Globalization Partners

Managing a Cross-Cultural Team: Australia

by Globalization Partners
June 2020

The country of Australia comprises six states: New South Wales (NSW), Queensland (QLD), South Australia (SA), Tasmania (TAS), Victoria (VIC) and Western Australia (WA), as well as two major territories—the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) and the Northern Territory (NT). It is the oldest continent in the world, the sixth largest by total area, and though the continent of Oceania is the second smallest in population, Australia holds its own in population, ranking 55th in the world with a total of 24.8 million inhabitants.

Australia has a GDP of $1.4 trillion, the 14th largest economy in the world. US News ranks it as #5 in its list of the World’s Best Countries—citing a high level of citizenship and quality of life. It ranks #2 in the United Nations Education Index and boasts the world’s best performing stock market over the long term.

Australia has a famously laid-back and friendly culture and ranks fourth in the world for household disposable income, making it a very attractive market for expansion. If you are expanding to the Pacific Rim or looking for an international market that might embrace your brand, chances are your plans may include Australia.

 

Australia: By the Numbers

  • Population: 25.67 million
  • Time Zone: There are three main time zones in Australia, excluding territories: Australian Eastern Standard Time ( AEST ) covers New South Wales, Australian Capital Territory, Victoria , Tasmania and Queensland; Australian Central Standard Time ( ACST ) covers South Australia and Northern Territory; and Australian Western Standard Time ( AWST ) covers Western Australia.
  • Language: Australia has no official language, but English is generally regarded as the de facto national language and is the primary language used in business.
  • Currency: Australian dollar ($AUD)
  • Office hours: Work starts bright and early in Australia, typically at 8:30 am or earlier, and tends to wrap up by 4:30 or 5:30pm.
  • Appointments: Australian business etiquette is relaxed, but you will still want to make appointments and schedule them in advance.
  • Scheduling: Weekday midmornings are ideal. Avoid Friday afternoons.

 

Australian Management Style

Here are some more expectations Australian employees might have from you as a manager, or how you can expect your Australian managers to conduct themselves:

  • No airs: Australian workplaces tend to be flat and democratic, with everyone pitching in, equally. The emphasis is on the team, and never on deferring to the highest title. Australian managers are not rewarded for “pulling rank.”
  • Tall poppy syndrome: Likewise—and similarly to Nordic managers—Australian leaders tend to be valued for being humble and self-deprecating. Workplaces tend to cut down or mock those who think too highly of themselves. (Term comes from Herodotus, by way of the 1984 best-seller Tall Poppies.)
  • Mateship: Australian managers are expected to have a very egalitarian approach to their management style, mixing with employees in a very accessible and friendly way. “Mateship” in Australia embodies equality, loyalty and friendship, and is considered a top cultural value.
  • Fairness: Your Australian team will expect you to hear them out and take a very fair approach to conflict management and problem-solving. If they don’t think you’re being fair or impartial, you can expect to hear about it.
  • Strategic direction: Australian employees may not look to management for a steady flow of micro-directions, but they will expect you to come to the table with strategic thinking.
  • Communication and persuasion: Because of the “first among equals” approach to management of Australian business, there is a lot of emphasis on the managers’ communication abilities and their ability to form emotional bonds. Australians are less likely than US team members to warm up to a “showy charismatic style” and respond more to simple, honest leadership and servant leadership.

 

What To Expect from Your Australian Employees

What should you be expecting from your team members in Australia? Here are some of the broad brushstrokes of common attitudes, behaviors and beliefs you might encounter from your Australian employees:

  • A blue streak: Australians are known for incorporating their unfiltered thoughts into their workplace communication than most other countries, so don’t be surprised if some blunt, cynical or colorful language finds its way into your calls or meetings.
  • A pint after (or during) work: Like many cultures, Aussies like a bit of socializing after hours. And unlike in many workplaces, it’s not uncommon to have a few pints or cocktails over lunch, too.
  • A chill attitude: Our colleagues down under tend to be much more laid back about things. This doesn’t mean they don’t work hard though. And it doesn’t mean they won’t call you out directly, if they see an issue.
  • “No worries”: Australian team members won’t want to admit they are overloaded, and they may say yes to projects they can’t really handle. Help them to manage workloads without turning the pressure on.
  • Punctuality: For all their laid-back groove, your Australian workers are from a monochronic culture, and likely to show up on time to meetings and ready to go. They’ll likely also hold you to your stated schedule and agenda. Be sure you don’t waste their time.
  • Disagreement: Your employees in Oz are probably not going to hold back if they have thoughts, ideas or critiques. Australians tend to be forward and direct, and in this culture everyone has a voice.
  • How good is that?: Expect to hear this common rhetorical phrase from time to time. It’s not a question, but rather an expression of enthusiasm.

For a more thorough overview of hiring employees in Australia, please visit our Globalpedia.

Looking for more advice on finding, hiring, and managing your global team? Contact us today to see how we can help you expand your team in Australia and around the world.


Globalization Partners enables companies to quickly and easily expand into more than 187 countries without the hassle of setting up local branch offices or subsidiaries. You identify the talent, and we employ your team member via our in-country payroll. This enables you to quickly and easily hire around the globe, and lifts the burden of figuring out HR, tax and legal matters from your shoulders to ours.

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