Workforce and Organizational Culture in Egypt

Introduction

In every country, business culture and workforce relations determine the ways of performance, interaction patterns between employees, managers, types of communication, climate, morale, and satisfaction. New business environments and cultural changes change organizational culture and influence the behavior and motivation of employees. Egypt represents a unique country dependent upon tourism, agriculture, and petroleum business. In Egypt, shared values, visions, relationships, and climate influence implementations and perceptions of organizational actions. The business change requires a new understanding of work relations and a new vision of the corporate goals and aims. Corporate and HR strategies are aimed to meet diverse customers’ expectations and treat culturally diverse employees as a single unified top talent. The company’s strategy is to expand internationally and deliver unique entertainment for both adults and children. Its corporate strategy provides to insiders and outsiders information about what the organization stands for, its image, values, and character (Barham and Conway 32). In spite of great democratic changes in Egypt, many of its workers suffer from inadequate compensation and low pay rates, lack of professional skills, and poor organizational culture. Many national companies in Egypt follow a strategy of product differentiation by technological innovation. It’s a ‘historical trend’ of the country which helps it to achieve success and leadership position on the market.

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The Concept of Organizational Culture in Egypt

The organizational culture in Egypt influences the implementation and acceptance of strategic objectives and goals. The shared values determine the bonding of organizational principles to the goal-setting process. Strategies that consider organizational values in their development will become an extension of organizational values. The organizational values that give the state credibility also will give credibility to the individual. They are a source of self-fulfillment and personal integrity. While organizational values relate to employees, profit, customers, stakeholders, community, and the like, individual goals will relate to fairness, honesty, trust, respect, quality, and cooperation. These are precisely the values that are inherent in the organizational values statement. Alone, these organizational values are far too general and open to interpretation. It is easy to forget the particular and complicated nature of human moral experience. Thinking about and discussing the ethical implications of a goal is more practical and valuable than using a list of values or ethical models. Acting on the ethical implications is even more valuable. Ethical action in the Egyptian workplace is the relentless effort to make values a part of the goal-setting equation. Where the managers go wrong, however, is in expecting more from these values than they can deliver (Barham and Conway 88).

Egyptians have little skill of working in formal organizations which, joint high-contextual cultures. This situation means that much of what goes on as preparation, supervising, and calculating is more symbolic than substantive, as will be seen. Many Egyptian institutions and business institutions are not very efficient, which is one reason why Egyptian executives prefer to use personal (family and friendship) relations instead of formal communication and apply a very modified and informal management style. Egyptian management style supports more detail in planning, and that Iranian managers thoroughly tend to take more variables into account when making strategic management decisions or in purchasing decisions than European managers, but this is for symbolic, not substantive reasons.

The Egyptian workers seem to deliberately avoid entering the world of mass marketing and brand-name goods. They also have no sense of after-sales service. Once a deal is done, it is done, and the nearest to anything we can call point-of-sales service would be the common Malaysian practice of ‘mooching’. Endless bargaining and a seemingly never-ending list, added to as the bargaining goes on, of ‘that little something extra’ has given the impression to outsiders that the Egyptians are among the toughest negotiators in the world. The Egyptians may appear obsessed and unreasonable, even ruthless, in negotiations. There is an Egyptian expression for this behavior when it is at its extreme, that is, to have a thick face and a black heart’, to pursue one’s own ends without considering the effect of one’s actions on others, and not showing any emotion in the meantime (Barham and Conway 87).

In Egypt, all business meetings are culturally determined. During meetings, handshakes are acceptable. Egyptian businessmen dress the same way as western collogues. Women should pay special attention to their appearance and avoid short skirts or bright colors. In Iran, businessmen should be very careful about hand gestures. It is also supposed rude for businessmen to expose the soles of their feet or shoes to others (it is rude to stretch legs while sitting on the floor). The proposition to visit a home of an Iranian man should be accepted, and the system of hospitality is based on sympathy (Brake et al 77). During negotiations, business decisions are slow. A western manager should not use deadlines because Iranians can cancel agreements and contracts. It is crucial to focus on the financial gains and advantages of projects because it is the most important part of business for Iranians. One reason for this could be the approach taken to inheritance and succession in the Iranian business firm (Barham and Conway 21).

As long as the Egyptians make money, they feel that time is on their side. On the other hand, thinking in terms of sales and the financial outcome makes Malaysians prone to short-term thinking. Though, foreign firms trying to do business with the Malaysians should not think short-term. In Egypt, much time is involved in mastering knowledge and skills and developing relations with the foreigner. The established communication with a foreign company can easily break down because of poor communication means and lack of mutual understanding. The point is not to work with the Egyptians in the sense of a complete strategic partnership, but accumulating faith, one step at a time (Brake et al 89).

Corruption in Egypt

In Egypt, corruption limits the potential impact of business. The reality is that situations are vastly different from those of more industrialized countries like Egypt in at least two dimensions. First, in most, if not all, substantial corruption exists among current institutions and officials, regardless of political orientation. That often results in siphoning off a substantial proportion of foreign investments and financial aid, which in turn puts a damper on potential entrepreneurs (Barham and Conway 29). Also, no substantial middle class or mass-market exists to drive mass consumption, encourage manufacturing, and stimulate exports. In Egypt, three institutions, usually closely intertwined, seek to retain their powerful and privileged positions and tend to counter business thrusts: the government, the military, and the oligarchy (or very wealthy). They compromise an unholy trinity in possession of the reins of power. Except for a very small proportion of the population at the very top, people in Egypt generally have exceedingly low standards of living, and illiteracy is rampant. This is coupled with arcane regulations that inhibit entrepreneurial initiative, both directly and indirectly, to discourage the poor from engaging in entrepreneurial ventures (Brake et al 71).

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For new business ventures to take hold in Egypt, it is usually necessary to disrupt an existing order, to threaten and even change the status quo, so as to break a repetitive poverty/unemployment cycle. In the past, the poverty/unemployment cycle has sometimes been interrupted by revolution. Though, it is possible to interrupt it without political and social concerns through the adoption of entrepreneurial approaches (Barham and Conway 69). Requisites include making new sources of capital and managerial assistance available to potential entrepreneurs who are poor and uneducated so as to encourage very small businesses, micro ventures that will motivate people to release their creativity, energy, and individual initiative. This contrasts with the widely adopted economic development strategies that focus on such large-scale capital investment projects as irrigation dams, hydroelectric plants, railways, major highways, and air and seaports. Although these projects are certainly needed and can help Egypt, in general, capital investment approaches to economic development have encountered some difficulties. They present ample opportunities for corruption and the diversion of funds. They assume that the funds invested will reach the poor, those who need help. In reality, little of it reaches people at the lower economic levels where it can make the maximum difference (Hofstede, 87).

Remuneration

In Egypt, the average pay is about $200-300 dollars. For many workers, pay, and promotional opportunities are based on the official job description rather than actual performance. Despite many gains, low-class people are grossly underrepresented in professional and managerial jobs (Schneider and Barsoux 102). Often, these employees are employed in the underground job market, where their credentials are less likely to attract undue scrutiny and where employers do not have to pay their share of workmen’s compensation insurance and withholding taxes. In effect, these foreign workers are modern-day scab workers whose employment allows their employers to cut labor costs and make higher profits. Businesses needed a fresh supply of low-wage labor; still, state authorities allowed millions of poor Mexicans, for example, to move across the Southwestern border and disperse throughout the nation (Barham and Conway 61). The amount of attitude change depends on employees’ initial position regarding diversity, their attention to the message and to the communicator, their understanding of the message, and their acceptance of the message. Depending on the motivational bases for employees’ anti-diversity attitudes, acceptance of diversity will be positively affected by diversity activities that provide tangible pay-offs (Schneider and Barsoux 108).

Cultural Values

In spite of the financial problems mentioned above, cultural ties are strong in Egypt. The lack of coordination and communication will influence organizational culture. Lack of ability limits an individual’s capacity to respond to a challenge–some people are not capable of performing in accordance with their goals. If they do not have the ability, they cannot reach them. In Egypt, performance levels off after the limits of ability have been reached. Decision-making has a stronger effect on high-ability than on employees (Trompenaars, 81). Thus, it is important to note that given a goal commitment, Egyptian employees continue working at the task until the goal is reached. Employees work longer and more tenaciously for a harder goal than for an easier one, but there can be a trade-off. Employees with low demands and a long time limit or no time limit may work more slowly than those with high demands in order to fill the time available. The excess time in such a case, however, is the result of a slower pace rather than of greater persistence. In Egypt, the prediction about the relationship of goal performance to satisfaction is this: the greater the success experienced by employees, the greater the degree of satisfaction experienced as well. When employees in Egyptian companies perform well, they not only feel satisfied with their performance but also generalize this positive effect to the task; they like the task more than they did previously. In conclusion, job satisfaction is not a result of either the person or the job alone but rather of the person in relation to the job. Organizational learning is an important part of transformations (Barham and Conway 69). Organizational cultures are distinguished by the degree to which learning and problem solving occur. The cultural values and traditions are represented by governing variables (or values) and untested assumptions that make problematic the detection and correction of error. Some of the cultural values of organizational behavior include unilateral protection of self and others, win-lose relations, owning and controlling of tasks, rationality, and suppression of negative emotions. Egyptian management follows a theories-in-use approach that maximizes interpersonal defenses and minimizes learning (Schneider and Barsoux 102).

In Egypt, the nature of the individual’s thoughts will also be relevant after goals have been formulated. Individuals choose to take action in accordance with each chosen goal. They should focus on what is to be achieved, the means needed to achieve it, and the reasons for, or benefits of, such action. Intrinsic motivation is not inherent in the task but rather exists inside the person (Barham and Conway 67). Though, the working environment tends to be governed just as strongly by imposed standards and external rewards (such as pay, recognition, and promotion) as it is by things that are done because they are personally rewarding. This is not to deny that one should enjoy work and achieve personal reward, but in real work settings, such motivation rarely operates in isolation from other types of external motivators. The new proposals will affect task performance in at least three ways (Trompenaars, 87).

The important aspect of culture is periodic evaluations of the overall performance, which makes the organizational culture transparent, as each step or method is reviewed in light of the overall strategic objectives. The simplicity of the process stages also reduces reluctance and mistrust between employees. Ongoing cultural management helps to identify possible problems and deviations early on and allows for corrections and the resolution of weaknesses. Needless to say, Egypt employees are to be part of this process. The Egyptian management tries to involve its employees in innovation processes in order to improve morale and motivate them. The first step is to display to workers that they stand to benefit from cooperating in the process of organizational culture and new values. The view of participation in planning and decision-making arouses fears and possibly resistance among workers new to this, based on their experience that workplace changes are frequently accompanied by deskilling and the removal of jobs (Barham and Conway 56). These types of plans do provide positive reinforcement for continuing to contribute to the culture. Thus, some barriers emerge from the concern that worker participation may eliminate the rights of some groups in Egyptian. Many managers fear the loss of control and decision-making authority. They are worried that worker’s participation means poor decision-making latitude and influence for them. Thus, worker’s participation is intended to open up new roles and responsibilities for managers as they are freed, for instance, from certain communication tasks that the workgroup can take on (Trompenaars, 39).

In Egypt, human motives develop in sequence according to five levels of needs. These needs are: psychological (hunger, thirst), safety (protection), social (be accepted, belong to a certain group), esteem (self-confidence, achievements, respect, status, recognition), and self-actualization (realizing one’s potential for continued self-development) (Barham and Conway 98). The proposals will threaten the need for achievement and esteem needs. It is suggested that the freedom to exercise initiative and ingenuity, to experiment, and to handle the problems of their jobs in their own way are crucial aspects of work. The proposals enveloped for the state will allow freedom of choice but will limit personal involvement in work. So, managerial integrity will be influenced by developing and consistently applying a well-honed set of organizational and individual moral values. Values such as honesty, fairness, and respect for the individual are prerequisites for achieving both integrity and effectiveness. The consistency between behavior and belief, in tune with organizational goals and values, permits the manager to deal with the realities of a particular goal and the means to accomplish it (Trompenaars, 34).

The organizational culture developed by many national corporations allows us to say that real dilemmas will occur in practical problems where values clash with pressures for tangible and immediate performance. Physical performance represents values that are readily quantifiable and measurable. They include such objectives as setting goals for growth, productivity, profit, career development, or promotion, all of which may involve career aspirations. The appeal is to pressure people to cut comers and to shade the truth to accomplish these tangible and measurable objectives. Managerial integrity can be easily compromised at the expense of the more intangible ethical standards. The more tangible measures also carry with them the potential to destroy the shared values on which managerial integrity is based (Barham and Conway 98). The pressure to perform naturally leads to a conflict between means and ends. Managers face the critical responsibility of choosing the right goal to ensure that what people are striving for is the ethical choice. Moreover, because of the propensity of people to do what they are told (and their natural inclination to accept goals as legitimate because they come from an authority figure or from the organization itself), it is crucial that managers do not ask people to employ unethical means to accomplish an otherwise noble goal. Both the means and the ends are valid subjects for ethical questioning (Trompenaars, 77).

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Conclusion

The problems mentioned above can be addressed by task forces that work on organization-wide issues. The task force investigates major issues, develops alternatives, looks at the advantages and disadvantages of each, and provides an action plan. Issues may include the organizational vision or the strategic plan itself. Task forces also address reorganization, rewards and recognition, communications, training, and education, to name a few. In organizations with effective teamwork, management retains authority for defining the vision. Though, work teams plan, set priorities, organize, coordinate with others, and take corrective action. They solve problems, schedule and assign work, and even handle personnel issues such as absenteeism and discipline. All these duties are prerogatives of management. Accordingly, the workforce must now hold the responsibility and authority to implement solutions if it is to be effective.

Works Cited

Barham K., Conway C. Developing business and people internationally: A mentoring approach. Ashridge Research, 1998

Brake, T., Walker, D. M., and Walker, T. Doing Business Internationally. Burr Ridge, IL: Irwin Professional, 1999

Hofstede, Geert. Culture’s Consequences, Beverly Hills, CA: Sage Publications, 1984.

Schneider, S.C. Barsoux. J.-L. Managing Across Cultures. Prentice-Hall; 2 Edition, 2002

Trompenaars, Fons. Riding the Waves of Culture, London: Nicholas Brealey Publishing, 2005.

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