In an opinion piece for Saudi Gazette, Khalid Al-Seghayer writes about the differences in the way an official resigning from his position is viewed in the West and in the Arab world. While he misses the politically expedient resignation — usually couched in terms like “desire to spend more time with one’s family — he is correct that a resignation is rarely an admission of personal failure in the West.
Arab culture, however, sees a resignation as potentially traitorous toward the person who nominated the officeholder. Worse, it can be seen as a sign of personal weakness or ‘lacking impulse control’. Resignation lives on afterwards, too, coloring the way others will view the resignee and their future interactions with him.
Resigning in the Arab and Western worlds
Dr. Khalid Al-Seghayer
When disharmony emerges among members of an administration, it often becomes clear that someone must step down. Similarly, when individuals even in the highest positions find that the atmosphere is no longer conducive to fully performing their assigned role, resignation becomes an option. However, the decision to resign is viewed differently in the Arab and the Western worlds.
In Western culture, resignation could suggest several notions including accepting full responsibility for what seems to be wrongdoing, tacit admission of negligence in the performance of tasks or the inability to achieve the organization’s desired goal, or recognition of assigning the wrong person to the job. The public in Western culture actually admires and respects such a resignation decision because, apparently, the public interest comes first at the expense of one’s personal interest. Resignation could further denote a way to amend a wrong operational approach; hold the person in charge accountable; firmly indicate that no place for equivocating exists; allow leading positions to be rotated; exercise self-supervision; and openly and directly express dissatisfaction with the current situation.