The surprising reason Australian managers swear in meetings

It’s not uncommon to hear Australian managers swearing in a meeting.

While cursing is considered inappropriate in many business settings, Australians are motivated by vibrant, humorous, and border-line vulgar speech.

“The Aussies want their boss to join them in a healthy disrespect for rules and formalism, to lapse into broad speech and cuss a bit, and to be affable and ironic at the same time,” writes Richard Lewis in his book “Cross-Cultural Communication: A Visual Approach.”

Australians’ distinct manner of speech originated at sea when diverse ship crew members fused together Cockney, Irish, and Northern English dialects.

“Swear words and vulgar expressions were abundant,” explains Lewis. It is an aspect of the speech that managers utilise today in order to influence employees.

According to Lewis, Australian workers would respond cynically to “American pep talk English” and would not be stimulated enough by the “prim” British or Canadian English.

In Australia, effective managers crack jokes and use cynicism whenever possible.

“Perhaps the greatest strength of the Australian personality, although it is under threat, is their monumental cynicism,” writes Lewis. “Australians are totally cynical of people in power or with too much wealth; they respect the little person, the ‘battler,’ rather than the winner.”

While spurts of blunt and cynical exchanges are characteristic of Australian meetings, in general they are “relatively informal affairs, beginning with cups of tea and first names, and ending in compromise where everyone feels he/she has taken away something.”

To help navigate the art of doing business in the Land Down Under, Lewis provides several tips:

1. “Show you are willing to be one of the ‘mates.'”

2. “While remaining law-abiding, show a healthy disrespect for many laws and too much government interference.”

3. “Sarcasm and irony are popular, but when exercising them, let kindness shine through.”

4. “Jokes and anecdotes are very popular. A sense of humour is essential for getting the best out of Australians.”

5. “You can make good progress with Australians if you let your hair down while drinking and socializing.”

6. “Moderate swearing is not taboo.”

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