NO HUGS, NO KISSES AND NO COMPLEMENTS Every year many businesswomen from all over the world (China, USA, India, Jordan, Italia and more) study in the Kellogg-Recanati program for International Management. Some of them tell about the accepted behavior codes when dealing with business relationships with women. Apparently the Israeli businessman is nice and friendly, but grossly tactless. When Shalini Elassery, CEO of the Indian “Meivia” company, that promotes business between India and Israel, started doing business with Israelis she was shocked: “In India when negotiating or even during normal conversation people don’t barge-in in others conversation. You wait until the other party finishes, take few more seconds of silence and only then respond. This gives importance to the sayings of the other party.” I could never finish a sentence. The moment the other side assumed that they understand what I’m saying, they will immediately respond. That was really embarrassing and gave you the feeling that the other party wants to show superiority. Only much later I came to realize that that is Israeli nature. “During my study, two years in the Kellogg-Recanati International Business Administration Faculty of the Tel Aviv University, I came to learn the Israeli businessman. He is usually very informal compared to the Indian businessman.” One anecdote she is telling: I had a negotiation with an Israeli businessman. At some point, when I suggested an idea to progress in the negotiation, he got very excited and told me: “You have a good head”. I didn’t know what he means and this saying was very embarrassing. Only later an Israeli friend told me that it was a literal translation of a very common Israeli saying. About this and other anecdotes she was telling in a forum on the occasion of the International Women Day, that was celebrated in the Management Faculty with other women in the program. Ling Zang, a Chinese businesswoman, who also graduated from the same program, says that one of the problems is that many men assume that in the global world everybody will accept the western code of conduct. This is true only partially, since there are still islands of local or traditional codes of behavior that are considered important, especially in the conduct between men and women. According to her, if you would like the negotiation to be conducted in good spirit in China or Taiwan, you can give a complement – in good taste, of course – but be ready that the woman will assertively reject the compliment (“no, no no. It’s not at all like that. It’s not true.”). This is an example to the wider cultural connection – in the Chinese culture it is common to reject compliments in these manner. It is also common to keep a much larger physical distance than what is common between men. Avoid hugging or pounding on the shoulder, kisses cheek-to-cheek and similar things. Anna Maria Porteli, a businesswoman from Malta, says that Israeli businessmen like very much to have lunch or dinner as part of a negotiation. “We don’t do it normally. You negotiate in a meeting room and you go to a restaurant to eat. A business discussion with full mouth can be very embarrassing. Many times she encountered Israeli businessmen who bring small gifts to their business meeting. We are very touchy about it, since it can be seen as a bribe. One should avoid it.” Bringing a gift to a businesswoman in India can be embarrassing too. If it’s a family visit, it is advisable to have only a very small gift like flowers or chocolate. If you receive a gift, don’t open it in front of all – this can be insulting. If you already have a long-term relationship, it is a nice gesture to ask before a visit if one can bring anything from your home country. Shalini Elassery: “There are different sub-cultures and religions in India. Therefore it is difficult to make all encompassing statements, but there are some basic codes one should adhere to. For instance hand-shaking in India. “Don’t stretch your hand out for a handshake with an Indian businesswoman – it is possible that the woman will be awkward. Wait, if she stretches her hand out – handshake gently, otherwise most women in India will appreciate if you hold both your hands clapped under your face and greet them with the local greeting “Namaste” – preferably in a quiet, unexcited tone of voice. Indian businesswomen will normally come to an official meeting dressed traditionally in a Sari. One should avoid complementing the dress, even though you think it is very beautiful and color rich. Israelis love to complement us on the original dress and ask about the composition, colors etc. (and there was already someone, who in an exorbitant display of bad taste, asked where one can buy one cheap) – this is not customary. Avoid it. One should call a woman Mrs. until she corrects you – if at all.” In India a working woman is highly respected. That’s why it is not common to ask a businesswoman or a colleague out for any activity after work. Definitely not an intimate invitation. If you would like to extend an invitation then invite a whole group or the family as well. Once you out don’t take her or them to a place that serves alcohol or where people will smoke around you. Most Indian women don’t drink or smoke and might get insulted by that. “The Indians and mainly the Indian women avoid any show of affection in public, certainly no kisses, including what is accepted in many societies cheek-to-cheek. Even if you’re really happy to meet an Indian colleague again – restrain yourself, don’t kiss. Similarly I would advise Israeli businesswomen on a trip to India to refrain of fraternizing with their Indian male colleagues through jokes and wit. Dress conservatively and communicate only on business level”, says Shalini Elassery. USA and the West: The power of the Political-Correct It is impossible to avoid mentioning the embarrassing incident that happened a year and a half ago to Prime Minister Sharon who complemented the National Security Advisor in the American administration, Condoleca Rice, on her pretty legs – a compliment that almost ended up in a diplomatic incident. Aylon Slater, an international business advisor (who was also present at the forum): “I would almost define the relationship between men and women at work place in the US as “tense” – and definitely compared to the way we, the Israelis, deal with women at the work place (relatively openly). The issue of sexual harassment is central in the American work place and “Political Correctness” plays a major role. Because of that I would not advise a manager or an Israeli colleague to complement an American woman on her dress, perfume she uses, etc. That could be wrongly understood and the necessary sanctions (sometimes legal) on that are grave. “On the other side of the arc one can find the Scandinavian countries, the Netherlands and the Flemish part of Belgium. There of course, they believe in equality between men and women, but at the same time don’t treat the issue with the same tenseness as in the US. One can give complements, but restraint, there be kisses and hugs at work place, but at the appropriate time and place: when they raise a glass for Christmas, when they celebrate a birthday of one of the colleagues and the boss gives her a present, etc. Women do drink alcohol (wine, beer) rather than in most places in the East, so that one can ask a woman out for a drink as long as one keeps the boundaries of good taste. In general there is a much higher openness there, even though the machoist culture is much weaker there than here.