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One of the most bizarre techniques that is sometimes adopted by weak managers of culturally weak organizations is the use of threatening language in the communication channels across the organization levels!

The repeated use of expressions like (or else … those who are not with us are against us … I will remember that in the annual appraisal … if you do not want to stay on the ship) in meetings, emails, circulations, or even in the company written policy, cause nothing on the long run but the loss of trust, disappearance of loyalty, and performance tardiness.

What provoked this post is a memo by one of the international brands working in Saudi Arabia. It is hanged beside one of its warehouses in front of everyone to see. It is written in Arabic; but here is its translation:

Attention!!!!!!!!!!!! For all staff, please do not set anywhere outside the store unless it is a permitted area. If these instructions are not followed, the store management will have to take any necessary action.

Regardless of the main topic of the memo, which is the staff seating arrangements, the memo was going somehow OK till the threatening language begun. As someone who knows nothing about the internal processes or culture of this company, reading these few lines I can tell that it is based on fear and intimidation. I can picture how demotivated their staff are and how the internal communication channels are filled with tension.

I am not saying that companies policies should not contain rules against misbehavior and so forth, but I am saying use them wisely, trust your staff, and do not threaten them. If you cannot build your company, department, or team culture based on trust, rest assured that you are going … nowhere!

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[picapp align=”left” wrap=”true” link=”term=money&iid=269646″ src=”http://view2.picapp.com/pictures.photo/image/269646/people-holding-money/people-holding-money.jpg?size=500&imageId=269646″ width=”234″ height=”351″ /]A very interesting idea about our relationship with money had been published in HBR March 2010 issue.

To get the feel of the study, imagine yourself in the following situation; imagine yourself counting money while one of your friends is counting papers. Now, if you both were asked to dip your hands in hot water, the study says that you, the one who have been playing with money, will report less pain.

Not only that, it will work in reverse as well. Now imagine yourself writing down your last month expenses while your friend is recording, say, the weather temperatures for the same month. In this case, the study says that you will report more pain because your were around the idea of spending money.

So in few words, the study conducted by Dr. Kathleen D. Vohs is stating that money gives us inner strengthen and can reduce our physical and emotional pain.

It is a really interesting idea. It is not that surprising that we all feel some way or another about money. And I am sure social and psychological scientists have a lot to debate about these findings.

The interesting part of the study comes in its recommendations. It is about using cash to compensate customers or reward employees. The examples used in the study go like this; if an airline would like to apologize to its customers for that 8 hours delay, it is better to give them cash. And when rewarding those customer service agents, do not given them bounces deposited to their accounts, give them cash.

I have to admit that although cash means a lot of things to us, thinking of it as a source of motivation or stress releasing incentive does not feel totally right. Management literature is filled with studies that actually refer to the contrary, to the fact that money could sometimes leads to dissatisfaction rather than satisfaction (check out Herzberg’s motivation-hygiene theory.)

More studies are still needed to determine when such claims can be found true and under which conditions. Because I am sure there are situations when money can mean nothing!

What do you think?

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Do you remember the first day of your new job? or first day at school? you must’ve been through what is known as ‘the orientation phase.’ It is the phase when you are guided around to be familiar with your new environment, and along the way, the seeds of the new place culture are implanted in your head!

So, we have all been there, right? But have you ever been through the ‘disorientation phase’? Whether you realized that or not … the answer is … YES!

I am using this phrase, disorientation, influenced by this interesting article I just read in New York Time about the American University in Cairo. However, although the phrase itself might not be widely recognized or used in the management circles, it has some origins in organizational culture studies. Look at this definition of organization culture by Edgar Schein:

“A pattern of shared basic assumptions that the group learned as it solved its problems of external adaptation and internal integration, that has worked well enough to be considered valid and, therefore, to be taught to new members as the correct way you perceive, think, and feel in relation to those problems.”

For that, companies with strong culture usually use the concept of disorientation to realign the new staff to their internal values, beliefs, and practices. Yes they recruit based on competitive advantages, experiences, skills, etc, but still, a bigger part of their decision to choose someone is based on the ability of the candidate to fit in the organization culture. They have clear understanding of their identity, of what they need from an employee, so the selection process is clear and consistent. Examples of such companies are 3M, Google, Apple, P&G and Starbucks.

On the other hand, companies with weak cultures are only trying to imitate the companies with strong ones; the only problem is that they do not know how!! It could be argued that cultures cannot be imitated, they can be created and enhanced with distinctive efforts and exceptional leaders, but not imitated. Look around and you would see a lot of companies claiming day and night, mostly for PR purposes, that they have unique values and super practices. And for a new staff in there, he/she will be disoriented alright! but in a way that he/she will be loosing, or at least suppressing anything good he/she brought with him/her just to fit in this poor culture!!

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[picapp align=”left” wrap=”true” link=”term=construction+worker&iid=307203″ src=”0303/0000303913.jpg?adImageId=12670905&imageId=307203″ width=”234″ height=”234″ /]The blog post named “Discrimination at KAUST, the Oger Way” published today by Nathan, the American student at KAUST and the blogger of “Saudi Aggie,” was very disturbing and you have no choice but to finish reading it filled with sadness, anger, and frustration.

The discussion of how inhuman practices are spread in our ‘low class’ labor market is not new to the public scene, but it is an issue we just like to pretend it does not exist! It is no secret, to almost anybody, that these people are abused in so many ways. They are over worked and under paid. And do not let me start talking about their housing, medical coverage, and their overall humanistic well being.

Most Saudi companies are, unfortunately, part of this mess. Most of them are outsourcing these small-low-service jobs to few companies in the market without any kind of supervision or intervention. They just want to pay the least amount of money to get the job done … and that’s it! On the other hand, while the service companies are winning millions because of these contracts, they are giving the field workers the crumbs, if not less than that!

And let’s just get few steps away from the humanistic dimension of the problem. How these companies are expecting those workers to perform while living in such conditions. what kind of management and what kind of workers motivation is this?

I cannot comment much on Nathan’s post, it is self-explanatory, but I really hope this incident will be investigated by the KAUST administration. And that director who spelled those ugly-full-of racism comments about those poor workers to be investigated and even taken to court if found guilty. This should not be happening in the gate of our future! This is should not be happening in front of our guests who are coming from all over the world!

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No doubt about it; it is a historical moment for Saudi Arabia that just decided to go nuclear. A royal decree initiated the nuclear era for the Kingdom by announcing the establishment of King Abduallah Nuclear and Renewable Energy City in Riyadh. For a wealthy country that can afford the initiating stage of nuclear facilities like Saudi Arabia, such decision should not come as surprise at all. It could be even said that it’s been an awaited decision for some time now.

Such a move is a step further in many fields and on so many levels. And these are some interesting points:

  • Modernizing the almost expired electricity and desalinated water infrastructure beside reducing the dependance on hydrocarbon resources.
  • Meeting the increasing demands on power and water in a country that besides its huge requirements, it aspires to attract more foreign capital and creates more competitive investment environment.
  • Opening a whole new market with all its needs of manpower, technology, and logistics.
  • Familiarizing the country with the technology that could be later on extended to the medical field applications and scientific research requirements (it seems that because of KAUST, we are now more relaxed talking about scientific researches … and let me tell you, that feels great 🙂 )

I still remember how the nuclear engineering department in King Abdulaziz University (KAU) was not amongst the favorites by us, the engineering students, by that time. I assume that it will be among the most desired majors in the coming few years in the Kingdom and we might see more nuclear sections in both science and engineering within our universities. And that is another benefit of going nuclear.

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Let me ask you something; what is the first thing that might form your first impression of a country that you visit for the first time? If you thought of those gentlemen, or ladies, sitting behind desks checking you up with sharp eyes while stamping your passport, then you are right; they are the immigration officers.

I am really glad to read this piece of news about the Saudi General Directorate of Passports (GDP). Its management is planning to provide its staff with intensive English and etiquette trainings. Now this is something really interesting.

Looking from unbiased eye, there is something that you should really respect and admire in these people, I mean the Saudi GDP officials. They want to develop and they are sweating over it. Compared to a number of government service agencies; I would choose them to be my favorite. For me, and I am writing this from Jeddah, they are the only government destination that I won’t worry so much about whenever I am obligated to visit. They have a process and everything there is clear and systematic. I am not saying everything is perfect, but it is somehow organized.

It is the only government agency, from where I see it at least, that adopted some customers service and branding principles from the private sector. They are the only government body that recognized its role as a service provider in addition to its main and official roles. They have gotten closer to their customers by being present in some of the finest malls in the country. They have run a powerful public awareness campaign introducing their new biometrics system. They have provided several and unprecedented electronic services such as Ishaar, Muqeem, and Passports Gate.

And as we are talking about marketing and branding, I really hope that they would change their location in jeddah. It is not that much when we talk ‘brand image.’ ‘Place’ is one of the 7 P’s of service marketing and creating a distinguished service experience, no matter how organized it is from the operational point of view, cannot be completed without a proper place, a proper environment.

Having said that, all the above mentioned services are still for citizens and those living within the country. But when we talk about the Saudi gates and how immigrations officials are dealing with visitors, mmm, the image is not that bright! So by recognizing the problem and working on solving it by providing the above mentioned trainings, I really hope the Directorate efforts will turn out to be a smashing success. After all, it is not only about their brand image, it is the whole country image.

Finally, my ‘free spirit’ statement; I do not know anybody working in the Saudi GDP, and this post has not been influenced by them in anyway 🙂

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[picapp align=”left” wrap=”true” link=”term=medical+professional&iid=239766″ src=”0236/51d5f07e-2b87-485f-9b5f-1e6f774bd3ec.jpg?adImageId=8877895&imageId=239766″ width=”234″ height=”156″ /]Believe it or not, about 15,000 individuals working in the Saudi healthcare centers should not be working in the field at all according to this press release in Okaz (in Arabic). Some of them have fake certificates and some of them are not licensed to practice.

It seems to me that there are big flaws in the recruitment process followed by our health institutions. Given that we have a Saudi Commission for Health Specialties (SCHS) working in the field as a regulator for medical professions since 1992; you have to wonder what were they really doing all this time?

I do not claim to be totally aware of their regulations but I’ve heard their representatives talking on the radio and read some of their comments in newspapers and it seems that they are doing a good job; again, it seems! As I understand, every health professional has to undergo a written test in his/her field before being eligible for practicing in the field. And to renew the license, he/she has to go through certain training programs in addition to adhering to renewal tests again and again.

The fact of the matter that recruiting medical professionals is a one unique human resources practice that I am not sure our health institutions understand rather than follow. Background checks on experience and source of education becomes almost mandatory to any applicants in this field. Furthermore, the technique of interviews and tests should be unique to the profession that certainly requires certain skills and personalities to be able to practice it.

Someone could go further and argue that the acceptance process in medical schools or any health education institutions should be refined because it is almost obvious, it is not suitable for everyone, even if they have the highest grades in high school!!

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