Work Culture In New Zealand

Continuing in our series of Migrant Tales – first hand accounts of the migrant experience in New Zealand,  taken from locations around the net.

New Zealand’s ‘laid back’ work culture is a popular draw card, used to attract skilled migrants to the country. But, the reality in many NZ work places is far from easy going, ‘can do’.   NZ working practices are one of the biggest causes of discontent and frustration for immigrants.

This is taken from a thread on, a commercial pro-NZ forum, it started with the following question:

Work culture in NZ
I moved to Christchurch from Manchester, UK back in February and while I’m loving the lifestyle out here, I have been less impressed with the work culture. I’m just wondering what other people think and if this is a common experience? I work with many external agencies and suppliers so my impression isn’t just related to my company.

Things I’ve found are: very little emphasis on quality, poor organisation, weak communication (especially written), old fashioned styles of management, lack of team bonding, exceptionally poor IT systems etc . . .

  • The OP’s experience is commonplace. IMO It’s kind of one of those problems that starts at the top with small and midsized companies. If you look at the boards of companies in New Zealand they have significantly less board members on average than other countries in the OECD. So in other countries you might have a board members who where professional managers and realise the importance of this.
  • Of course with less emphasis on employing and/or training professional managers often those who do get promoted are the monkeys who have worked there the longest rather than recruiting or training more suitable candidates. Also there is less competitive pressure here so companies don’t modernise as quickly in terms of management practises and systems. Thats New Zealand.
  • Work culture has been the biggest shock to me. Coming from an IT Sys Admin background in the UK working for both small and large companies, and now work for a software developer in Auckland.
  • Biggest things I’ve noticed are, lack of professional attitude, disorganisation, lack of direction, know-it-all attitude, crap IT systems, lack of proper pay (overtime/out of hours). Also, all the kiwis here are total work-a-holics and aren’t fussed they dont get paid for overtime? They are more than happy to spend hours and hours working from home without getting paid, and expect you to do the same so when you refuse unless you get paid, they look at you boggle eyed.
  • We’ve made friends with a few expats, as well as a few americans/australians expats too and all of us hate our jobs because of the work attitude here. Apart from that we love NZ
  • God I am glad that I found this topic, work for me is so poor it’s unreal. I can’t complain money wise but the content and lack of feeling valued is unreal with such a low bar. It is the one area that will drive me out of NZ.
  • Not sure if Oz is any better I have heard some bigger horrors there.
  • I agree there is a huge tall poppy syndrome in NZ. I work in Civil Engineering as a Consultant and its a huge problem. Having spoken to alot of people from other countries and companies apart from UK, all have experience it. I have a PhD yet have virtually no responsibility at work and am doing a job I could have done 15 years ago (I’m only 30!). They preferentially give the best jobs to Kiwis and also reward Kiwis more. Its almost bordering on racism.
  • A friend of mine has 15 years tunneling experience all around the world, yet at the company he works for, he is not allowed to design tunnels! Instead, they give the work to a Kiwi, who has no experience at all. Talk about keeping it in the family.
  • Kiwis are inward looking and resistant to change. They bring people in from overseas to fill the skills gap, but then refuse to listen to fresh ideas. No wonder the country has a 3rd world infrastructure. Because NZ is so small and such a closed market people protect their own little piece of work. Most companies are small minded. For example, my company employs 1500 people, but its really a collection of individuals working under a corporate banner. Its very hard for non-kiwis to break into this inner circle. After all, they wouldn’t want to jeopardize the dream of boat, batch and BMW.
  • Kiwis are very two faced. They are nice to you in person, but will plot to put themselves in the best light.
  • Kiwis seem to work long hours, but in my view its because they are inefficient. They don’t have the right tools for the job and are always making do, which takes twice as long and costs twice as much.
  • People have a sloppy attitude. Health and Safety here is a joke. I’ve seen better H+S on 3rd world construction projects.
  • To be honest most kiwis can’t do the jobs as well as immigrants and they know that and are protecting their own patch. NZ is a great country, its a pity, but go to Australia and earn twice as much and live in a truly developed country.
  • Work ethic in NZ is relaxed to say the least. I think this gives us brits a great reputation here as we just seem to have a naturally higher expectation of quality.  Also i think you’ll find it even more laid back down south, auckland is becoming a bit more serious i’ve noticed but still no where near as full on as back home. I will admit some of the things ive seen be let slide are insane.

4 thoughts on “Work Culture In New Zealand

  1. Interesting news:
    A builder who was accredited to do EQC work in 2012 said he was shunned from the home repair programme after he refused to perform a repair strategy he deemed inadequate.

    He said the house’s timber was too weak to sustain the combination of jack and pack and notching he was asked to do.

    “As soon as we saw the scope we advised [EQR] the strategy was going to fail.”
    Ad Feedback

    He then received a letter from Fletcher EQR telling him his withdrawal from the programme had been accepted. He received no more EQR work after that.

    “We were effectively evicted.”

    Reminds me of the movies where criminal godfathers increase their influence and power by asking associates to do progressively nastier deeds, and then having knowledge of those deeds … telling them “you’re now in this with me for the long haul, or I’ll tell the police what you did”.


  2. What a relief to find out it isn’t me! Since moving here last year to work for a health board I have been staggered by the number of people who ‘feather their own nests’. I had a senior autonomous job in UK but here in NZ, I do not have a voice (not one that is listened to). I am now hoping to become a resident so that I have more flexibility with work. Otherwise, the outdoors lifestyle is brilliant and we are so much healthier and fitter. We will not be settling here forever though as work is an important part of life and I want to get some sense of purpose and satisfaction again.


By making a comment you agree to abide with the comment guidelines. Newer comments are at the top.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s