Monday, June 11, 2007

In the West

Jeddah presents a quandary now as I sit in the dark typing this post.

Finally, there is a decent wi-fi connection in the hotel! I'm just unloading some of my personal e-mails, reading up on the NBA Finals (a semi-foregone conclusion for the Spurs) and while on the subject of sports, hatching some conspiracy theories whether Roger Federer can actually defeat Rafael Nadal in big-time clay matches.

The briefings yesterday were well-attended. Frankly, I believe I've mastered the shtick necessary to make the briefings work, even though there are the proverbial complainers who still complain about the lack of management objectivity when it comes to salary increments.

Salary increases are a very sensitive issue in a multi-cultural organization especially if there are cleavages among the salary scales. Much as intellectually I could accept the premise that this has to be done for the kind of business that we have, this doesn't remove the difficulty of making the ordinary employee on the front-line or in the factory understand, much less accept, this. There is also the added the burden that aside from the own unique management styles of the leadership in each department, there is also the perceived regional, cultural, ethnic, or national bias.

This is, after all, Saudi Arabia. However, it begs the issue: this involves, after all, people! Petty prejudices often overrule what constitutes common sense or decency. This becomes more marked when these prejudices find some form of intellectual justification.

Trouble is brewing in Jeddah. Our people here are getting more restive, while their management (whom I find well-meaning but a little too hard-pressed it seems) is faced with hard decisions. I truly empathize with either side, but at this point some confidence-building is due. As to how our team can help with this, I cannot say. Talks are ongoing.

I'm headed to Dammam today and while I welcome coming over here (for the first time as with Riyadh), it seems a relief to get back to the normal grind.

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