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Organisational Behaviour – A Focus on Culture within Organisations

Culture has an uncanny effect on individuals as they come together in a social setting and get involved in working towards a common set of goals. This is further compounded when efforts are made to replicate business strategies and tactical measures that have been successful in one cultural arena to a culture within a foreign setting. This brief examines the culture within organisations in Saudi Arabia and critically assesses various areas of influence of the cultural disparity such as the role that women play within an organisational setting there. It tries to draw parallels between the Saudi and other Western cultures and identify inherent areas of strength of the Saudi culture and other facets where there is room for improvement. It then goes on to apply these theories and concepts to a real-life organisation based in Saudi Arabia, namely the King Abdul Aziz University and the staff (including faculty and non-teaching staff) working for the University.



What could be taken for granted in a Western organisation such as equality of roles and opportunities between men and women would not necessarily apply in a different location such as Saudi Arabia, the main reason being the immense influence of the national culture there. However, the distinct attributes of the Saudi culture such as 'tribalism' and stronger kinship do accord some advantages to the quintessential Saudi organisation such as a higher level of trust between work colleagues and a high work ethic. For areas of improvement identified, the measures need to be implemented with caution with a strategic HRM perspective, thus resulting in change by evolution, and not by revolution given the need to respect sensitivities around national culture. What is heartening to note however, at least based on an empirical observation of the KAAU is the fact that a progressive evolution has already commenced among organisations in Saudi Arabia. What is required now is to sustain this metamorphosis and expedite the pace of the same to enhance the abilities and add to the competitive edge of organisations functioning in the Saudi Arabia in particular and other Islamic countries in general.

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