Australian Work Culture

Australian Work Culture

Some time ago I can cross a report from the Australian Government titled, Australian Cultural Imprints at Work, 2010 and Beyond[1].  The report considered aspects that are unique to the Australian work environment, which it described as being one of ‘fair dinkum, fair go and bullshit detectors’.

Most business today have volunteers.  But, watch out.  Change happens, and this article considers change that’s not positive.

Are you on the bus?

There was one model in particular in this report, that really caught my attention.  It’s summarised diagrammatically, below.  The report identified four types of worker based on whether people are happy and content at work or not happy.  And whether they are comfortable speaking up about their situation (and how they feel), or whether they tend to sit on their hands and say silent.

Let’s look at each of the four quadrants in the resultant matrix.

In Q1 you’ll find Volunteers. Volunteers are happy at work and happy to speak up.  They go the extra mile in all areas.  They’re on the team bus, are supportive of management direction, and better still, they encourage others to get on the bus with them.

How to Start a Movement
If you have ever watched the TED Talk by Derek Sivers, How to Start a Movement, you’ll see the power of the first follower.  The first follower, according to Sivers, is an understated form of leadership.  (…/derek_sivers_how_to_start_a_movement)In this fabulous, three-minute TED Talk, Sivers uses a simple video of a crowd at an outdoor concert to promote his view that leadership is over-glorified.In the video, an unknown person in the audience gets up from the grass paddock in which they are sitting, and starts to dance and frolic to the music.  But he is not alone for long, as another unknown from the audience, stands up and joins the ‘lone-nut-dancer’.  And it’s this person that sees it as his role to encourage others to join in with the fun.  Sivers says, ‘the first follower is the understated leader of the group’.  And it’s amazing to see how quickly others join the dancing, and as Sivers points out, they follow the first follower not the ‘lone-nut-leader’.

Mapping this philosophy to the Australian Work Culture model, the first follower is a Volunteer.

In Q2, you have those people who are unhappy at work (at least certain aspects of it that they see as major), but are comfortable speaking up and expressing how they feel.  In the Australian vernacular, this group are the Whingers. They’re off the team bus.  They are hostile to management initiatives, and they actively discourage participation by others.

Q3 are those people that are happy with their work, but for whatever reason, they are not willing to speak up about issues that don’t affect them directly in any major way.  They find their own space and just keep to themselves.  In some ways, they are Prisoners, neither on or off the bus, they come to work do their job, but no more.

In the fourth quadrant, Q4, there are those who are unhappy with major aspects at work, and unhappy, unwilling or unable to speak up about management initiatives.  These are Victims.  Perhaps they have been passed over in a promotion.  They are insecure – the report identifies them as ‘pissed-off’ and says they tend to generalise small issues into big problems.

Victims are definitely off-the-bus and because they don’t speak up, their best strategy is to sabotage management initiatives.  They are saboteurs, because they are on the inside, and what they do is to try all they can, to recruit others to join them, or better still, to join the Whingers.

Arguably, they’re the most dangerous.  They will sit in a management meeting and not express their views, but once outside they will gently and subtly influence the views of others.  They will not defend management initiatives when others challenge them and they will look for ‘I told you so’ opportunities.

Where do your direct reports sit?   But more importantly, where do you sit?

[1] Australian Cultural Imprints At Work 2010 And Beyond – Industry Skills Councils, Innovation & Business Skills Australia Ltd