Tuesday, January 13, 2009

"She'll Be All Right"

Today we met with representatives of American businesses. I will not identify them, in case doing so would bring them some grief. They reported an interesting difference between American and Australian business cultures.

Americans take for granted that customer service is necessary to do your job correctly, and for you business to succeed. Likewise, Americans expect managers and professionals to push to improve the business -- coming up with good ideas is a valued way to contribute to the whole and to get ahead personally.

Australian managers and professionals, on the other hand, are told that "tall poppies get cut down." Pushing innovations and improvements is not regarded as contributing to the company, but as arrogant self-promotion. Likewise, Australian workers (and students, we also heard) think that if you have a job or a place, you are entitled to full pay or promotion for it, no matter how well (or poorly) you do the job.

Australian workers, in other words, satisfice. They do not push for the optimal solution, they take the first adequate one. Rather than seeking excellence, at the cost of conflict, an Australian is more likely to accept the status quo on the grounds that "she'll be all right."


djb said...

Interesting post. The social pressure not to stand out is certainly prevalent across Asia, but seemed to me much less prevalent in Australia. It's been a few years since I've done business there, but enthusiastic, and seemingly earnest personal effort to deliver customer satisfaction was one of the enduring takeaways of my time there, split between Sydney, Melbourne, and Brisbane. I suppose it could have been consistent execution of a company's standard (but brilliant) plan for cheery behavior towards customers, while internally, bigger/better ideas the employees may have privately harbored for even greater customer impact were kept to themselves.

Anonymous said...

2 comments here -

1. Tall poppy syndrome is not an exclusively Australian issue, and many people mistake tall poppy syndrome with a general dislike for a brash or arrogant attitude.

I can assure you Australians certainly do not expect a stellar career projectory and salary for sub-standard work. I'm really quite bemused about your statement about that.

2. The phrase you're looking for is "She'll be right."

An Australian

Gruntled said...

Thank you for "she'll be right." I thought what I had written didn't sound quite right.