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Business and Workplace Culture

New Zealand - Business and Workplace Culture

It is important in business in New Zealand to dress appropriately. Both men and women are advised to dress conservatively and keep their appearance formal, particularly if working with a person that you do not know very well. If you are working with people you know very well and are not in a formal business situation then a more informal outfit is acceptable. New Zealanders are naturally very reserved with people that they do not know very well so it is important not to be overly friendly when you first meet someone.

It is expected that you should be on time for all appointments when you are working in New Zealand. It is not considered good manners if you are late unless you have a very good reason. Business hours are usually 8.30 am to 5 pm from Monday to Friday and if you are working on a Saturday it will usually be from 9 am to 12.30 pm. It is expected that you will always make an appointment in advance if you want to meet with associates. You should expect all meetings to begin with a few minutes of small talk.

If you give a colleague reason not to trust you when you are working in New Zealand then it will be very hard to rebuild that trust. If you are asked to give a presentation, do not pad it out with a lot of flowery language as this is frowned upon. You should expect any business negotiations to take time and if you choose to apply pressure in order to make a sale you can expect to lose the customer, as this is also frowned upon. The New Zealand business community is not known for haggling, so do not start with a high price expecting to be bargained down. You should start with a realistic figure that offers the customer value for money or they will simply go elsewhere.

The accepted business language is English. Very few companies will use another language, unless it is specifically required for a meeting or other event. When you are greeting people a firm handshake is recommended with good eye contact. First impressions are considered to be very important in New Zealand. Men will wait for women to initiate a handshake. When you first meet a business acquaintance you should use their title and surname until you are given permission to use their first name.

Discrimination in any form is illegal in New Zealand and there is legislation in place which protects people from being discriminated against on the grounds of their sex, age, race, religion and political opinion, amongst others. In effect this means that an employer has to treat all employees equally, although there is provision within the law to pay workers differently based on age and experience. New Zealand has a Human Rights Commission which is designed to protect the rights of all people and they can be contacted if you feel that there has been a breach of your rights.

Recent reports suggest that there is still a glass ceiling in place for female workers in New Zealand. Women do currently make up almost half the national workforce, although the percentage of women in high ranking positions is relatively low. In 2008, the Human Rights Commission issued a report which stated that although more than 40% of lawyers are female, less than 20% of partners in law firms are female. There is a very small percentage of women in the highest positions in the police force and only small numbers of recruits to the police force at ground level are female. Less than 10% of the seats on the boards of publicly listed companies are filled by women.

All workers have the right to join a union if they want to. An employer is not allowed to choose a union for you and cannot influence your decision one way or another. Some companies may have negotiated a ‘collective agreement’ with a union and they are obliged to tell you if you are covered by one of these agreements when you begin work. As with many other countries, New Zealand has many unions, some of which specialise in one type of work.

Useful Resources

Human Rights Commission
Tel: 0800 496 877

Read more about this country

Expat Health Insurance Partners

Bupa Global

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