Israeli work culture is very open and unique than other work cultures around the globe. You should be prepared to not get offended or to offend others if you want to make your business visit or settling-in comfortable in this country.
Israel is a small country with the entire population considered as one big family. Considering this, Israeli work culture is based more on personal connections than on professional terms. The communication is more open, casual and informal. And a lot of effort is put into making personal connections between business partners and colleagues. Business is very fast paced and socialising over coffee is very common.
Israeli work culture is poly-chronic (relationship oriented), different from the more widely used mono-chronic (rule oriented) culture. In Israeli culture emotions of openness, honesty and warmth are much more appreciated, while planning, efficiency, and orientation might be considered secondary.
Here are a few pointers to keep in mind before your next business adventure in Israel.
Interaction among colleagues is very open, direct and spontaneous. Israelis aren’t used to formalities, using understatements or speaking about issues indirectly. If you are using passive signs or subtlety, you’re going to leave your Israeli colleagues confused. They do not deal with vagueness and often interpret it as being dishonest. If you resort to formality and subtlety it will become difficult for you to gain the trust of your Israeli colleagues.
At work, they will usually prefer sorting any issues directly, as in, face-to-face, which may include something as informal as confrontation, speaking loudly, and direct criticism. Using heavy body language such as hand gestures and facial expressions is also common. After resorting to direct verbal communications to express their feelings, thoughts, ideas and to resolve problems more quickly and efficiently. You’ll also see that after the encounter, which many might term as a ‘fight’, both the parties will resume their former relationship almost immediately. After the conversation, a wall of trust is built and they will be ready to move on with the job at hand.
Flexibility, innovation, adaptability and taking initiative along with being a team player with the ability to communicate with the members honestly and openly are highly appreciated traits. As the business is very fast paced, Israelis value quick actions over careful planning and detailed work schedules. They will prefer initiative, and solving of problems any day over the long process of bureaucracy which is seen as a waste of time. And plans often tend to change over short notice or immediately to fit the specific or current situation.
Though timetables and schedules are a part of every project, Israelis’ view of flexible time often leads to decreased use of time-tables and agendas. This might lead to imprecise starting and ending time for the meetings. Though meeting a deadline is appreciated but somehow everyone expects it to be pushed a bit before the end. Circulating an agenda before the meeting and follow up progress after the meeting is another practice that isn’t specifically practised in Israeli work culture. But lack of this rarely affects the content or efficiency of the meeting. Which often result in getting things done, making necessary decisions, and getting closure on unresolved issues.
Work Place Hierarchy
Open interaction across organisational hierarchy is a blend in Israeli work culture. The atmosphere is formal, yet pleasant and friendly at an interpersonal level. There is a hierarchical management structure, but it isn’t followed rigidly. Even a new employee can freely interact with anyone of any rank as long as the communication is presented in a formal gesture or if any help or support is needed in a particular area.
Decisions are either made during staff or work team meetings depending on their importance. Everyone has the right to express or question as meetings usually take the form of open discussions. In the presence of the supervisor, employees can even spontaneously suggest ideas, give their opinions or even complain. They need not follow a chain of command in order to speak to someone as bureaucracy is not overused. And unofficial communication is also widely encouraged. Israel is very civilised within the framework of a middle eastern country that’s striving very hard to be ‘Western’. And now, as interaction with the outside world is gradually increasing, Israelis are adapting.