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Peanuts and monkey business

Feb 04,2018 - Last updated at Feb 04,2018

Ask any Jordanian to recommend a good tradesman to you and, ten to one, you will be told that there are not any. If you want an electrician, you will be told how electricians start by cutting off the earth wire and throwing it away.  Ask for a car mechanic and you will be told that at the end of the day you will be handed five or six screws and bolts and assured that the manufacturer had put them there unnecessarily. 

When my wife and I bought a kitchen, we were promised a lifetime guarantee. We asked the vendors to skip the guarantee and give us a price reduction instead which, of course, they refused. But events proved us right to expect that the guarantee would be unadulterated nonsense.   

These anecdotes may be amusing, but they highlight serious questions regarding the work ethic in Jordan. Why is it so difficult to get good workmanship here?

Whenever this question comes up, two ready responses are presented: One claims that the nomadic bedouin culture of this country is incompatible with the work ethic, and the other is that Jordanians are handicapped by the culture of “eib” (shame) so they refuse to work.  

There may be a grain of truth in these statements, but they certainly do not provide a sufficient explanation. It is true that most nomadic pastoralist cultures everywhere consider work as fit only for women and men of low birth, but most of the tribes of Jordan are rural farmers not nomads; and throughout the world, the work ethic is the legacy of generations of farmers who toiled to put food on their families’ tables. As for the culture of shame, the success stories of Jordanians whose work is highly prized abroad should be sufficient to put this myth to rest.

So it would appear that we need to look at working conditions in Jordan to explain why Jordanian tradesmen work indifferently at best. These conditions are summed up by a tradesman who said: “We pretend to work and our employers pretend to pay us.” This behaviour is the exact opposite of the human resource management policy of Richard Branson, for instance.  He believes that by putting the employee first, the customer effectively comes first by default. 

At higher levels, study after study indicated that Jordanians in middle management tend to have high levels of technical competence and institutional loyalty. They also have a great deal of frustration due to the prevalent perception, whether it is accurate or not, that they will never be promoted to a decision-making capacity, where positions are reserved, to be filled on the basis of pedigree or cronyism. This, again is the exact opposite of the recipe for success, as advocated by President Barak Obama: “…Our success should depend not on an accident of birth, but the strength of our work ethic and the scope of our dreams.” 

Without a realistic prospect of upward mobility through honest hardwork, there is no point in dreaming.



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125 users have voted.


He's right. There is a definite lack of professionalism from the lowest level tot he very top. As a holder of a MS in Education and TEFL certified, I cannot work in my field due to the lack of professionalism and work ethics. I tried, but found a hostile work environment due to jealousy and an unhealthy competition between co-workers. Also, teachers do not support each other and try their best to steal your ideas and use you to improve their 'image' in front of the administration. The education sector lacks professional development, respect for teachers and support of them as well as a viewing the occupation as an educator as a real job, and not just one to fill their time and get student discounts for their children.

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