Ammar Mango wrote a very interesting article today in the Jordan Times which I thought was worth discussing. You can read it all here but let me just quote the introduction which is a conversation starter:
A dear friend of mine recently proposed to do some consulting work for a reputable Jordanian company. They checked his references, inspected his previous work, and thoroughly discussed his delivery style. With all that to their satisfaction, they asked for a quote.
All hell broke lose when they saw the figure. He was, according to the firm, way too expensive Ã¢??for a Jordanian.Ã¢?Â
The CEO explained: Ã¢??You know how it is here in the Arab world; people are fascinated with Western consultants. We can easily get a Western consultant with the rate you are quoting. So, why get a local when we can get a Westerner?Ã¢?Â
Being a person who considers himself an optimist, it is not easy to write about this subject. This is not a call for a Ã¢??pity partyÃ¢?Â or to cry over misfortunes. Instead, consider it an invitation to discuss a phenomenon that has negative consequences on local consultants and the consulting profession in Jordan.
It is a sad situation when competent individuals are overlooked because of race or nationality. It is even worse when it happens in one’s own country Ã¢?? not because the individual is foreigner, but rather because he is Jordanian.
Let me continue based on Mr. Mango’s invitation.
It is completely sad when home grown talent is turned down because of ethnicity. How stupid do you have to be, how low do you have to sink to actually discriminate against your own people! I despise the fact that many of our top businesses in Jordan are all run by foreigners brought in, mostly British, French and American, when there are perfectly qualified Jordanians available.
The problem is multi-fold…
First there is the fact they are Jordanians, which implies they are unable to “bring in the business” when dealing with foreign companies. This is based on the assumption that if you hire a British man and have to deal with British investors, he can easily charm them with his British wit, or more simply put, his ethnicity ease the lines of communication.
How is that I wonder? In the business world is the object not profit or did I sleep all through economics 101? So what difference does the ethnicity of the person on the other end of the phone or screen make at the end of the day?
In other cases, as Mr. Mango’s article continues, we have people being hired especially in the gulf countries and at times upon arrival to the airport they are turned away for being…Arab?!
The formula of “If I had known he was an Arab I would either not have paid him as much or for that amount of money I could’ve gotten a foreigner” does not make sense to me. We are not purchasing cars here, you are paying for the services of a human being and that person’s expertise is defined by himself as an individual and not his ethnicity. I am willing to bet that for every foreigner someone is willing to hire there is an Arab who could do his job better. Case in point is Mr. Mango’s example where his friend was the first candidate considered and not the second. I myself have heard numerous stories about people accepting jobs in the Gulf and being turned away because they were Arabs. Some of them even signed contracts with the company and being that the latter could not out right fire them they made their lives miserable for them to leave on their own accord.
I think we are also developing this notion that “they” are better than “us” and in order for “us” to be like “them” we need to get one of “them” to run “us”. Quite simply the “they” becomes the “us” and the rest of us are left to wander in limbo.
A friend once told me (who had gone through this experience of rejection) that it was not a matter of profit or efficiency or any of that; it was simply that the workers responded better to a foreign supervisor than to an Arab. With an Arab there is common language, culture, history, ethnicity and so forth, especially if he is a local. With this in mind it is easy for the workers to get away with things, to slack off, to get into fights and rivalries etc. With a foreigner most of them are scared of even communicating with him given their poor language skills and so stick to their own work and mind their own business, add to that the fear that the foreigner is all about making money and will not hesitate to fire you, whereas the Arab might take pity on you or even join you on your journey of inefficiency.
I’ve been to companies and businesses in Jordan that have 3 secretaries, 2 Jordanians and 1 blonde and blue-eyed girl from wherever-land. The Jordanian girls get the tea and stack the papers and the blonde ushers guests into the bossÃ¢??s office and keeps his schedule.
Whichever above scenario is true (if not all simultaneously) it is an indication of the sad state we are in. I do see Jordan as being better than practically all the gulf region that practice this type of thing constantly and depend almost 100% on foreign work in all shapes and form, but I do not want to see it begin to travel down that road. This applies now more than ever when rich Gulf business men are setting up camp in Jordan and in hopes of making a repeat of their success hope to conduct business the same way.
We have some of the brightest and youngest minds in the region. Hopefully they will not go to waste.
Labour Day in Jordan