Tips for Managers Working in the UAE

By: Sally Foley-Lewis

In order to provide some tips and advice for managers working in the UAE I thought I would go beyond just my own experiences of living in the UAE, beyond my own opinion and beliefs and do some brief basic research. I asked a range of friends and colleagues, and past work friends and managers who live and work in the UAE. The group I asked comes from a range of backgrounds, differ in age and work in a range of industries.

I only asked one question, “What is one tip you would give a manager working in the UAE?” Here are their responses, summarized:

* Understand that staff may be from a variety of cultures and they all have different ideas and cultures that need respecting, however when it comes to work, the same input-output is required by all. Open the heart and mind to understand cultural diversity. Cultural Awareness training would be a valuable addition to any induction or orientation program for all staff, not just managers.

* Expect to have norms constantly challenged by the huge range of other nationalities working here, especially for a new manager.

* Flexibility is important. There is often more than one way to complete a task and the manager’s way is not necessarily always the best way.

* Understand what motivates the staff. People are working here for a wide variety of reasons which impact on their attitude towards work and how their manager can actually motivate them. It is about knowing how to balance those people who are working as 'something to do because the husband or wife got posted out here' with those who want to build a career, to those who are simply here for the cold hard tax-free money. Trying to get the extra mile out a workforce made up of these kinds of staff members can be challenging. Understanding why someone is working in the UAE and how to tap into their motivation is key for success here (and pretty much anywhere!).

* Consider learning and using different communication techniques tailored to the different nationalities and team members that make up the workforce. For example, when communicating with Emiratis it may be helpful to use a more verbal basis of communication, and depending on languages used and language skills, it may also be necessary to use simple words. This may also apply where one language, e.g. English, is the common language in the workplace however many do not have English as a first or second language. This is, however, generally inappropriate and possibly frustrating to some Western team members or colleagues. For sub-continental team members, it seems to be more effective when communicating in writing as they tend to respond better to instructions issued clearly and succinctly that they can constantly refer back to. These are generalisations so it will always be important to identify the preferred communication methods of the team.

* Keep Communicating. Even if the manager doesn’t think the information is all that important, it might actually be important to the team, so share it! This does not need to be constant formal meetings, it can be the informal chat at the desk to see how things are progressing, it can be the quick call to the travelling worker to let them know what’s happening in the office and see how they are going. These actions may seem too friendly for some, they may appear like ‘having fun’ however the result is generally a work group that feels like a team and will respect their manager for keeping them up to date.

* First impressions are very important, managers sometimes forget this because it isn’t their first day and they’ve got plenty to do! First impressions with employees, especially those recruited from overseas are often described as nonexistent or pathetic. Coordination with the HR Dept to ensure the new recruit has all the information they need, have a smooth and welcoming entry in the country, all help the employee come to their first day of work in a positive state of mind.

Managers who are present, helpful, forthcoming with information, and ensure all questions are answered for the new employees first day of work are likely to have that employee being more productive quicker than those managers who do not participate in any orientation.

Managers who are expats need to remember what steps they needed to go through in order to settle into work and life in the UAE. A manager who keeps in mind how stressful it is to change jobs, let alone change countries will be able to help the new employee.

This tip also impacts on the reputation of the company. In the work I did in the UAE, I was met many different people, not many of them had positive stories to tell about their first days and weeks of joining their respective companies, complaining of not being provided with any induction or quality orientation. That’s not really good for a company’s reputation, is it?

I am sure there are many, many other tips that could be listed; for this article, I was interested to get a broader view from a range of people. Interestingly, many of the responses all come back to two key important management skills of communication and cultural awareness.

This article was written by Sally Foley-Lewis © exclusively for Abu Dhabi Living ©

About the author

Sally fast-tracks manager productivity!Sally works with managers to be more effective and efficient in their role.She’s trained and coached across a range on industries, such as aviation, shipbuilding, oil and gas, telcos, education and finance.She’s lived in Germany, outback Queensland in Australia, the United Arab Emirates and is now settled in Sydney, Australia.

Twitter @sallyfoleylewis
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