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Eureka: My experience with Middle Eastern corporate culture
by Jay Gutman
2018-06-16 09:52:23
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Here's my experience working with Middle Eastern corporations, in no particular order.

-Like France, CEOs and directors have their own entrances, elevators, cafeterias, meeting rooms and in some cases their own floors. That is in many cases you'll never see or bump into the CEOs or the directors.

mebusiness001-Most workers don't have email. A lot of them have personal emails that they give away if they really have to. But company emails are not common, and when they exist, they are rarely used. Faxes and phone calls are the safest way to contact them.

-Arabic for private conversation, French or English for written conversation. Very few Middle Eastern companies communicate in Arabic in writing. Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia will use French, while Egypt, Sudan and the Arabian peninsula will use English. The Lebanese either use French or English.

-No company structure. The CEO and the directors have clear titles. But the rest, euphemistically referred to as “sub-titles” tend not to have titles or hierarchies among them. That can lead to a lot of confusion and disorganization.

-Mendacity. Mendacity means excessive lying. Let me give you an example of this. I once went to interview for a job at a Middle Eastern company. I stood waiting when someone invited me to an office and interviewed me. The job interview questions were tough and there was something fishy about the interview. Then someone came to the office and the interviewer just left in the middle of the interview. When I asked the person who came to the office what just happened, the person told me that I had just been interviewed by a janitor prentending to be a director. If you ask for information, they will give you an answer, just not an accurate one. In some cases they will tell you there's a meeting when there's no meeting. In other cases they'll tell you to go a task when there's no need for the task. And they will tell you the director ordered the task when there was no such order.

-Who said you need to be polite? A lot of times they will say good morning, but in some cases won't bother with good morning. They will throw papers at you, sit on your desk without asking for permission, take your stuff without asking for permission, and if you put money or valuables on that desk, they will be gone. Don't ever leave your passport or ID unattended. Laptops are often stolen, and things mysteriously disappear in offices.

-Are you threatening me? Middle Easterners like to threaten each other, including by saying they will “call the police” or “take you to court” for petty things.

-Who says I need to pay you or give you health insurance? Most companies have no set pay day nor do they provide health insurance when they should. A lot of times pay is in cash, rarely in the form of bank transfers.

-Lunch break. The most awkward silence in the world. In some cases Middle Easterners will go grab lunch together, but no conversation will take place. The problem is they will ask each other why this silence? Why are we silent? Bite, bite. Why are we silent?

-Gossip, revenge and ulterior motives. A lot of company gossip is pure invention about people. Office workers also like to reinvent themselves and will often claim to speak languages they don't speak or hold citizenship to countries they don't hold, or claim to be the children or nephews or nieces of famous politicians or generals. Gossip and revenge gossip is common. And if they can use you, they will use you.

-Paranoia and delusions of grandeur. A lot of Middle Eastern workers will tend to think they are a lot more important than they actually are, and they tend to be very paranoid with all the gossip and things left unsaid.

-The professional ones are let go. If you're efficient, have knowledge, connections or skills, you will tend to be let go fairly quickly. Knowledge connections and skills tend to make other workers look bad, and they will try to get rid of you, either by gossip or by direct harassment. In some cases they will set up traps for you.

-Taking care of private business. As I said before, pay tends to be low or even symbolic. This means a lot of workers tend to be looking at other jobs, other places, and will take care of private business at work, not just sometimes, but like all the time. If you're not careful enough, they might even set up a business within your business, that is steal your clients and divert them to their business. 

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