Sunday, June 10, 2007

In Riyadh

I'm writing this post from Riyadh still frustrated over not having a quality wi-fi connection in the hotel. Well, there's only so much you can get with a budget hotel. In a few minutes I'll be leaving for the airport for a flight to Jeddah in the western portion of the country.

Riyadh is a sprawling city, and I don't have the figures for its population, but I would guess it would hover around the one million range (I'll find out later). This was an army of tents during the early days but it has always been the center of the caravan trade in the Arabian desert.

Looking at the buildings already here and the slew of construction of commercial and residential buildings I can surmise there are a lot more headaches in development to go --- Riyadh residents do complain of traffic, though this has nothing on say, Manila, going by my experience.

My colleagues and I are on company briefings for our operatives in these cities (they are going to still another city --- the western industrial complex of Yanbu - but I can't join them as I still have to finish up some work prior to my vacation).

In the earlier days, I used to view HR with a lot of suspicion when it came to these briefings. I do understand their predicament coming from my experiences as a volunteer facilitator and trainer, but it wasn't very hard to distrust the speakers. I suppose it came with the territory --- until these days, dynamic corporate HR is a thrall to shrinking budgets and business focus on operational requirements. Listening to the HR line is a long exercise in apologia.

Naturally, there is that sense of irony that creeps upon me as I do these briefings, speaking as an agent of the Company and trying my best to convey the best of our intentions to our employees. On the one hand, there is that part of me which remains angry and cynical as regards the gap between Company intent and actual practice. This has always been ensconced in my compassion that better things should happen for the people who work the hardest for the Company.

On the other hand, there is this struggle to communicate to our own people that the Company really does have their best interests at heart, but there are so many constraints - by force of habit and attitude as well as the very obvious financial ones. However, it seems churlish for me to take this paternalistic attitude --- it's as if I'm patronizing my own people. I'd rather be a realist and tell them how it is --- all the while upholding the interest of the Company since it's part of my job. It's not that simple as it sounds, though one wonders why it seems so difficult.

Mostly, it's a struggle with my ideal that people are the best arbiters of their destiny and given ample opportunities, would be able to sort things out by themselves. But that is of course wishful thinking --- so many times, one can trust people but not the circumstances and conditions under which they interact with the Company. It also comes with how people do business in this part of the world.

It would hardly denigrate the success of our session yesterday --- to use that worn-out cliche, sometimes, people just need to talk to someone, and all that someone must do is convey as much trustworthiness as possible.

I hope I've succeeded.

(Note: I'm date-lining this the 10th even though I just got to post this as I am waiting for my airport pick-up here in my hotel in Jeddah.)

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