australian workplace culture part two

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Helps recently arrived migrants compete in the job market and achieve career success - Part Two. You can contact me at


  • 1. Australian Workplace Culture
    A guide for newly arrived migrants
    Ursula Walker 2011
  • 2. Session Outline
    In this session we will be looking at:
    Workplace Communication Styles
    Asking Questions
    Social Behaviour and Fitting In
    Ursula Walker 2011
  • 3. Workplace Communication
    Informal speech is typical
    Directness can be seen as being efficient and more effective
    Managers use collaborative rather than directive communication styles with subordinates
    The use of humour can be a sign of respect
    Sarcasm is a common form of humour
    Ursula Walker 2011
  • 4. Case Study

    An example of the misunderstandings which can eventuate between people from different cultures is when e-mail communications broke down between Australian and Singaporean colleagues in a large multinational company.

    In this real example, the Singaporean sent an email to the Australian saying Send me the report by Friday. The Australian thought this was very rude so sent the report on Monday. In Australia, because of our preference for egalitarian communication style, managers often dont tell staff what to do, they ask them, or preface requests with Could you just or if you wouldnt mind

    As a result of the late arrival of the requested report in Singapore, the Singaporean thought the Australians were lazy (a suspicion they held previously) and ccd the next email to the top manager and said Send me the report by Friday, you will comply. You can imagine the response of the Australian business. They didnt send the report at all. In Singapore, it is considered polite to be direct, and appropriate for managers to tell staff what to do. In Australia, different notions of politeness are held. This simple misunderstanding escalated significantly and cross-cultural training was required to sort the problem out.

  • 5. Asking Questions
    • In Australian culture it is not considered embarrassing or shameful to admit that you have not understood someone, or need clarification of the information you have been given.
    Australian managers tend to look for employees who are confident, assertive and able to work independently.
    Ursula Walker 2011
  • 6. Case Study

    Boss: I need you to take on a special project, urgently. We are going to be audited and I need someone to go to the finance department and establish how we are going as far as compliance is concerned.

    Youll need to liaise with the department manager, John. He will provide you with information about the guidelines that they are supposed to be working by, but you will need to confirm that he has given you the right information and then check through the department records and write me a report on whether they have actually been keeping up to that standard.

    Make sure you give me specific examples of where they are not adhering to standards, and if you could get it to me by Monday week, that would be great.

  • 7. Answer
    Pretending to understand will not impress an Australian manager
    Showing that you have not understood and asking politely for clarification requires confidence and self-esteem and demonstrates that you are keen to get it right and do a good job
  • 8. Social Behaviour
    • Australians have a relaxed attitude to social etiquette. Most Australian social rules relate to expressing equality, irrespective of a persons social, racial or financial background.
    Sense of humour
    Socialising at work
    Getting on with people - being part of the team
    Sharing interests and personal information
    Ursula Walker 2011
  • 9. Case Study

    When Australian cricketer Dennis Lillee was first introduced to Queen Elizabeth II, he greeted her with the words:

    Gday, how ya goin?

    Lillees casual approach to social etiquette was a natural part of the Australian irreverence to authority. And Lillee probably felt he was doing the Queen a favour to treat her as an equal. But to many English people, Lillees expression of equality was rude and uncultured.
    A few years later, at a cricket match in 1977, he was again introduced to Her Majesty, and this time asked her for her autograph!
    Ursula Walker 2011
  • 10. Fitting In
    Migrants who work hard and otherwise do a good job in the workplace can still be seen as outsiders or as not good team players if they do not make an effort to join in the social life of the organisation and community.
    • Drinks at the pub after work (non-alcoholic if you prefer!)
    • 11. Discussing current sporting events or current affairs
    • 12. Join a local club or association and network with others
    Ursula Walker 2011
  • 13. Next Time..
    We take a closer look at:
    Attitudes to Work, Hierarchy and Leadership
    Organisational Communication
    Achieving Success in the Australian Workplace
    Employer Expectations
    10 Top Tips for Skilled Migrants