Food can unlock Pacific People’s potential in the workplace.

“Food plays an important social and cultural role in all Pacific societies, over and above
human biological needs for nourishment and survival. In traditional settings, food is used as a
means of maintaining societal norms and practices and affirming one’s identity and place.
There are clear rules and expectations with regard to the production, preparation, storage,
distribution and consumption of food. Indeed, food defines people and cultures.”

Like faith and family it is the understanding and acknowledgement of our relationship with
food that is the key to unlocking our potential in the workplace.

Now, we all know as pacific people we love our food. But it’s not just what is served (this is
very important in a different context e.g. as it can show the value or status of the hosts and of
the guests) in some context it is also important how it is served and even for some islands who
serves it… however, in a workplace context it is more about one, the understanding that food
can be used to bring people together, two, food can be used to celebrate success or
recognise achievement and three it demonstrates reciprocity.

In an educational context providing food on the first day of training symbolises that you as the
employer/trainer value participants, their attendance and input. From my experience you
can create more effective talanoa sessions by providing food and is a powerful tool still
under-utilised in today’s businesses.

A note to remember though, if you do provide food for Pasifika people it is best to get some
guidance from someone who is knowledgeable in this. For example, in western cultures it is
acceptable to provide tea and biscuits (maybe a packet of super wines) in pacific culture
(including Māori) this could be taken that you don’t value them or the relationship E.g. You
value my time and this relationship to the cost of a packet of biscuits. Now, I’m not suggesting
you go out and spend the entire marketing budget on food but with good advice you can
provide an acceptable range of food without giving offence or blowing the budget.

Also, taking into account our faith before eating give your staff the opportunity to bless the
food with lotu/karakia (prayer) and even if you don’t feel hungry, please try to eat something.
Not eating or eating your own food is a sign of disrespect. For non-pasifika people this can be
one of the hardest things to navigate, questions of am I doing enough or eating when I should
or how much to eat, just take your queues from the pacific people in your team, they will want
you to feel at ease and sharing of food for them is one of the greatest signs of respect you
can give them so just go with it, enjoy the benefits and watch the potential of your pacific
people be unleashed.

“Aramas chok angang”
People must work together to accomplish great tasks. 6

6 Collective action is better than individual action.