Quora is a website where questions are asked and answered by its community of users. A man who works in Silicon Valley asked, “Why are Israeli people so hard to work with? I know three or four Israelis. One is super smart, the other two are super good marketers, but they are all really, really difficult to work with. Why? Have others had the same experience with Israelis? Why is it so difficult to work with them?”
I believe that after reading the 5 tips below, businesspeople will no longer feel the same way as the man who expressed all that frustration online.
I have unpacked some of the most important things to remember when working with Israelis:
- Don’t Take It Personally
Israelis have strong opinions and emotions – and they aren’t afraid to show them to you. They might get loud or even seem angry, and these tendencies follow them all the way to the workplace – in business meetings, job interviews and even emails. It’s just part of their cultural norm. So – try not to take it personally! And try to accept their communication style without judging or feeling insulted. Because at the end of the day, Israelis are not trying to offend you, they really just want to be heard. You can even put it in this context: Israeli emotionality and argumentativeness also indicate great interest and enthusiasm in the subject, as well as in your views.
- Build a Relationship
Israelis tend to get up close and personal, entering your personal space. And this invasion of privacy can be noticed in a metaphorical sense as well. Because Israelis often ask unguarded questions about your family, relationship status and even salary. Notice that they also overshare with you – it’s a two-way street! If you feel uncomfortable in these situations, try to remember that Israelis build trust by building relationships. And through these personal questions they are just trying to get to know you better and establish their business connection with you based on friendship or at least a solid foundation of familiarity. So I recommend you respond in a friendly, straightforward manner to such questions, whether you provide them with all the information they seek or not, as the dialogue is important for future collaboration.
- Go with the Flow
Israelis are creative and innovative, so they prefer to leave room for spontaneous changes as they conduct business and work on projects. They easily adapt to such changes. This go-with-the-flow attitude can often confuse non-Israelis who are used to sticking to a more rigid agenda. I recommend you try and be more open to changes along the way, in order to benefit from improvements that may arise, and not to get frustrated at the loose Israeli attitude to previously agreed plans and timetables. However, I also advise you to break down the project into clearly ordered stages and keep Israelis well aware of them, so that any changes that may come up can be monitored and discussed before moving on to the next step. The goal is to offset striving to implement the planned strategy with sufficient flexibility to accommodate developments.
- Keep It Casual
Israeli culture is mostly very informal. Israelis grow up calling their schoolteachers by their first names. And even Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is referred to by his nickname: “Bibi.” Israelis might not wear a suit and tie to a job interview. I recommend you try to accept their informal approach, and don’t be surprised if they don’t observe rules of hierarchy that they are unaccustomed to. But try not to mistake their informality for unprofessionalism. If you are leading a team of Israelis, I also recommend pushing power down through the organization. This will motivate your Israeli employees and also make them respect you– for trusting and challenging them.
- Leverage Multiculturalism
Israelis dare to dream big and they are prepared to take risks to achieve their dreams. Although their goals may sometimes seem unrealistic, Israelis would rather aim high and fail than feel like they didn’t try hard enough. On their way towards success, however, Israelis don’t always pay enough attention to details and long-term strategic planning. So try to remember all this while doing business with Israelis, and enjoy the possibility that their risk-taking and ambition might pay off really well. At the same time, I also recommend you leverage own culture’s valuable assets that can serve as a balancing factor. If you know which advantages you can take from each culture you actually enable a collaboration where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
Being culturally smart means integrating awareness with the willingness to listen to others and learn from them, without judgment of right or wrong. And that is the key to global business success in the modern world!
If you want to know more about Israel’s business culture, improve your intercultural communication and build trustworthy business relations with Israelis, please consider yourself personally invited to read my book, Israeli Business Culture, available on Amazon.