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.

7 thoughts on “Work Culture In New Zealand

  1. Bullying is a common problem… I am not just talking about a bossy boss… how about yelling, shouting, cutting you down or blaming you for things that you do not even do. The kiwi women can be horrendously rude and brash. The funny thing is they will support the dysfunction and if you bring it up then lash out at you or group against you to make your job life hell. They want you to quit. The health and safety laws as well as employment court or mediation services are also dysfunctional and disorganised- not clear. The worst thing i find is that people at work make personal friends and this can cause the workplace to run like a high school and if one does not like you the others will easily turn against you who are their friends. Lots of bias, lack of ethics and very immature behaviours overall. Sometimes foreigners do it even more to fit in and be accepted. NZ is a very dysfunctional culture and has lots of organisational problems in the workplace. You are better off if you are a guy than a woman as most the bullying comes from women dominated fields and they are also lower paying. I truly do not like NZ work cultures nor do I care for the women and I do not trust them as I find them very backstabbing and money-driven as well as controlling. Pimping attitudes are also a problem and prostitution and sex work can be bartered for job promotuons, keeping jobs, and better grades at Uni. You have to realise this is all normal to them so they are not going to see it as unhealthy, unproductive or abnormal esp when they believe that they are the best and all their intentions are good. Seems to be a god complex among people underneath that laidback appearence. I have found jobs to be highly demanding in an unrealistic sense… how can you work fast when the software or equipment you are using does not? They won’t replace it either. I have gone into jobs even at hospitals where file folders, telephones, computers, office furniture are in shambles-at their end and you are still expected to use them as is. My last job at a hospital did not even provide a heater in the winter and there was no central heating in work offices. They did, however, have heating for the patient’s rooms or areas. Talk about health and safety…. but what I am talking about is lowlife standards here. You might as well live and work in the 3rd world to be honest. In NZ you are expected to be a martyr and just happy to have a job and be given the opportunity to live in such a beautiful country! This unfortunately is the attitude of most Kiwis and they do not have much to compare it to. A fish can’t see water.

    • Pimping attitudes are also a problem and prostitution and sex work can be bartered for job promotions, keeping jobs, and better grades at Uni.
      At university, one local male kiwi Caucasian student told me that he did essays for the international Asian female students in exchange for sex and dates. Naturally, being so calculative he’s now at Cone Marshall (accounting firm)!
      On the flip side, this also means that the universities for some courses … are simply lax at weeding out academic misconduct, maybe there’s a gender bias about who finally gets punished for doing so?

  2. 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.”
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    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”.

  3. NZ is the only place, where you can find unqualified morons at the top. Because they have talked their way through it.

    • Most of them do not have much education and get their jobs because of who they know. Management is very poor and often has no skills to work with problems effectively between co-workers or health and safety matters. They are highly incompetent – better to have a POM as a manager over a Kiwi as they will have more experience and higher standards.

  4. 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.

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