to RW3 for their support of the US Culture series.

Author: Grayson Leverenz

Grayson Leverenz founded MBA in the USA® to help international students build networks, find jobs, and have fun in the USA. Hundreds of global professionals have benefited from Grayson’s intercultural workshops, and she has worked with people from Brazil, China, India, South Africa, South Korea, the UK, and the USA to build effective virtual teams and craft brilliant careers.

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