Guest Post by Lydia Floegel
I worked for 2 Israeli companies. The first one was a US/Israeli company (started in Israel and then moved the HQ to the US), the second one still had the HQ in Israel.
I was told that Israelis would be tough and difficult to work with, but after having worked for German, Swedish, American and Dutch companies, I thought I’d be prepared. Surprise: I wasn’t. But I wouldn’t want to miss the experience and I think I’ve learned a lot from working with those “crazy Israelis”.
In both companies, my direct team colleagues were not based in Germany. For them, I was the one working remote. This means that my perception might be different from somebody who worked with Israelis in Germany or directly in Israel.
My Israeli colleagues were very open right from the start. It was almost like joining a family, and not just a new company. This doesn’t mean that things were easy-going or not to be taken serious. They were just curious and wanted to know the person they worked with and needed to trust with decisions. In Germany, this kind of curiosity can be perceived as inappropriate. With them, it never was.
I needed to get used to my colleagues’ blunt honesty and also their lack of politeness when something wasn’t like they wanted it to be. Germans are known for not fussing around much, but Israelis are even more straight forward. If something sucked, then people said that it sucked. There was not sugar coating things. If you are used to other nations’ understatements, this is something to get used to. For somebody who doesn’t know this, it can feel as if your colleagues are lashing out at you. I remember my German and British colleagues telling me about Sales trainings that were held like a boot camp. Some colleagues really struggled with it. However, as uncomfortable this bluntness might seem sometimes, it is never meant personally – this is something you always need to keep in mind.
Also, instead of complaining and dwelling on the issue, like Germans tend to do, Israelis focus on solving the problem. And this means that the first words after pointing out the problem were “what can we do to fix it”. And then they do it.
Calls and meetings often seemed to be unstructured and filled with laughter, but they were very efficient without any waste of time. Israelis don’t meet for the meeting’s sake, but to get to a result. And in the end, there were always results and decisions. I found these meetings to be much more effective than many others with my German or American peers.
Discussions can become very heated, or at least they sound this way. In Hebrew discussions often sound aggressive for the German ear, but in fact, they aren’t. People are just very committed. I remember heated and aggressive sounding discussions where immediately afterwards my colleagues were laughing together and making jokes.
Decisions are made quickly and once the decision is made, execution follows right afterward. Flat hierarchies, no long approval processes, spontaneous ideas, even if they seem far off at first, are welcome and appreciated. That doesn’t mean that ideas and new concepts aren’t challenged, but they are more likely to be agreed on than traditional measures. And Israelis always seem to be ready to act.
My Israeli colleagues enjoyed life as much as possible – for a reason. I remember a colleague partying until 4 in the morning on a weeknight and coming into the office at 10 am – more than once. When I asked her how she was able to do it (I’d be dead on my feet trying this :-)), she just told me, that Israelis are under a lot of pressure and that they seize every opportunity to celebrate life. Which includes going for dinner at 10 pm – a time when I grew tired and my American colleagues were already sleeping.
Also, it’s rather rare in Germany, that once you left a company for another job, you come back. In Israel, this seems to be common. People come back to a company after working some time in another company, and there are hard feelings when they leave, just appreciation of their additional experience when they come back.
But the thing that impressed me most was how much connected Israelis are. Relationships are key. How they stay in contact after parting ways and build their networks, and how many of them keep working together across changing companies. Recommendations are usual, something I wasn’t used to at all.
Lydia Floegel is an accomplished marketing communication professional with 25+ years of fast-paced, in-depth domestic and global experience within the IT industry, the capital goods industry and the food & beverages industry.