The objective of this paper is to explore the reasons behind people in Arab Culture who commit the error of escalation of commitment just to save face. Several middle managers from government, power and banking sector were interviewed.
Introduction: Escalation of commitment is the phenomenon where people increase their investment in a decision despite new evidence suggesting that the decision was probably wrong. Such investment may include money (known informally as “throwing good money after bad”), time, or in the case of military strategy, human lives. The term is also used to describe poor decision-making in business, government, information systems in general, software project management in particular, politics, and gambling. Escalation of commitment was recognized by Barry M. Staw in his 1976 paper, “Knee deep in the big muddy: A study of escalating commitment to a chosen course of action. “In contrast to the intuitive expectation that individuals will reverse decisions or change behaviors that result in negative consequences, within investment decision contexts, negative consequences may actually cause decision makers to increase the commitment of resources and undergo the risk of further negative consequences.” (1)
Researches identified many causes for people to commit this error, which may originate from psychological, social or structural background. The following points give some examples of these categories: (1)
1. Psychological: Personal responsibility for failure, information processing errors, framing, sunk costs, reinforcement traps, continuity of champion, emotional attachment, prior history of success, Strong and repeated support in the past, value attached to turnarounds
2. Social: Public identification with the project, responsibility for failure, competitive/ political rivalry, successful models of persistence, norms of consistency, public decision context, emotional attachment, prior resistance encountered
3. Structural: Political support for the project, including top management support, institutionalization, or strategic nature of the project, slack resources
Why people in Arab Culture Commit Escalation of Commitment Error to Save Face?
Saving face is inherited attribute in the Arab culture as it originates from the typical relationship between the parents & children, and then between the teachers and students. The parents are always right in front of their children and the teachers are always right in front of his/her students. Even if they are wrong, they will pursue their wrong actions and the children will believe because that’s the way they were raised. People also commit this error for the following reasons:
1. Don’t want to be palmed by their superiors, co-workers, partners, friends or themselves
2. Fear of losing their image of integrity among their subordinates and superiors
3. Fear of losing their prestigious status
4. The mentality of “I am the boss and the boss should not be doing any error”
5. It is the culture value that “if you change your WORD, you lose the MAN character
6. The culture encourages people to present success to others, not failures. Failures will not be welcomed by others and may cause negative actions
7. People always want to look good in the eyes of their superiors· Subordinates have strong influence to support the wrong decisions taken by the superior.