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The reward of knowledge awaits Emirates who enter the private sector. Lauren Lancaster / The National
The reward of knowledge awaits Emirates who enter the private sector. Lauren Lancaster / The National

Emiratis who opt for private sector are taking the hard road

Convincing Emiratis to work in the private sector instead of with the Government is no easy sell.

The decision to move into the private sector for UAE nationals is no easy undertaking with the world of the government sector promising Emiratis so many comforts as well as stability.

To even consider moving to the other side, an Emirati must be committed and determined to further develop his or her experience and professionalism while sacrificing the numerous benefits offered in the public sector.

The state sector offers absolute job security. It is close to impossible to be asked to leave your job unless in an extreme circumstance.

Of course, as in many countries, government jobs pay much better than in the private sector and a clear career path is usually laid out before you, with the path to success always within your sights.

For the most part, working hours are often less than the private sector with little or no demand to take your work home with you.

In other words, when weighing the benefits between private-sector jobs to government positions, you are looking at a three-legged wooden stool compared to a plush leather-upholstered chair.

The above points can be applied to many countries, but one of the main reasons that make the UAE government-sector job more appealing to nationals is the work culture.

The simple truth is that we live in a country where nationals represent only a fifth of the population. In the government sector, a national will be surrounded by other Emirati colleagues who understand the culture, customs and traditions of the employee.

Private-sector jobs demand that you learn to accept and work by another's culture, which has benefits in itself, yet the process of learning and adapting to this new culture is often an exhausting and painful process.

One Emirati way of life in particular that is hard for colleagues or managers in the private sector to comprehend is the unconditional love for one's family, putting them as a priority before anything else, including work.

Managers in the private sector are accustomed to family men sharing the responsibility of family and children with their spouse.

This is also the case for some UAE nationals, but even with a spouse who works, an Emirati man usually holds at least 80 per cent of responsibilities for his family.

Trying to explain that to a line manager who has little or no experience with Emiratis is a draining task that can often lead to an unpleasant work environment. If you look at it from the outside, the public sector seems more rewarding but much is also to be found in the private sector.

One advantage is the reward of knowledge. If an Emirati truly has set his or her mind to broaden their horizons, then the private sector is undoubtedly the way to go. In most cases, an Emirati will gain a knowledge and expertise in their field based on international standards.

They will also have the benefit of learning how to work and live side by side with colleagues of other nationalities. Additionally, with the right management, their talents and strengths will be nurtured and used through strenuous work that only leads to further development.

Of course, there is much risk involved when moving to the private sector.

Emiratis may very well end up with a line manager who may create an extremely unpleasant work environment for them either through ignorance or malice. Being a minority in the workplace, some managers may unfortunately abuse this fact by singling out the mistakes or weaknesses of an Emirati employee to avoid the responsibility of training them or perhaps just to discriminate.

Sadly, this has been known to happen to many over the years and Emiratis are fully aware of the risks involved when deciding to enter the private sector.

With longer hours, less pay and countless cultural challenges, the private sector is not an easy path to take for Emiratis.

Yet, those who do choose to venture down this less-travelled road by committing themselves to tougher challenges, are by choice embarking on a search for knowledge through hardship.

Faced with a choice, the government sector clearly outweighs the private sector. So do Emiratis who have willingly chosen to leave their comfort zone to progress not represent the very qualities every manager wants in their employees?

For senior management in the private sector, recognising these qualities in their Emirati employees is crucial in understanding their characteristics and the endless possibilities and contributions they can offer their managers, teams and respective companies.

Taryam Al Subaihi is a freelance Emirati writer from Abu Dhabi who specialises in corporate communications

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