Purpose - The purpose of this paper is to investigate in an Anglo and a Confucian-Asian nation how pressure is exerted on middle managers by their subordinate staff, and the managerial activities affected. Design/methodology/approach - In a survey, Australian (n=251) and Singaporean (n=340) health managers rated the degree of pressure exerted on them by subordinate staff to devote additional time to various managerial activities. They described the influence strategies employed. Findings - Ratings of the average pressure experienced regarding nine managerial activities were identical in both cultures. Australian managers reported significantly greater pressure affecting people and general organisational management. Singaporeans experienced more pressure affecting their quality and data management tasks. Australian subordinates used more direct-assertive and direct-persuasive influence strategies. Singaporeans employed more indirect-assertive tactics, particularly poor work performance. Research limitations/implications -The generalisability of the findings may be limited by having convenience samples from one occupational sector. Practical implications - The cultural differences found are relevant to the increasing numbers of multinational organisations and expatriate and migrant workers. The information will inform discussions on factors affecting the assignment of managers' priorities, which can be at variance with their aspirations. Originality/value - Managers' experiences of pressure from subordinates and how pressure is conveyed have been under-researched, particularly cross-culturally.