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We have intern’s work with us on a regular basis at RedBalloon. Justin, from Boston University was with us for 8 weeks. It was interesting to read his report at the completion of his time with us. There is no doubt that RedBalloon is a ‘modern’ business – built on values and a fundamental respect for each employee. I was surprised at this young (19 years) interns view on the world given his youth.

RedBalloon has been formally recognised at number nine in the BRW Best places to Work list a few months ago. I wonder if Justin’s report would be different if he had worked for a company with a different ethos about its people. I wondered if he is comparing Australia to the US or really companies committed to its people versus those who are not… you be the judge:

    • Justin writes “… In contrast, Australia’s corporate organizational structures are more horizontally organized in regards to the relationships that exist between the management level and the rest of the company. … Upper levels of a company are not placed on a pedestal above the rest. At RedBalloon the organizational structure is very horizontal in nature. The CEO sits on the ground floor, rather than the second, with the rest of the employees, as do the team managers with their respective teams. Perhaps it is worth noting that RedBalloon in particular, emphasizes a genial relationship between its employees, including the executives, while at the same time maintaining professional conduct in the office. I noticed that the CEO is approachable and works with the rest of the company in the same room with no divisions in between. It is difficult to spot those employees are in management position.

Perhaps these differences in work culture can be traced back to the founding of these countries. Since Australia was founded as a colony primarily to house criminals and social rejects, the disregard for authority, at least in comparison to the US, may be rooted in the initial cultural dynamics of the country. It is not that Australians do not acknowledge the status of their superiors in the wok place, but rather, they do not accept or approve of distinctions being made between executive and employee.

I have noticed that there is no pressure to prove one’s commitment to the company by staying longer in the office or taking shorter lunch breaks. The mix of work and play cannot be misinterpreted to signify that Australians disregard their careers, they have merely created a work culture that does not overly obsess over working, but rather values a productive interaction between work and enjoyment in the work place.

I found that even though Australians may not work 15-hour days, still manage to accomplish their work while at the same time finding time to have fun with their colleagues, family and friends. This combination, I feel is something that the Unites States could find beneficial not only in the work environment, but also for society.”

I never considered the origins of Australia when we established our vision and values. It is far simpler than that; we are all people, with similar aspirations, each contributing to fulfill on our purpose – there is not one person in this organization who is ‘better’ than another. Each person adds their skills, talents and enthusiasm for the good of the group. Company is singular – not plural. We are one.  I never ever thought that where you sit would determine your seniority or position. Leadership comes from who you are not the role that you have been given.

Thanks Justin for your time with RedBalloon – you were a delight to work with – and we learned much from you too.

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