Louise Penny and The Mysteries of Middle Eastern Management

(painting – Coast Near Antibes by Henri-Edmond Cross)

Sigh, Auntie dearest is ever so slightly on-the-warpath aujourd’hui  – went in to ask the CEO how he wants the year-end summaries formatted and he yelled, “the same way as always.” Now yelling is bad enough, but not answering the question… quel troll!

And the reason he yelled is… he doesn’t know. There have been several changes to the format which he didn’t pay attention to, thus he can’t communicate them. And he hates to be asked as it reminds him of all the things he doesn’t know.

So it is time for etiquette central to pause our sacred duties for a moment (no Darling, NOT those shoes!) and talk about The Mysteries of Middle Eastern Management and let’s be clear, I am not talking about managers who are Middle Eastern, but management personal from various countries who happen to work in the Middle East.

To start, let’s follow dear Louise Penny, author of such charming and wise books! We should all take as our creed:

  • “They are four sentences we learn to say, and mean.” Gamache held up his hand as a fist and raised a finger with each point. “I don’t know. I need help. I’m sorry. I was wrong.” (Still Life)
  • “I often think we should have tattooed on the back of whatever hand we use to shoot or write, ‘I might be wrong’.” (A Fatal Grace)

You see how easy it is? But no Middle East Manager would ever dare say any of those vital expressions, and to make it worse, they most twist simple questions into insults, for example:

  • “How do I…” = you are incompetent (asking for information is taken as a personal affront because the manager takes a question to mean “you are not a good manager because you did not explain.” This is sometimes the sub-text, but not always)
  • “You might want to consider…” = I want your job (MEM have sometimes back-stabbed and lied to get their jobs, thus they assume that you have the same evil tendencies, pointing out a mistake MUST mean that you gunning for their position)

One would think they spent all their off-hours reading “Leadership Tactics of  Minor Despots who Failed Miserably” because they do fail. And miserably. And often. Yet they persist in their idiotic ways of viewing everyone as either sycophant or threat. A few can handle the idea that an employee might be a neutral party, but as that is a rare skill they are caught in a never-ending cycle of

  • make a mistake/ don’t pay attention so they don’t know how to do something
  • get furious if someone tries to warn/ correct them
  • yell
  • yell more
  • sit in their office and whine as Those Who Know scurry around and rectify the situation
  • bask in the glow of having the work completed by others

which looks like a good arrangement until one day it all goes hay-wire with recriminations, computers being tossed down staircases, cars being driven into plate-glass windows, vases of flowers being broken over their heads and lamentations from the chorus. Most unpleasant (well, honestly, quite pleasing but an aesthetic mess).

So Darling, heed the sage and prudent Louise Penny and practice your: “I don’t know. I need help. I’m sorry. I was wrong.” (and wear silk blouses with gold necklaces and a subtle but commanding perfume; you can wear flats if you want BUT NOT THE BIRKENSTOCKS). You have been warned.

“You will neither eat, nor drink, nor smoke, nor sit down, nor lean against a tree until you have personally seen that your men [and women] have first had the chance to do these things. If you will do this for them, they will follow you to the ends of the earth,” Field Marshall William Slim