Today’s post was taken from a reader comment.
In it he talks about New Zealand’s tall poppy culture, another manifestation of its culture of
. if you want to get a job or get ahead, dumb down. Or better still go somewhere that values your skills and abilities more.
“You made a very good observation about management not having degrees. When I lived in NZ I worked in a call centre because it was the only kind of job I could get at the time. I had a bachelors degree at the time, nothing amazing just a Politics/Philosphy major but I did get good grades. I do believe that all other things being equal that having a degree – any degree – is better than not having one.
Pretty soon I realised that 80% of the 40 people people working on the phones in the call centre also had degrees. Guess how many of the supervisors (there were 4 of them) had degrees? That’s right, zero.
I stayed in that job 5 years and during that time was told the path to success and promotion was to become a “telecommunications industry expert.” So I studied and learned everything I could and soon became known as the most knowledgeable person in the department.
Over those 5 years I saw several supervisor positions become vacant and applied for them. Each time the job was given to someone who didn’t have a degree and wasn’t particularly knowledgeable about the industry. One of these new supervisors then gave me a poor performance review and when I rattled off all the reasons with facts and figures which I had prepared why he was wrong he completely lost it and started yelling at me. This was the most laid back Kiwi guy you would ever meet who was soft spoken, of NZ born Pacific Island extraction & completely Kiwi in his attitudes and regarded by all as a truly lovely guy. Yet here he was yelling at me, his whole face contorted with rage, as he told me it was going to be hard for me to hear this but I was regarded as a smart arse by everyone in management and that I would never be promoted in that company.
He e eventually calmed down and apologised for losing his cool and behaving “like people did in the caveman days” and looking back he was probably right that I needed to hear what he told me. But not in the way he thought.
It’s not just a “Tall Poppy” syndrome. Many Kiwis really do think of anyone with superior knowledge and skills to them as “smart asses” instead of respecting their hard work and scholarship. They will never promote a person who they think of as a “smart arse.”
5 years wasted at that company doing what I was told to do to get promoted and then because I actually did it being regarded as a “smart arse.” I quit the next day and moved to Australia where I converted my degree into a new career and rose througb the ranks steadily on merit and tenure and now a few years later earn over $100,000 Per Annum $AU. People working in the call centre in NZ are still earning what they were back then, probably about 1/3rd of that.
I find Aussies are far more willing to give someone a “fair go” than Kiwis are. Kiwis may think Australians are rednecks and racists but from my experience it is Kiwis who are far less likely to give someone a fair go who is different to them. Especially if you are also better educated than they are. And in case you are wondering I am also a NZ citizen so technically a “Kiwi” although I wasn’t born there.”
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