Negotiating Down Under
There are undoubtedly cultural differences when it comes to conducting business, and this is perhaps most true in negotiation. Let’s take a look at quintessentially “Aussie” qualities and how these impact on the way we negotiate.
Australians are known to be anti-authoritarian in nature and abhor trappings of class, education, prestige or titles. This attitude may date from convict times and translates as, “Jack is as good as his master”. Each person in a negotiation will be treated with equal respect, as most Australians are oblivious to status achieved through seniority or class. Privately however, some Australians may be impressed by status or class, though they will go out of their way not to show it.
Australians are famous for their dry sense of humour and will often use it to deflate pomposity or relieve tension. Their humour is a great leveler and should not be seen as disrespectful. In fact, if they make a joke about you, it is a sign of respect and affection rather than something intended to denigrate or upset. It is known as “taking the piss” and should not be confused with going to the toilet!
Female negotiators who have high-level roles in business are generally known to possess well-honed listening skills, increased flexibility and sharp minds, so any interaction which is tainted with condescension is not met with enthusiasm.
Australians are often self-deprecating and may make statements such as, “I am a simple country person, so all these numbers are confusing…” This is an attempt to disarm the other party and should not be believed or taken into consideration throughout the negotiation.
Australians (particularly males) are intensely interested in sport and will often use sporting analogies to describe negotiating events. “You have just kicked a goal,” or “It’s nil-all draw at this stage.” Responding in a similar vein will endear you to them.
Of course, any summary of national characteristics is a generalization. This is especially true in Australia; a multi-cultural society. Anglo Saxon heritage continues to have a strong influence on the way Australians negotiate, as does the pervasive American way of doing business.
Let's make this the starting point of a conversation. Do you have anything to add from your own experience? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
About the author:
Keith is a Principal Consultant with Scotwork and has over 30 years experience as a business consultant, educator and trainer. He is a regular consultant to senior executives in professional practice and his principal interests in management are strategic planning, project management, client-relationship management and conflict resolution.