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Meetings can be confusing affairs as they are often subject to unforeseen interruptions and alterations. Don’t expect the standard western approach of meeting room, punctuality, agenda, action points etc.
Punctuality is variable in the UAE and a meeting scheduled to start at 10am might start on time but may well start an hour or more late. It is also difficult to predict the end time of a meeting with any degree of accuracy – which can make it difficult to visit the UAE and arrange three meetings in the morning, followed by three meetings in the afternoon. Two meetings a day is probably the safest option.I
t is not uncommon to arrive at your meeting to find your host in a meeting with several other people and that these other people could be meeting your host about completely disconnected issues. This process can make meetings very lengthy and it can be a little frustrating if you don’t get the complete attention you feel you deserve.
Some people recommend setting up meetings at the up-market local hotels where you can serve coffee and refreshments at and where you are less likely to be interrupted as frequently! In the UAE, relationships are all-important and meetings will often start with a lot of seemingly trivial small-talk. Do not underestimate how important this relationship building process is to the overall success of your project. Make time to chat at the rewards will flow in the long-run.
Local management style will be directive and paternalistic. Managers are expected to give clear and direct instructions to their subordinates and the subordinate will be expected to carry out the instructions to the letter. Lack of clear directional leadership will be seen as confusing (at best) and at the extreme, as very poor management. As a result of this approach, it can appear to outsiders that local managers are overly abrupt or eve rude with their staff.
It is important to think of these internal relationships in terms of a family. The boss is the â€˜fatherâ€™ and the employees are the â€˜childrenâ€™. The father tells the children what to do but also looks after them and cares for them. The â€˜childrenâ€™ do as they are told and show their father â€˜respectâ€™. It is a two-way relationship in which all parties benefit.
One of the by-products of this paternalistic management style can be a lack of initiative. Employees do what the boss tells them to do but no more. To do more than you are told would be to disobey your boss. Therefore,make sure that any instructions are delivered clearly, precisely and comprehensively. If you donâ€™t,t hings might not get done at all
Self-promotion and self-deprecation Certain cultures find it difficult to speak positively about themselves and prefer to understate their abilities and self-deprecate about themselves in general.
Other cultures, however, are much more self-promotional and would find it bizarre to say they were not very good at something when in fact they were skilled in that area. These cultures will only say they are not good at something if they genuinely have a problem in that area.
People from cultures which prefer understatement often find colleagues and clients from more self-promotional cultures to be aggressive and arrogant whereas people from the more self-promotional cultures will often take on face value the understatement of other cultures – they believe them if they say they have a weakness! Self-deprecating cultures include: Japan, China, Korea, UK, Finland Self-promotional cultures include: USA, Australia, France, Brazil Written and spoken word
Some cultures place far greater emphasis on the importance of written communication between people. Only when something has been communicated in writing does that issue become a reality Other cultures place much greater emphasis on the value of spoken communication – things are only really believed when they have been communicated by people with whom they have a strong, trusting relationship. This simple fact can have a major impact on communication flow and the achievement of objectives within an international team.
Do you communicate to each team member in exactly the same format regardless of their cultural background? Might it be a good idea to communicate more information orally to certain people if you want them to fully ‘buy-in’ to what you want to achieve? Written-word cultures include: Germany, UK, USA, Sweden, Netherlands Spoken-word cultures include: Spain, Italy, Saudi Arabia, India, Brazil Use of English Non-native speakers need to be given every assistance to ensure that they can fully participate in international meetings and conference calls.
The question,â€˜Who am I dealing with?â€™ is also critical when thinking about company structures and how they impact on the interface with any local organisation.
Are you dealing with the subsidiary of an international organisation headquartered outside the UAE? If so, they are likely to be heavily influenced by the approach,processes and methodologies of the parent company â€“ and the key staff are likely to be expatriates.
If, however, you are dealing with a locally owned business you are likely to find that they are family-owned and controlled. Nepotism is a still a way of life and key positions will often be filled by trusted family members. Who can you trust if not your own family? As with most family-owned organisations,t he company will be organised along strongly hierarchical lines with the majority of power being held at the top by the senior, usually older, male family members. It is important to try to get access to these key decision-makers, even if you are initially being dealt with by more junior employees.
All major decisions will be made at the top and you will need influence at that level. As all business is family and relationship-based, it is absolutely vital to be prepared to devote as much time and effort as necessary to relationship-building. Every contact within an organisation is important, as you may not be aware of everybody’s connections. A seemingly lowly employee may prove to be a favoured relative of a senior figure and therefore of greater potential help than some other apparently more important contact.
It is also important to find out if the company you are dealing with is Sharia law compliant. If a company is Sharia law compliant, this will mean that the company is subject to the tenets of Islamic law and its actions will be overseen by a Sharia council consisting of appointed Muslim clerics. This Sharia council will monitor the activities of the organisation to ensure that no Koranic edicts are transgressed,