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We share four core values, which were created to shape the culture of our workplace

Our values are:





Promotes equity




Manaakitaka / Respect

Promotes Equity

What we want to see What we don't want to see
Inclusive, treats people as individuals, celebrates differences Challenges, denies or ignores people's cultural or personal identity
Develops cultural competence and respects cultural needs Displays racism, sexism or other forms of discrimination
Develops empathy, shows interest in and consideration for others Dismissive, belittling, judging, talks down, patronising, stereotyping
Respects and acknowledges others' views, beliefs, choices and feelings Doesn't consider the impact of their actions or decisions on others
Helpful, kind, willing, supportive of others, goes out of their way Rude, aggressive, abrupt, undermining, bullying or harassing
Compassionate and looking out for each other Behaviour that harms other people's health or well-being


Manaakitaka is about values of integrity, trust, sincerity and equity. Manaakitaka means to extend aroha (love and compassion) to others. It is found in acts such as helping a loved one, encouraging one another or even supporting a complete stranger. Manaakitaka is one of the most important concepts to Māori people as it secures the strength of our whānau (families) and communities. Manaakitaka encompasses reciprocal hospitality and respect from one individual or group to another – with values like mana and utu / revenge, reflected in culture, language, and continuous efforts to be generous hosts. It also acknowledges the mana of others as having equal or greater importance than your own, through the expression of aroha / love, hospitality, generosity and mutual respect. In doing so, all parties are elevated and the host status is enhanced, building unity through humility and the act of giving.

Pono / Integrity


What we want to see What we don't want to see
Clear and transparent about their actions, decisions and reasons Makes decisions without consulting or talking with those affected
Believes in other people, gets to know people and their strengths Micro-manages, blames, displays favouritism, gossips about people
Accountable for their own actions, takes initiative, professional Puts own interests first, displays a “not my job” attitude, unhelpful
Clear about roles and responsibilities, sets reasonable goals Undermines or sets people up to fail


Pono motivates people to act, it places a standard in terms of being tika in everything that is done, it reminds people to be consistent in what they do, to do it with aroha.

Māhirahira / Curiosity


What we want to see What we don't want to see
Inquisitive, questioning, learning, open to new ideas or approaches Imposes own ideas or biases, makes unfounded assumptions
Approachable, welcomes people, their strengths and experience Closed, inflexible, arrogant, dismissive, unavailable
Brings a positive, enthusiastic attitude to work, smiles, laughter Unnecessarily grumpy, moaning or negative
High aspirations, embraces change, tries to improve, finds solutions Accepts status quo, apathy, ambivalence, “good enough” attitude
Actively seeks out feedback as a chance to learn and improve Rejects feedback, argues, criticises, blames
Gives feedback fairly where needed, even if it is difficult to give Fails to give feedback so others can improve, “walks by” issues


Māhirahira is to be curious, inquisitive.

Whakawhanaukataka / Community


What we want to see What we don't want to see
Listens, is present, actively engaged Does not listen, is absent, disengaged, self-focused
Co-operative, collegial and seeks out input from other people Silo-working, isolates or excludes people, avoids collaboration
Shares and communicates clearly, involves people in decisions Doesn't communicate or share knowledge, doesn't consult others
Ambitious for others to reach their potential, encouraging Fails to recognise or ignores others' contributions or successes
Notices and appreciates people for their efforts so they feel valued Takes credit without recognising others involved


Whakawhanaukataka is the process of establishing links, making connections and relating to the people one meets by identifying in culturally appropriate ways, whakapapa linkages, past heritages, points of engagement, or other relationships. Establishing whānau connections is kinship in its widest sense.

Whakawhanaukataka reinforces the commitment that members of a whānau have to each other while also reminding them of their responsibilities and obligations to all (Berryman et al., 2002).

In a metaphoric sense, Mead (2003) asserts that whanaungatanga reaches beyond actual whakapapa relationships and includes relationships to people who are not kin but who, through shared experiences, feel and act as kin. Within this type of metaphoric whānau relationship, while one may receive support from the collective, be it whānau or otherwise, there is a responsibility to contribute your support in return.

How our staff values guide us

Our University and its staff are on a journey to embed our staff values into the DNA of our workplace. They form a framework to guide how we act as individuals and teams, and how we lead, manage and make decisions.


The values have been or are being included in the following policies:

  • Ethical Behaviour Framework

They have also been included in:

  • Annual staff awards
  • Performance Development Reviews
  • Recruitment guides
  • Onboarding information
  • All HR training programmes

Projects to progress our values

Two groups of staff and students have been working in the latter half of 2020 to propose a series of proactive projects using feedback from the 2019 staff engagement survey.

These projects will aim to build on positive feedback about things the University does well, and to improve the areas feedback has shown we can do better.

The ideas from the groups are being further developed and will be considered by senior University leadership for implementation in 2021.

Upcoming training

Information about training opportunities for teams and individuals to learn more about our values, or to build our skills as staff, will be available here as they are developed.

History of our values

In 2019, the University started a staff values project called Shaping our culture, together – He waka kotuia.

The project was an opportunity for the staff of the University of Otago to choose their shared values for their working environment.

Through a staff and student survey and a series of workshops, staff worked together to define the values and elements of a positive work environment for themselves and their colleagues.

By November 2019, feedback from the surveys and workshops had been presented and a set of sessions were held to craft ideas on how the final staff values could be incorporated into University processes, such as recruitment and student experience.

Early in 2020, the agreed values and a behaviour framework were approved by the Vice-Chancellor's Advisory Group. These now form the Otago Staff Values.


Feel free to download and share these resources for you or your team.




This eLearning is only accessible on a University of Otago campus.

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The third Staff Values and Behaviours Staff Survey was run in October/November 2023.

Acting Vice-Chancellor Professor Helen Nicholson provided the key statistics to staff at an all-staff forum on 14 December 2023.

View the Staff Values Survey slides

Next steps

Reports for each Division (academic and service divisions) will be provided to Divisional leaders in February 2024.

In March, reports specific to schools, departments and units that have more than 10 responses will be provided to HoDs/Directors.

Each Division, school, department or unit that receives a report will be encouraged to share it within their teams, highlighting results showing positive scores and improvements, and identifying any areas requiring focus. With the support of HR, each area with a report will also be asked to develop a plan to address the matters of concern the reports indicate.

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