Ramadan date: 2015: evening June 17th – evening July 17th
Approximate dates 2016: June 6th – July 6th

For most government organizations and government linked companies, time for Muslim prayer will have a bearing on meeting time. In addition, during the fasting month of Ramadan, they tend to dislike a meeting in the afternoon.
~Executive, Malaysian Airlines


Think your business calendar and implementation schedule aren’t impacted by belief systems, philosophies or religions? Think again. How many millions of dollars will be lost when your construction project is delayed, as was the case in this example?

Case Study: A senior project manager for a U.S. tech company was concerned about whether his two-month implementation schedule should be modified to accommodate the holy month of Ramadan. Concerned with potential delay, his VP decided to proceed with “business as usual” and scheduled meetings and production nonetheless.

The U.S. project team faced not only absent team members, but questions about their disrespect for Islam. The implementation was subsequently delayed three months, then six months. Numerous U.S. deadlines were missed, penalties were assessed, and promotions lost.

Cross-Cultural Awareness: The Holy month of Ramadan impacts group as well as individual decision-making, especially within large companies, government and public sector organizations.
Spending time virtuously, and respecting Islamic law is particularly important during Ramadan. Work hours are significantly reduced, employees take holidays, telecommuting increases, and colleagues are likely to decline business travel. As such, when key principals are out of the office or are working reduced hours, the decision-making process slows considerably.

Cultural Business Practices for Employers/Visitors:

  • Consider hosting a weekly Iftar for the workforce, when both Muslim and non-Muslim employees have an opportunity to get into the spirit of Ramadan. Iftar is the meal eaten by Muslims to break their fast after sunset every day of Ramadan.
  • Schedule meetings around prayer times during the holy month of Ramadan. Islamic law impacts time as it relates to holidays and the traditional Muslim workweek, with the weekend falling on Thursday and Friday. In geographic locations where Friday remains a workday, many offices close at noon, as Muslims take a two-hour break for prayers at a local mosque.
  • Remember that Muslims believe the past and future rest in God’s hands. You are likely to frequently hear the phrase Inshallah, which means, God willing.

Sharon Schweitzer JD is a recognized international etiquette expert, an on-air contributor, corporate trainer, and the international award winning author of Access to Asia: Your Multicultural Guide to Building Trust, Inspiring Respect and Creating Long Lasting Business Relationships. Her work and travels have taken her to over 60 countries on seven continents. With over 20 years’ experience providing consulting and training to more than 100,000 attorneys and corporate executives in law firms and global corporations, her clients range from MD Anderson to Charles University in Prague and NFP. She has been quoted by the New York Times, Fortune Magazine, and numerous international media outlets. To learn more about Sharon, connect with her at www.sharonschweitzer.com; follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/austinprotocol and Facebook at www.facebook.com/protocolww.

Sheikh Zayed Mosque in Abu Dhabi, UAE. Photo credit: ©iStock.com/badahos