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Towards understanding the relationships between economics, tribalism and the use of the wasta informal network in the workplace

Fadi Alsarhan (ISC Paris Business School, Paris, France)
Arwa Al-Twal (American University of Madaba, Madaba, Jordan)

Employee Relations

ISSN: 0142-5455

Article publication date: 21 March 2023

Issue publication date: 10 July 2023

182

Abstract

Purpose

The aim of this study is to understand the relationship between economic challenges, tribalism and the use of the wasta informal network in the workplace across Middle East and North Africa (MENA) organizations, with Jordanian public organizations taken as an illustrative case.

Design/methodology/approach

A qualitative approach was applied, and a total of 28 semi-structured interviews were conducted with human resource (HR) officials working in different public organizations such as state-owned enterprises (SOEs), ministries, government agencies (GAs) the military forces and security agencies.

Findings

The authors' findings show that employees who live in rural areas are more likely to use wasta in public organizations than the counterparts living in the capital Amman. This contrast is accounted for by major differences between mentalities, the strength of tribalism, norms and living standards among residents of urban and rural areas. The authors argue that these differences play a pivotal role on the use of wasta informal networks in the workplace.

Originality/value

The outcomes obtained in this study have proven to be unique and important due to the authors' holistic theoretical understanding of wasta, which offers important insights into its emergence, evolution and use in the workplace. The outcomes of this study also serve as guidance for organizations in understanding the “hidden force” of wasta and the extent to which the organizations' businesses may be impacted by this, based on the type of employees the organizations already have or intend to hire and employees' tribal ties. This study accounts for the wide use of informal networks in managerial activities, based on important social and economic realities that have not been previously explored in the literature.

Keywords

Citation

Alsarhan, F. and Al-Twal, A. (2023), "Towards understanding the relationships between economics, tribalism and the use of the wasta informal network in the workplace", Employee Relations, Vol. 45 No. 4, pp. 925-943. https://doi.org/10.1108/ER-07-2022-0332

Publisher

:

Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2023, Emerald Publishing Limited

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