What are the cultural agents at play in your workplace? How do cultural agents describe organizations? (500 words) (5%)
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In the UAE, the homogeneity of the society is highly valued due to the significant number of expatriates that are currently living and working in the country. Therefore, companies and national organizations, as well as the government, are focused on preserving the cultural heritage of the UAE. This, in return, influences the workplace and employees. Employees need to be aware of existing traditions, celebrations, beliefs, and rules to understand how companies work. Ceremonies and national holidays directly influence the working process and relationships between employees – they are expected to understand and respect the existing national holidays even if they do not celebrate them. Those celebrations that are seen as global rather than national (e.g. New Year, Women’s Day) are respected as well. However, one needs to take into consideration that the cultural policy in Abu Dhabi and the UAE is focused on the Arab identity and its promotion, which also can influence expatriates and other employees who were not born or raised in the UAE.
Nevertheless, since Abu Dhabi is a city that is often referred to as “the biggest cultural and financial hub” in the UAE, it welcomes foreign relations and employees from different countries with different cultures. The UAE’s aim to promote Arab identity does not imply that employees of other nations will be treated differently. Instead, employees are expected to adjust to the existing social norms and rules. For example, employees need to understand that the most senior person in the room is greeted first. Punctuality is valued, but it is not considered rude to be late. However, in our company punctuality is crucial. Contrary to the USA, those who live in the UAE do not prefer straightforward conversations, even during business meetings. Instead, communication and conversations before negotiations are welcome. Meetings and negotiations are usually postponed during major holidays; that is why it is inadvisable to plan a meeting during any national holiday, for example, the end of Ramadan.
Cultural agents indicate if and how cultural values and features are seen in a company. Global multinational companies that spread across several continents are usually not as sensitive to cultural agents as those who build their business in one country. Nevertheless, multinational corporations can arrange celebrations for their employees in the local offices, by the recent holidays and other local events. Therefore, cultural agents show if culture influences the company’s management and operations, and how it is approached by the heads of the company. Although some companies might argue they are not influenced by cultural agents, every company is characterized by them. Flexible hours and free schedules are more common for Western (American/Canadian) companies, while Eastern and Asian companies prefer fixed schedules (except during Ramadan). In Western societies, CEOs can be seen as equal to employees; in the East, CEOs are seen as authorities who are highly respected. If a company refuses to acknowledge differences in business, it might lead to unsuccessful deals and a hostile negotiation environment. Attention to cultural agents needs to be highly valued.