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The Development of Managerial Culture examines the differences in underlying values and cultural distinctions in managerial cultures in Australia and Canada.It offers commentary on differences in attitudes to managerial culture and industrial relations through a comparison of national character development to provide context and insight for readers




Australia and Canada are two nations poles apart geographically yet share many similarities in their founding and development. Despite their mutual Anglo-Celtic origins, these nations did not evolve into culturally identical societies. Obvious and subtle distinctions separate these two countries from each other. Differences include, though ultimately transcend, diverse geographies and climates, physical and psychological proximities to both the United Kingdom and the United States—reflecting Australia and Canada’s unique relationships with these world powers—and the varied cultural influences of populations that settled in Australia and Canada early on in each country’s history.

Arthur J. Wolak

1. Culture and Values

When considering national characteristics, individual idiosyncrasies should never be confused as representative of the society or its general culture as a whole.1 While societies reflect different personalities at the individual level, the most common in a particular nation tends to approximate its national character. Dimensions of culture advanced by Hofstede, Trompenaars, and Hampden-Turner, among others, prove helpful in making assessments among different cultures at the macro level—for example, comparing Australia and Canada—more so than analyzing trends at the micro level, such as cities like Sydney and Melbourne or Toronto and Vancouver, though geographical distinctions are often evident even at this level.

Arthur J. Wolak

2. National Character

Despite how culturally similar contemporary Australia and Canada are on the surface—both multicultural nations with common colonial roots where English is the predominant language—their cultural values, as reflected by Australia’s and Canada’s contrasting personalities, are not identical. How each society evolved seems linked to the disproportionate effect culturally influential Anglo-Celtic groups had in each society. Although Australia and Canada received immigrants from throughout the British Isles in their formative periods, their proportion was not the same. Contrary to the Canadian experience, the Irish of Australia appear to have profoundly influenced the Australian national character. The question that needs to be answered is how.

Arthur J. Wolak

3. Class and Identity

Given their overwhelming presence in colonial Australia and Canada, the most pervasive impact on national cultural values appears to have come from the Anglo-Celtic Catholic and Protestant communities, whose impact on the evolution of national values, culture, and national character was profound. As the contribution of the Irish Catholic sensibility to Australian irreverence, rebelliousness, and egalitarianism—or desire for flatter hierarchies—is evident in such Australian practices as “knocking,” “cutting down tall poppies,” and even the social phenomenon of “mateship”—features of Australian culture absent in Canada—the significant number of Irish Catholics in Australia is the critical factor that guided Australian culture in a different direction compared to Canada where Irish Catholics, as a percentage of the Canadian population, did not possess the same cultural force.

Arthur J. Wolak

4. Australia’s Irish Factor

The contribution of an Irish sensibility to Australian irreverence, rebelliousness, and egalitarianism—or desire for flatter hierarchies—is evident in such Australian practices as “knocking,” “cutting down tall poppies,” and the social phenomenon of “mateship.” These Australian cultural features distinguish Australia from Canada and point to a historically significant “Irish factor” that Canada does not share. In contrast, while the Scots also represented a sizeable immigrant community in Australia and Canada, there does not appear to have been an equivalent “Scottish factor” despite their cultural significance. For economic and ethnocultural reasons, the Scots in both countries tended to align with the British establishment far more than did the Irish, whose numbers in Australia were particularly large. As Hofstede’s cultural dimensions are useful indicators of national variation,1 this chapter explores power distance and individualism—collectivism to attribute Australia and Canada’s salient cultural characteristics to particular regions of Anglo-Celtic origin.

Arthur J. Wolak

5. Australian versus Canadian Managerial Styles

Although Australian and Canadian industrial relations have been influenced by such issues as global economic change and increased competition, domestic factors are just as important to help account for dominant styles of management and workplace behavior. The primary domestic aspect is the Anglo-Celtic cultural influence and its divergent impact on Australia and Canada. Management positions in both countries tended to be held, at least until recent decades, by middle- and upper-class English and Scottish immigrants and their descendants who were accustomed to a privileged status in British colonial society. Reflecting the assertive liberal spirit of the nineteenth century, managers therefore retained a strong element of individualism.

Arthur J. Wolak

6. Labor Power

From colonial times through the mid-twentieth century, as Australia and Canada developed their respective economies, political movements, and national personalities, the ruling British Protestant elite assumed key leadership positions in public administration, commerce, and politics. However, the impact on local culture was not identical because the composition of the dominant populations differed. Unlike Canada, the Australian working class was marked by a strong Irish Catholic presence. Hence, their influence grew as Australia’s working class rose to prominence through the establishment of the Australian Labor Party (ALP).

Arthur J. Wolak

7. Australian and Canadian Managerial Culture: A Summary

While adherence to British values predominated in English Canada across the spectrum of socioeconomic class, Australia, being far removed from the United States but with British colonial rule on its doorstep, tended to be less accepting largely because of the presence of a significant and assertive working class that, from early on, included a strong Irish component. Although the Australian elite tended to embrace British identity and heritage, the working class was less enamored, particularly when it came to the inherent inequality associated with British rank and privilege. In the words of Australian historian Geoffrey Blainey, “Australian life suffers at times from an inadequate respect for enterprise, originality, and talent. On the other hand, it also gains from the democratic and communal sense that ‘Jack is as good as his master’—if not better.”1 This sentiment evokes the Australian preference for flatter hierarchies.

Arthur J. Wolak


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