Communication and Management Style

Australian workplaces take many forms, with roles based in offices, warehouses, workshops, factories, classrooms, shops, restaurants, kitchens and more.

As such, there can be significant differences in the way people speak, behave and interact. However, in comparison to other workplaces around the world, Australian workplaces are generally more relaxed and informal when it comes to communication and management styles.

Although communication style can be direct, the relaxed nature of the Australian workplace also means that people can be friendly, at times creating a social atmosphere. Supervisors and co-workers may ask about your weekend or holiday after a break. In doing so, they don’t mean to be invasive, but would like to take an interest in your life outside of work. Such bonds can help you build a more authentic working relationship.

The best way to gauge the expected level of formal or informal behaviour in the workplace is by actively observing others. Here are some questions that you can ask to determine the best way to act in a workplace:

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What speech and actions are acceptable within your workplace?
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What is an acceptable way of talking and behaving?
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Do people share information about their personal lives? For example, do they talk about their families, their hobbies and interests, or what they did on the weekend?
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How do people interact with one another? What mediums or tools do they use to connect and communicate?

Reflecting on these questions will help you decide if it’s appropriate to share personal stories and anecdotes at work. Some workplaces actively create a social environment, while others are more professional. Regardless of the workplace culture, it is always a good idea to be considerate and respectful of the beliefs and values of your colleagues. Remember you might not always know these things about your colleagues, so consider keeping your conversation polite and professional – avoid oversharing intimate details about your life.

Ultimately, the level of informality within a workplace will depend on the organisation or industry. For example, government bodies or corporate organisations that carry out official duties or professional services may place emphasis on a more formal workplace culture, especially if it is necessary to engage with customers or clients, with a high level of professionalism and politeness.

References

Western Australia. Department of Education and Training. & Australia. Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations. Employability skills and workplace culture in Australia: a guide for new migrants to Western Australia planning to enter the work. 2008
http://www.vetinfonet.det.wa.edu.au/accessequity/docs/workplace_culture_guide.pdf
West, Barbara and Frances T. Murphy. G’Day Boss: Australian Culture and the Workplace. Abbotsford: Tribus Lingua, 2007

Understanding Australian Workplace Cultures: Thriving in the Australian workplace

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