Understanding culture

In order to examine work culture in Australia, let’s look first at what culture means.

Often culture is thought of as the food, music, holidays and traditions which are quite visible and often different across the globe. However, culture is much larger than these visible traditions. It is better understood as a combination of thoughts, feelings, attitudes, beliefs and values which define how a particular group interacts.

Understanding culture is important

Culture has a significant influence on how we understand the world, what we consider to be proper behaviour, and the meanings that we associate with the actions of others. Misunderstandings about culture can lead to assumptions about a person’s abilities or intent. Unfortunately, this can create tensions and conflict and even lead to situations where people are discriminated against.

We showcase our individual cultural orientation during all interactions

Our individual cultural orientation is evident in every interaction that we have. We often make assumptions about a person’s beliefs or behaviours based on our perceptions of their cultural characteristics (e.g. race, ethnicity, gender).

Culture is fluid

Culture is dynamic and constantly changing at a societal level as well as an individual level. As individuals we often move across cultures. For example, we may grow up in one country and then move to another later in life. We can also move across cultures more regularly such as being part of a religious group in one setting, and a work group in another with quite different cultures and expectations. As a society our culture also changes. What was considered to be acceptable, or dominant, culture in a previous generation may not be accepted in the current generation.

Understanding Australian Workplace Cultures: Understanding workplace cultures

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