The business set up in Saudi Arabia is exceptionally conservative and to make sure successful cross cultural working environment you will need to uphold a proper degree of formality.
1) Superiors and those in senior positions are always deferred to and be treated with utmost respect. Treat your co-workers with respect as well.
2) Do not question the decisions that has been reached inside the workplace or in a round table. Decisions are only made by the highest-ranking employees while in general their subordinates will wait to be told what to do.
3) When working with people from Saudi Arabia, it’s advisable to bolster the importance of the deadline agreed upon. Saudi educated managers appreciate the importance of executing deadlines and work schedules.
4) Saudis are tough in negotiating table at work. They believe that everything is open to discussion and should arrived a concrete decision on the matter and repeating your main points will be interpreted that “you’re telling the truth” and “they’re telling lies”. You may need to compromise on a point if someone’s honor is at stake.
5) Saudi’s sensibilities are common in the working environment, so ensure you don’t offend colleagues by telling them “you are wrong” on a certain decision that were made. Business and friendship go hand in hand in Saudi Arabia.
6) It is necessary to get to know your associates in the workplace. As an expat it is good to note that the traditional Saudi greeting is “As-Salaam-Alaikum” which means “Peace Be Upon You”. The traditional response is “Wa-Alaikum-Salaam” means “and Peace Be Upon You”. Saudis are very proud of their culture, learning this small phrase is very pleasing to them.
7) When meeting, you should shake hands with everyone present, starting with the most senior and proceed anti-clockwise around the room and eye contact is important as this will show honesty and naturalness.
8) Saudi Arabians have a different sense of personal space to expatriate workers and most likely stand close to you while talking or discussing something. The significance is placed on politeness and the building of relationships, so always be considerate and civil.
9) Saudi’s address each other in the workplace by “Ab” or “Abu”, this means “Father” and usually followed by the name of their son ie: “Abu Sultan” or “Abu Saad” (Father of Saad or Father of Sultan). Do not address them using “Ab” or “Abu”, it may cause offense as it is usually only done if you are close personal friends. Saudi traditional greeting will do followed by a sincere smile.
10) The Saudis have a relaxed attitude towards timekeeping. Meeting decisions often take time but never show impatience as this will be regarded as a sign of weakness and defeat.
If you have this kind of attributes at work in Saudi Arabia, surely you will be rewarded with respect and you will always be treated someone special.
About the Author: Manuel Amora is an Overseas Filipino Worker who’s been working in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for 18 years. He is now working at King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology-KACST, a Saudi government institution. He is also an active Filipino Community leader, helping fellow OFWs to be aware of their rights and obligation as expatriate workers in the Kingdom.