It doesn’t matter where you are from – visiting Israel and working with Israelis is an experience that is very unique. To make your stay enjoyable, remain focused. Don’t offend anyone or be offended in this energetic, complex, and high-paced culture. When you come here, you should be prepared.
Israel’s business culture is a lot more informal and casual in comparison to what you’re accustomed to. Many people would describe Israeli people as persistent, straightforward, and assertive. Business happens to be fast-paced, sometimes even performed with urgency. Personal connections also are of high importance, as business partners and colleagues go out of the way to engage with one another. Having coffee and socializing with others is a welcome practice in Israel.
Israelis and Israeli IT companies tend to outsource many IT projects to companies from Ukraine, Russia, India, and other emerging markets, creating many contact points and collaboration between two or more culturally different people and companies. Many Israeli companies will also out-staff complete teams out of their companies to Ukrainian and Indian companies.
The country’s business culture is quite diverse. With that said, Israelis happen to be ambitious, motivated, assertive, and direct people. They have busy schedules, and business tends to be fast-paced and informal. Israelis are aggressive negotiators, too, and like mixing business with appropriate pleasure now and then as well.
Israel’s management style is typically collaborative. While not always strictly enforced, hierarchies are usually defined. Everybody has a chance to help make decisions and express their opinions. Results and solutions are much more important in comparison to hierarchies and formalities.
Personal connections also happen to be very important in this country. Business partners and colleagues make time for (and familiarize themselves with) one another, socializing and hanging out outside of the workplace. Meetings are generally relationship-oriented. Israelis are known for treating business partners a lot like friends, as opposed to just clients.
Consider the following the next time you decide to take a business trip to this country:
Communication – engagement among colleagues happens to be very open, spontaneous, direct, and even family-like. With that said, if formalities are something you’re used to, and speaking about problems indirectly is something you do without hesitation, you need to keep a leash on yourself outside of your habitat. You shouldn’t be too honest, nor should you make more understatements than necessary. In doing so, your colleagues may be confused about (or unsure of) your real intentions. Clarity and honesty are things that Israelis appreciate, and those traits are expected of you. Subtlety and vagueness aren’t something that they’re known for. Israelis may interpret these traits as dishonest. With this perception, it will be harder for you to win over their trust. That is a big reason why many Israelis are seen as rude, blunt, or aggressive. The factor of the matter is that they are hardly any of these things!
Discovering Your Voice – Israel-based business meetings can be quite informal. You may discover that people speak freely and liberally rather than patiently waiting for their turn to talk. In such cases, do not take offense to interruptions. When getting a point of your own across, you may need to be bold and speak up.
Your Opinions Should Be Kept Private – your religious, political, and cultural opinions should be kept to yourself. These ideas should not be discussed in your business relationships and meetings. Israel happens to be a country that is very diverse, and differing opinions are in no shortage here. As such, where feasible, refrain from making assumptions or generalizations.
Israelis will typically try to resolve any differences at work through direct communication in person. That may involve confrontation, loud speaking, and harsh criticism. Facial expressions and hand gestures are also common. Verbal articulation is what is used when ideas, feelings, and thoughts are expressed. Verbal communication also is apparent in working relationships, as they are used to resolve problems efficiently and quickly. After one of these encounters, it is common to see both sides almost immediately resume their friendships. Almost everybody will be ready and satisfied to move forward with whatever the next part of the job entails
Style of Working
Quick action is something that Israelis value whenever problems warrant resolution. They tend to prefer improvisation rather than meticulous planning and/or overcomplicated working schedules. For the sake of efficiency, plans may change on the 11th hour, usually to accommodate the situation at hand. Israelis prefer taking initiative, not waiting through long-winded bureaucratic processes, which most Israelis interpret as an absolute waste of precious time. Adaptability, initiative, innovation, and flexibility are traits that are greatly respected, as is the capacity to work as a team. Communicating openly with co-workers is just as valued.
Israelis perception of time tends to be more flexible. This means agendas and timetables are not relied on as much as other cultures. Impromptu meetings are also common, though schedules and timetables are an aspect of each project. People there are usually running slightly behind. Meeting deadlines is appreciated, but everybody expects timeframes to move around a little before completing a project. Also, there is a lack of an agenda when it comes to meetings in Israel. In many cultures, agendas are circulated ahead of a meeting. It might even be followed while the meeting is happening. Many work environments in Israel will not stick to meeting minutes, though. This won’t affect the efficiency or content of a meeting too much. Productivity, decision-making, and closure to issues unresolved are the end result.
Israelis engage openly across many organizational hierarchies. No significance is attributed to authority types in an organization. The environment in a majority of companies is quite professional, friendly, and pleasant, interpersonally speaking. Any rigid hierarchies that you might have become accustomed to aren’t par for the course in Israel, though. Like with any business, a hierarchical structure of management is present. However, employees old and new are encouraged to communicate freely with management regardless of their rank. Of course, they should only do so if the subject is presented professionally, or if support/help is required in a specific area. Based on how important they are, decisions will be made during a team meeting or a staff meeting. Everyone will have an opportunity to express opinions and feelings they have about a specific subject. That is because meetings typically involve open discussions. Some people might spontaneously recommend ideas, provide opinions, or complain if a supervisor is in the room. Unofficial communication happens to be greatly encouraged. Bureaucracy is not overused, and no pecking order is involved when employees need to talk to somebody.
For the most part, business dress codes in Israel are quite casual. In office environments, the dress code isn’t formal. Because of how hot the temperatures are in Israel, many workers are free to dress comfortably. Some might even choose to wear jeans, which isn’t frowned upon. With that said, revealing beachwear and similar types of clothing are not acceptable workplace attire. Modest attire must also be respected for religious observances where applicable.
Tel Aviv offices will likely have their air conditioning switched on all day. As hot as the weather is outside, a jacket or sweater may be necessary for the indoors, quite ironically. Wearing a suit isn’t necessary, but you should look respectable. Casual wear of businesspeople in Israel should not surprise you, though. “Business casual” is standard attire when conducting transactions in this country.
This practice is quite common. Shaking hands happens to be a polite and formal way of greeting people whenever business is being conducted in Israel. With that said, if the individual you are engaging with is religious, you cannot shake hands at all with other genders. Be mindful of this particular custom, and don’t be offended by it.
Israel’s Business Hours
Israel’s workweek starts on Sunday and goes all the way to Thursday. A handful of businesses will remain open in the morning on Friday. Many international companies may stay open during the weekends, too. For the most part, though, people don’t do business on Fridays after the sun goes down, or on Saturdays. This period is known as “Shabbat.” On average, Israel’s business hours start at 8:30 AM and go all the way to 6:00 PM. Most people work nine-hour days.
While Hebrew remains the country’s official language, many international business transactions are conducted in English. When feasible, try to become accustomed to basic expressions. At the very least, learn how Hebrew business associate names are pronounced.
In Israel, it is commonplace to issue gifts to employees and customers during the holiday season. Rosh Hashanah (which usually takes place in September) along with Passover (from March to April) is an appropriate time to give and gifts. If you’re attending a work colleague’s home, you should bring some kind of gesture or gift – perhaps wine or flowers – for the host. Respect the rules when it comes to kosher (kashrut).
If you’re collaborating with an individual who is religious, you should respect their traditions. That means keeping things kosher and not conducting business on Shabbat. As far as gifts are concerned, kosher wine should be given to the host when visiting kosher homes. When meetings are scheduled, choose kosher restaurants so that everybody involved can eat something from the menu.