My Friend is a Palestinian Bedouin: XV. Work Attitudes
Mixing Friendship with Business
In Bedouin community, much business is done with friends. Thus, Bashar and I started Jahalin Tours, a small project to make people aware of Bedouin life (Weishut, n.d. a). Although our perspectives and work attitudes were dissimilar, we managed to organize a series of tours. I did the organizing; he provided the content. Later, I became involved in Bashar’s garage, financially, organizationally, and emotionally. When starting the garage, I had known him for many years, and was well aware of many of the dissimilarities in how we deal with life. I also had a background in Business Administration. I invested many weeks in planning, preparing excel sheets and trying to teach one of the workers how to fill them.
I was acquainted with a Euro-American way of doing business, emphasizing efficiency and planning. I also was accustomed to the notion that time is money. Furthermore, in Dutch culture decisions are typically made by consensus, which is based on values like individual autonomy and cooperation (De Bony, 2005). I had expected a similar way of decision-making from Bashar, but he preferred to manage things otherwise. He once clarified that “relationships are more important than money” and that “the program of the garage is to take care of relationships”. For him, the workers are like family and the clients like friends. The garage thus functioned as a family business, with Bashar as the authoritative head of the family taking care of the workers’ needs. He could spend hours in conversations with workers, suppliers or clients; something he perceived as part of his job. People would come in and come to consult on all kinds of issues, not merely related to their car. He was very committed to his work and would invest enormous efforts to fix cars, even if it would cost more than he would earn. The question of who owes what was often more related to the type of relationship than to the exact costs or to what was agreed. His way of dealing with things took much more time than I considered appropriate. On hindsight, I realize that it should have been obvious that running a business with an emphasis on people takes more time than running it with an emphasis on money.