Social capital in Jordan: wasta in employment selection

Conference item


Sa'ad, Ali, Raiden, A and Kirk, S 2015. Social capital in Jordan: wasta in employment selection.
AuthorsSa'ad, Ali, Raiden, A and Kirk, S
Abstract

Social capital has emerged as a concept of great interest and potential to help understand and explain how social structures and networks impact political, social and business practices at the collective and individual levels. The basic premise is: investment in social relations will yield expected returns. Extant research has largely focused on the West; our knowledge of how social capital plays out in the Middle East is limited. We marry social capital with ‘wasta’, the strong family and tribal based connections secured in networks in the Arab world, and investigate HR managers’ perceptions of wasta in employment selection in Jordan. Often use of wasta in employment selection is related to favouritism and nepotism and the many negative outcomes of not adhering to merit-based selection. Through in-depth interview data we reveal a more nuanced and multifaceted view of wasta in employment selection. When examined through the social capital lens six distinct themes emerge: (i) wasta as an enabler to get jobs, (ii) wasta as social ties/ solidarity, (iii) wasta as a method to transfer/ attain information, (iv) wasta as a guide in decision-making, (v) wasta as an exchange, and (vi) wasta as pressure. Our findings confirm that at times wasta grants individuals unfair access to employment that is beyond their qualifications, skills, knowledge and/ or abilities. However, organisational context is relevant. In banking, not all roles are open to wasta. Where the possible negative impact on the organisation poses too great a risk HR managers feel able to resist even strong wasta. Context also emerges as being of key importance with regards to the background and business model of an organisation. Family businesses tend to operate wasta more frequently and extensively using tribal connections, religious networks and geographical area based networks as a key source in hiring. Despite globalisation and international nature of banking, wasta and tribalism feature strongly in daily business conduct in Jordan. Our paper illuminates the positive effects of wasta, e.g.as a method to transfer information, together with discussion on the dangers of ‘cloning’, a (lack of diversity), and the dangers of an incompetent workforce

Keywordswasta, social capital, Jordan employee selection
Year2015
Web address (URL)http://hdl.handle.net/10545/624871
hdl:10545/624871
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Publication dates2015
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Deposited03 Jun 2020, 15:26
Accepted2015
ContributorsUniversity of Worcester and Nottingham Trent University
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