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Cross Cultural Management Guide for Australia


The guidance offered below is for managers who want to learn more about the management style and business culture of Australia.

It provides some useful information for managers who are relocating to the country for employment as well as those who may have Australian employees in their global or multicultural teams.

Topics include:

  • Management style
  • Approach to change
  • Time and scheduling
  • Communication style
  • Negotiation style



Being a Manager in Australia

The business set-up in Australia is egalitarian.  To ensure success, it is important to:

  • Remember to treat each and every person with equal respect and deference, regardless of their role. 
  • Understand that in Australia there is a sense that all people in the organization have an important role to play.
  • Therefore, in this culture, managers will lose no respect in consulting employees to gather background information and even share in the decision-making process.

The Role of a Manager

Managing Australians will be more effective if you are aware that:

  • The most productive managers in Australia recognize and value the specialised knowledge that employees at all levels bring.
  • Employees expect to be consulted on the decisions that affect them and the greater good of the organization.
  • Managers tend to be task-oriented, but do not generally micro-manage their staff.
  • Instead, managers tend to give their staff the freedom to get on with things.
  • Staff in turn are more likely to then only approach their manager if they have difficulties with a task. 
  • Managers emphasise achieving a goal, productivity and profits and expect their employees to do their job in a professional manner.
  • The role of the leader is to harness the talent of the group assembled and to develop any resulting synergies.
  • The leader will be deferred to as the final authority in any decisions that are made, but they do not dominate the discussion.
  • Instead, they listen to all contributions and facilitate the sharing of ideas before coming to a conclusion.
  • Praise should be given to the entire group as well as to individuals.

Approach to Change

According to various intercultural research, Australian culture embraces change. This means that:

  • Businesses in Australia tend to have a high tolerance for risk and a ready acceptance of change.
  • The underlying mindset is that change, while difficult, usually brings improvements and that hard work and innovation will bring a better tomorrow.
  • Risk-takers who fail are not deprived of future opportunities as failure is often perceived as a necessary step in the learning process.
  • When discussing plan implementations, Australian managers will look for a proactive, success-oriented perspective with details about how to make the plan succeed.
  • Without losing sight of the risk, managers are expected to stay focused on the opportunity and keep the team motivated and positive in achieving their goals. 

Approach to Time and Priorities

Australia is generally a time-focused business culture, which means various things, including:

  • Adherence to schedules is important and expected.
  • In Australia missing a deadline may well be perceived as a sign of poor management and inefficiency and will shake people’s confidence in you.
  • It is not unusual for managers to expect people to work late and even give up weekends in order to meet target deadlines.
  • Successful management will depend on the individual’s ability to meet deadlines themselves as well as those of employees.

An Australian manager looks at his ideaboard

Decision Making

Employees expect to be consulted on decisions that affect them and the greater good of the organization. Failure to consult on decisions may result in a situation which is:

  • Counterproductive because employees feel un-engaged and which;
  • Demotivates employees who would otherwise feel responsible for success beyond the execution of specific instructions.

Boss or Team Player?

The egalitarian beliefs of Australians support a collaborative and participative management style.

  • This means that Australians are very comfortable working in teams and do not expect to be singled out for their contribution.
  • The manager should also make efforts to be 'part of the team' and not an autonomous decision-maker outside of the team. 

Communication and Negotiation Styles

Australians are transactional and, while it is not necessary to use an intermediary to make business introductions, at the same time, networking and relationship building can be an important factor in long-term business success.

It's also important to know that:

  • Most senior-level executives within an industry will know one another.
  • Since the population of the country is relatively small and many people remain in the same town all their lives, people strive to develop harmonious working relationships as they never know when they will have to work with that person again.
  • Communication with employees is typically direct, often with a bit of humour.
  • Avoid 'hard sell' techniques and do not misconstrue a relaxed attitude as indicative of a lack of attention to detail.

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