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Opinion: The Culture of Work and the Construction of Hope - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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I could not believe my eyes as I read a trending news item. I read it again and still could not believe what I was reading. The General Manager of the Express Mail Service (EMS) in Saudi Arabia Hamad Al-Bakr “reacted” emphatically to a post on Twitter that carried a simple but distressing question: “Do you accept the Saudi post services ruining a bride’s wedding day?” immediately followed by a “no”. The date of the wedding was on a Friday—the Saudi weekend—and that the wedding dress, meant to be delivered by EMS, hadn’t arrived. Mr. Al-Bakr responded to this by requesting the parcel code and finding out that the dress was sent from Jeddah on Tuesday, arrived in Riyadh on Thursday, but hadn’t yet arrived to Huraymala’a, the bride’s hometown. The general manager immediately ordered that the post office be opened and the parcel be retrieved. He then personally delivered the dress in his own private car to the family who received him with overwhelming joy.

Having heard of this noble deed, the highly experienced president of Saudi post Dr. Mohammed Saleh bin Taher Benten hastened to honor Hamad Al-Bakr in a public gathering.

The news item, in its entirety, seems to be an ideal one incorporating no mistakes or failures or bad news, but rather suspense, excitement, and a happy ending.

Thanks to his “wonderful and exceedingly rare behavior”—since he would not received such praise had he acted habitually—Hamad Al-Bakr revived the notions of optimism, commitment, and responsibility. He also encouraged attributes like enthusiasm and work outside of working hours and raised awareness about the value of work. It is also important to acknowledge Hamad Al-Bakr’s boss for bringing his unique behavior into view and honoring him elegantly.

In view of the Saudi government’s intensive campaign to nationalize jobs in the Kingdom, it is important to portray the positive achievements of Saudi employees rather than accusing them of negatively impacting and undermining the economy with their low productivity.

The tale of the wedding dress parcel provides many lessons to be learnt and wonderful attributes to adopt. It is important that this kind of act not be an “exception,” but rather a customary attitude and work style. In keeping with this, the EMS’s initiative to award employees doing an exceptional job should be adopted by all other public and private institutions to motivate employees and bring their accomplishments into view. This way, exceptional stories can gradually become “ordinary” and society will expect nothing less. This is how a work culture is established and how it can be maintained and respected by future generations with a sense of honesty and bravery.

Hussein Shobokshi

Hussein Shobokshi

Hussein Shobokshi is a businessman and prominent columnist. Mr. Shobokshi hosts the weekly current affairs program Al-Takreer on Al-Arabiya, and in 1995 he was chosen as one of the "Global Leaders for Tomorrow" by the World Economic Forum. He received his BA in Political Science and Management from the University of Tulsa.

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