Civilian workplace culture can be quite different to the ADF.

In many cases, the civilian workplace is much less structured than what you might be used to in the ADF. They can also differ in terms of dress standards, language, the formality of verbal and non-verbal communication, openness to opinions, and leadership styles.

For this reason, you should be aware that there may be a period of adjustment.

Workplace culture

Cultures can vary across workplaces, so it can be a learning curve for all new staff, not just those moving from the ADF.

The Department of Employment and Workplace Relations has a helpful guide on how to navigate a new work environment.

Leadership style

It is common in the civilian workforce for employees to expect to be listened to and heard. It is not usual in the civilian workplace to be given orders or issue harsh reprimands.

In the civilian workforce, successful leaders are more often influencers than commanders. 

Watch this talk by management theorist Simon Sinek about building trust and leadership in the workplace; using lessons drawn from military leaders.


In military culture, personnel are often referred to formally as "sir", "ma'am", or by rank. However, in the civilian workplace, using formal titles like these can make some employees uncomfortable.

While it is always important to be polite, rank or position are much less important. It is more acceptable for civilians to refer to co-workers, regardless of their position, by their first name.


Just as in the ADF, all workplaces use unique jargon and acronyms, take time to get to know the jargon and communication styles in your new workplace. 

Atlassian, a large Australian tech company have a guide to communication styles in the workplace you might want to read.

Different work styles

People with a military background have a strong commitment to safety, teamwork, direct and clear communication and task completion.

Other employees may have different work styles that are acceptable to the employer. Take the time to understand the different work styles of your colleagues and management.


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