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Human resources in the Middle East Human resources in the Middle East
by Joseph Gatt
2019-08-22 07:27:40
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Sweeping generalizations and general notes on human resources in the Middle East, in no particular order.

-There are lots of good things when it comes to human resources in the Middle East. But I'll start with a bad one, but important one. “Ssem” “Ssam” or “Sseum” (depending on the country) means snake venom. The notion of venom is complicated to explain. For example, if one worker is particularly brilliant, they will try to “kill the worker” with a very bad temper. If a worker wins a big contract, they will try to “kill the worker” with a bad temper and with other forms of sabotage. The notion would be too long to explain, but one final example would be either starting rumors about good workers, or giving good workers the silent treatment, or making a huge deal about a “blunder” by a good worker when there was no “blunder.”

midlehuman01-So you need to understand that most Middle Eastern workers “'indhoum el-sseum” which means that they have venom they are ready to use any moment. Not all workers have that, but you need to understand that your Middle Eastern workers will “hate” pretty much everyone else who works with them.

-Here's a final note on “sseum” or venom with a final example. Ahmed speaks 5 languages fluently and is an expert at any machine or computer. He fixes everything with dexterity and loves helping people. Ahmed is also very kind and reliable. When you ask his colleagues to describe Ahmed, they will say something like “be careful, Ahmed is a pathological liar, I think he's seeing a psychiatrist, he's depressed, and he can't fix much of anything. Don't ask him anything, he'll destroy anything he touches.”

-Hiring. Middle Eastern workers tend to be very entrepreneurial and the very best will very often, almost always be self-employed. So when hiring, very often, you'll have to go for mediocre. Most applicants won't have formal work experience, or will have very little work experience. Most resumes are one page, most contain very little experience, few skills, and everyone writes “good team player” and “good interpersonal skills” on their resume. Most applicants will be in their 20s and early 30s, everyone else is either self-employed or employed.

-Here's a huge tip. The most sensitive period for a new hire is the first three months. If your worker survives three months, or six months, there's a good chance they'll be staying for the next 6, 7, 8, 9, 20 years. Chances are the new recruit is a good person, so you want to make things easy for them the first three or six months. If you give them all the complicated work, unfortunately, they will tend to resign if they feel like they are incapable of getting the tasks done.

-Don't rely on colleagues to train other colleagues. Most Middle Easterners are terrible “teachers.” Most will leave other colleagues walking in the dark and most won't teach their colleagues anything. Many will even make stuff up and teach that stuff to their colleagues. So you want a “hands on” approach on most things.

-Don't rely on workers to share bad news, in some cases to share good news. If you're going to get an informant, here are the rules. One, don't take your informant out to a restaurant or a bar or a café. Two, make lots of small talk before you start discussing sensitive company issues. Small talk could be the weather, new smart phone apps, really nice videos you've seen on YouTube or anything else. Four, when discussing staff always say “he's a good person, but...” or “she's a good person, but...” and don't drag the conversation on and on about office gossip, keep it concise. Five, if you have plans to fire someone, keep them to yourself, and when you fire the person, make it sound like it's an “economic decision” and has nothing to do with “incompetence.” Give them a letter of recommendation when you fire them, and give them a couple of farewell gifts, even if the person was obnoxious.

-Finally, most embassies and companies in the Middle East have a lot of trouble with something called “team building.” Middle Eastern workers tend to compete with each other, have a lot of “venom” toward each other and tend to put each other down. A mistake would be to organize group parties or events, because the only thing you'll get from those is team members playing with their smart phones during the entire duration of the event. Lectures on “soft-skills” tend to have zero impact and they'll go back to their old ways anyway. So when hiring people, you want to look at geographical location. I'm not inviting discrimination, but teams tend to work best when they grew up in the same neighborhood. Unfortunately that's the reality of the Middle East.

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