Why American managers often fail managing Israelis

American managers, whether they relocate to Israel or not, have a dismal track record managing Israeli organizations and/or their Israel based subsidiary which is more often than not a development team.

In this post, I will point out several  reasons for this ongoing failure.

Israelis do not believe that organizational systems (or any system) work. Israelis hedge system failure/rigidity with an intense set of relationships which serve as shock absorbers for rigid and corrupt bureaucracies. In order to get things done, you need to know the right people, not master the system. American managers often focus time and effort on getting Israelis to follow process, which is next to impossible.

Israelis argue as a way of life. Although this arguing often sounds aggressive and impeding of cohesion, it is not. Arguing is a way of working out the pros and cons whilst thinking out loud, weighing all sides of the equation using forceful opinions that change constantly. Many American managers simply cannot adapt to this “tribal” method of communication.

Israelis, due to a siege mentality, do not value planning. They prefer improvisation and excel extricating themselves from situations that could have been avoided by basic planning mechanisms. The disdain for planning drives American managers around the bend.

Israelis constantly challenge authority of their managers. Almost nothing and no one goes unchallenged. Israelis are used to this constant push back and it does not phase them. American managers get very angry when day after day and hour after hour, they need to deal with what they see as “lip”.

Finally, Israelis rarely see decisions are final. Decisions are viewed as tentative and temporary, and thus, decisions are almost always “revisited” many many times before implementation. This behaviour erodes the trust of the American manager, who often believes that a decision should lead to implementation.

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11 thoughts on “Why American managers often fail managing Israelis

  1. Ever since the time of Frederick Winslow Taylor, Americans and much of the rest of the Western world, have been preoccupied with finding, imposing and ensuring adherence to prefigured routines. The advent of knowledge work brought with it the requirement for workers to configure their working activities instead of complying with prefigured routines. Sounds to me like the Israelis have a leg up when it comes to knowledge work.

  2. Allon,

    This just speaks to me of taking and understanding a group where it is, who it is and how it/they go about getting things done.
    Well done! And, thank you, as always.


  3. American or western mindset:
    Basically Greek mindset-
    Whereas Israelis mindset

    On their difference in belief/faith
    Western : “my faith is private , value-free, region neutral
    Iisrralis : wear their faith in their sleeves : eg. Tellifin Barbie
    – Tellinfin ( black box)
    – Tallit(prayer showl)
    – Torah (bible – Old Testament)
    – kippah (yumulkah) or head covering

    Learning process:
    Western : knowledge based mindset, know the truth by studying more.
    Israelis : experiential : believe many things can’t learn by Talk.

    Result : western mindset – keep learning but never able to do it.
    Israelis culture : create new words to describe new things eg. Android , bitcoin , bug, hacker , hashtag, google, mouse, virus , tablet.

    When the westerner understand eastern / Jewish culture / thinking / philosophy – they will be able & better in managing them!

  4. Dearest my mentor, thanks for your insightful article helping me better understand Israelis, and its culture difference. Looks Isarelis is more like Chinese. Happy Thanksgiving Day! The WhatsApp doesn’t work in China now, so I feel sorry that we lost convenient way to keep in touch, but let’s try to keep in touch by emails and blogs.

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