Every country has its own work culture quirks. However, the work culture in Israel is a unique mix of Mediterranean laid-backness, an ambitious drive to succeed, familial chumminess and a sense of know-it-all that most people carry around, no matter how junior they are. Here are a few do’s and don’ts on how to successfully navigate your way in it:
- Let Them Break Rules
By now it’s rather established that Israeli workers don’t like rules, automatically rebel against them and often see them as just an obstacle to doing things their way. Our suggestion is: role with it. If you’re a manager and it’s not crucial to getting the job done, and it won’t tick off the big wigs, turn a blind eye, and let them bend the rules a little bit. First of all, the “out of the box” thinking (pardon the cliché) might help them find an original solution you hadn’t thought of. Second, if you stick to protocol and rules, they might feel stifled and repressed, and will probably try to work around the rules they don’t like anyway, so it’s better to just let it go, if at all possible.
2. Stress The Importance of Deadlines and Times
Most Israelis are not punctual by nature, and meetings sometimes start 5 or even 15 minutes after schedule because someone is late. Sometimes the person doesn’t even bother explaining or apologizing. Don’t hold it against them, it’s the Mediterranean culture they grew up in. However, if you believe timeliness is important, or you really need things to be done on time, you might have to say it. You might have some highly professional and sharp employees, who just don’t meet deadlines or get to work on time. Tell them why it’s important to you and to the company, otherwise, they might just never be on time.
3. Make sure they get the perks like everyone else
Much like in other countries, in Israel, it is customary to provide workers with benefits. These might include a kind of “lunch debit card” (one brand is called “Ten Bis”) that is charged with a fixed amount which the worker can then use daily for restaurants. Other common perks are a gift card for the employee’s birthday, and of course, company events and parties. In cases where employees are hired as contract workers, they might feel overlooked when not given the same perks given to company employees. In this case, morale and motivation are bound to get hurt. So when planning the next swag or company toast, it’s probably a good idea to include all employees, regardless of employment terms.
4. Give them family time
Israelis are often very close to their family, be it their spouse, their children or their parents, to whom they speak often. So as a manager, it’s better to be flexible in that aspect and ready for requests to leave early to take the kid to ballet class, or take their mother to the hospital. If they’re on a long phone call that seems serious, they might be talking to their kindergarten teacher who’s complaining about their kid’s behavior. If you let it slide, and moreover, ask them about their family, you’ll gain their appreciation, making them feel that their family is important to you, and their connection to the workplace will grow.
5. Let them travel
Israel is small, and most Israelis have crisscrossed it many times, so they love to travel abroad. However, compared to Europe, vacation days in Israel are few, and during the holidays people often feel obligated to stay in Israel and spend time with extended family. So, if you give Israeli workers an excuse to travel abroad for work, be it a conference or a meeting with a client, they’ll probably love you for it, especially if they can stay a couple of extra days after the work engagement. This doesn’t apply of course to employees who travel often and can’t wait to just be home with their family a little bit.
1. Don’t Sugarcoat Things for Them
Israelis are direct, they usually say what they think, and they often assume that everyone else is like them. So if you’re trying to convey a message subtly, as is often done in Europe and the US, it might just not get through. If you think they performed poorly on an assignment you might have to say just that, cordially of course, but say it nonetheless. Don’t worry, they most likely won’t be offended, but rather, appreciate the candor.
2. Don’t Ask Them about Sensitive Issues
Israel has many sensitive topics: the Israeli Arab conflict, religious vs secular Jews and tensions between Jews whose families originated in different parts of the world, to name a few. Unlike the US, it’s not considered impolite to talk about these subjects, however, it does tend to get people a bit riled up to the point that they might be talking about the topic you brought up for the rest of the day, if not more. You if you want to help keep them focused, and give yourself some quiet, stick to less contentious conversation topics.
3. Don’t Break Up the Gang (to a Limit)
Israelis often treat the workplace like a hangout. Sometimes it can get to be too much, and it might seem like they’re just wasting company time chatting away. But often, these unplanned water cooler or open space chats can lead to better connections between workers and even to creative problem-solving. So unless it gets out of hand, let it be.
If you stick to these guidelines, you’re more likely to get your Israeli employees’ appreciation while getting more value out of their work.