The implications for businesses in an ever-increasingly competitive environment demand new strategies for rising above tough or even tougher competitors in order to survive and flourish in a specific industry. Essentially, doing business is primarily defined by interactions between various players whether senior management and employees, firms and other firms and their representatives or employees and customers, among other stakeholders. As such, various differences in cultural backgrounds spawn business practices that are consistent with those cultures as values, beliefs and traditions traverse the social into the economic. This implies that different cultures like those practiced in the United States and the Middle East, lead to different business practices even though some are consistent across cultures. This paper examines the differences between business practices in Islamic countries like those in the Middle East and business practices in the United States.
With the modern business environment being increasingly defined by fierce competition, the necessity to adopt a variety of strategies capable of providing a competitive market edge, whether through adoption of new technologies or revamping staff practices, is quite potent. Relatedly, success in business is largely tied to a firm’s overall business practices which can be viewed as the essential features of business processes including methods, rules and procedures required to effect consistent standard operational procedures towards firm goal accomplishment. Fundamentally, business involves transaction between two parties whether individuals or firms (who are also basically represented by people), which implies that success of these interactions provide the foundation for good business practices that can be leveraged for firm success. This also applies to interactions between employees who must work with and through others to accomplish the firm’s goals and objectives.
Relatedly, culture represents a potent influential element that largely features in many interactions not only in the social and political lives of individuals but more so in area of business, with regards to peoples’ actions and behaviors. Essentially, culture can be regarded as the full range of socially transmitted behavior patterns, values, beliefs, arts, institutions, and all other products of human work and thought which Tian & Borges (2011) acknowledge is a success factor in global business. The element of culture is one of the most significant elements that illuminate the differences between Islamic countries like those in the Middle East and western countries like the United States as well as their impact on how people live their lives including business activities. The systematic review conducted by Robertson et al. (2001) indicates the potency of cultural influences in business practices where arguments reflect potential changes in adoption of western business practices by Islamic cultures or strengthening and further differentiation of cultures as they are.
The author affirms that the changing business environment will lead to a convergence of culture and business practices as managers exhibit more uniform values in relation to work behavior and overall economic activity. The Middle Eastern culture is defined by aspects such as commitment to codes of honor and loyalty, strong top-down authoritative structures and a strong patriarchal family structure among other minor differences including clothing and mannerisms. On the other hand, despite American culture being diverse in terms of conservativeness, formal as well as casualness and informality, it is fundamentally different from Islamic cultures. For instance, Middle Eastern cultures are viewed as high-context and polychronic where implicit communication is emphasized, lacks an emphasis on timed and strict schedules among other restrictive aspects of power distance as depicted by Rohm Jr. (2007).
The implication is that, on one hand, differences in mannerisms like wrong forms of greetings, asking seemingly improper questions, erroneous assumptions about clothing as well as keeping time, may strain relations between business partners from the two cultures. On the other, application of various forms of management like open-book management may create problems for Middle Easterners while employee encouragement to perform better may work for Americans who favor directness and aspects like punctuality. These two situations highlight differences in prevailing business practices, in relation to differences in cultures, where Middle Easterners have a different way of doing business in comparison to Americans. However, aside from culture, other areas of application of business practices may reflect similar way of doing things such as rules and procedures used in a specific setting which is further supported by research indicating shifting Islamic values in relation to western business practices (Robertson et al., 2001).