Changing nature of workplaces refers to the process of organizational change within the work environment. Changing nature of the workplace, therefore, refers to the process of transformation in an organization at any level of its operations or departments that may include culture change, work procedures, or an overall change in organizational values or policies (Whiteley and Whiteley, 2003). The concept of organizational change recognizes the challenges of driving change in an organization; in that regard, it factors in the need for employees to be trained in preparation for the change process as well as to be given time in achieving the desired change by implementing such change process through phases. It, therefore, provides the organization and employees with a common ground that significantly increases the success of a change process in an organization, more importantly, it allows change systems to be modified in a way that addresses the needs of employees and thereby make the change process to be easily accepted in the organization.
The process of changes in workplaces is very much dependent on the management practices and styles that exist in an organization and the overall work policies of the country; as such organizational leaders play an integral role in any form of transformation that takes place in the context of workplaces. This research study intends to take a critical look at the trends of change in workplace and management practices in UAE by investigating two determinants of this factor; management styles and general organizational changes.
For many years most organizations globally were traditionally managed through bureaucratic methods which were thought at the time to be more effective and reliable approaches to managing employees. However, we now know this is not the case because new findings in the field of organization management indicate that bureaucratic methods tend to negatively affect the output of the organization and limit its productivity because of the increased red tape that is found at all levels. More specifically bureaucratic organizations were seen to be greatly hampered in two key areas that were central to the growth of any organization. One, it reduced employee motivation thereby reducing the quality of work output; in addition, bureaucratic organizations were observed to suffocate innovation in the workplace which was a factor that greatly limited their growth (McKenna, Garcia-Lorenzo, and Bridgeman, 2010). It is probably out of these limitations that instigated the need for a more efficient and effective organizational management approach that needed to be entrenched in organizational workplaces.
This is what McKenna et al describe as post-bureaucracy that organizations must embrace and continue to contend with given that the elements of bureaucracy per se are an inherent feature of any modern organization (2010). Indeed the current organizational work environment found in most Companies exhibit the classical characteristics of the post-bureaucracy system that McKenna et al describe as stressful to employees, which reduces job security and has high job responsibilities (2010). These are the common characteristics of modern-day organizations all over the world which UAE is not an exception.
In the early 80s and even before that when UAE started developing its world-class cities that were driven by the earnings from the oil sector, professionals all over the world became attracted by the prospects of working in the region and started streaming in. At this early period, most of the jobs were still limited in the oil sector and construction industry. The result was organizations that had very diversified professionals at their workplace pooled from all over the world but which comprised very little human personnel from the region. This phenomenon of diversity in many UAE organizations was crucial in improving the efficiency of organizations and was greatly the factor behind the rapid growth of the region’s economy because of the nature of its workforce which was very skilled with great diversity (McKenna, 2010).
Diversity is regarded as one of the most beneficial aspects that any organization can greatly gain from; this is because it increases organizational efficiency, improves the bottom line, promotes competitive advantage, improves overall business performance, and achieves employee motivation (Handy, 1985). But like all good things, excess diversity when it occurs on large scale has its downside; in this case, it increased dependency on foreign professionals while at the same time fanning the region socio-cultural factors that discriminated against women in the workplace thereby compounding an already complicated situation (McKenna, 2010). A research study done by Behery that investigated job fitting in UAE organizations attributes the phenomenon of organizational diversity to the “Emiratization” program that the government started implementing around the 1990s to counter the reliance on foreign professionals that made up a significant number of all personnel working in the UAE region at the time (Behery, 2009).
At about this time most UAE workplaces projected images of international organizations very similar to any other organization in western countries. This phenomenon was brought about by three interrelated factors that included globalization, government policy, and the capitalist system of “market economy” that facilitated the movement of skilled workers across the globe (Mejia, Luis Burkey, and Cardy, 2008). This international image of an organization that is greatly dominated by diversified international workers is what continues to persist even to this day in UAE despite the Emiratization program which pundits agree will take years before it can show any meaningful achievements. The current nature of workplaces in UAE depicts an image of organizations that have gone through years of transformations, reduction of management hierarchies, restructured employment contracts, and new employee management techniques that have collectively led to the reformed organization structure (Behery, 2009).
It is because of these gradual changes in a workplace environment that have also led to increased women Emiratis personnel to rise through senior management levels which is a feature that could not have been found in many UAE organizations as recent as a decade ago due to the social-cultural factors found in the region. A very recent research study that investigated the topology of career women in UAE found that from 1995 to 2008 native female personnel have increased from 5.4% to 27.9 respectively; commendable progress albeit unsatisfactory (Omair, 2010). While traditional gender stereotyping still exists directed towards women in workplace environments in UAE, there has been a reduction and more women are currently tolerated in several job positions than was previously the case.
In the following section, we are going to discuss how these changes have taken place by analyzing the results of an actual research survey that measured the role of managers in the UAE and changes in workplaces.
The research statement for this study was “to explore the change in work practices and attitudes in the UAE in the past 25 years”. Because the type of data required for this study was subjective, the qualitative research design was applied and modeled in form of a survey. This study also utilized a descriptive research design which is necessary for the analysis of literature review and data collected from questionnaires. Samples were selected from a pool of target population which included active cases from two major websites, Facebook and Twitter who came from the UAE region. The samples were selected from the target population through a random sampling technique; this is because simple random sampling is a technique that ensures there is no bias in selecting cases from the population (Leedy, 1993).
The major advantage of simple random sampling is that selected cases reflect the actual characteristics of the target population since the selection of the sample is done randomly (Leedy, 1993). Another advantage of choosing a sample using a simple random method is that all cases have equal chances of being chosen as samples which strengthen the validity of the research (Leedy, 1993). The set criteria for the research participants required cases to be residents of UAE who are working in any sector that has an organizational setup.
Instrumentation, Materials, and Data Collection
One major type of instrumentation was used throughout the research study which was a research survey questionnaire distributed to participants through an online portal from where the cases filled it and returned it via the same portal. The questionnaire is one of the most commonly used instruments in the collection of qualitative data from a sample population (Marshal and Rossman, 2002). In this case use of a questionnaire was very relevant in collecting information on the variables of interest such as perception of leadership abilities, the effect of social-cultural factors, and the effect of gender at the workplace among others. The type of questions that were included in the questionnaire forms were matrix questions that relied on the Likert Scale; this type of scale ranks respondent feedback on each question across several levels (Marshal and Rossman, 2002). It was a self-administered questionnaire that did not require the guidance of a research assistant since all the questions were included therein were straightforward.
Qualitative and quantitative analysis was done on data collected from the respondents during the study; because two concepts were being investigated in this research study two types of questionnaire forms were designed for each category of respondents.
Change in UAE Workplaces
A total of 16 respondents participated in this aspect of the research study that sought to establish the changes and current nature of the workplace that existed in UAE organizations.
And as we have earlier established during the literature review more than half of all personnel that responded to the survey were foreigners working in UAE who indicated that they had previously worked elsewhere which would mean they were very skilled personnel. Out of the total respondents, only 43.8% of workers indicated to be citizens of UAE; this result supports our earlier theory that showed the benefit of the Emiratization program that the government has implemented is yet to bear any fruits that would result in this disproportion of foreign professionals that are working in UAE
A proportionally higher number of surveyed respondents indicated to be in middle management or senior management which combined made up 63% of all personnel that was surveyed half of whom were employed in the private sector. This would indicate high evolved organizations because of the increased number of management posts that exist very similar to what McKenna et al describe as the post-bureaucracy nature of modern organizations which still retain several hierarchies of red tape. Similar to other research studies that have been done on this region this research survey indicates that women still rank very far from their male companions when it comes to representation at the workplace; a phenomenon that Omair attributes to social-cultural factors.
Indeed based on this research study women make up partly 31.3% while their male companions fill the rest; these findings conform to the current literature review which indicates that the social-cultural barriers are not as restrictive to career women as was previously the case. Finally, this research survey also sought to measure the perception by comparing the perception of workers across various ranges of issues. Among the things that we can establish from the results is that human resource personnel appears to value teamwork than was previously the case 25 years ago. This phenomenon is what Hofstede would describe as the Individual vs. Collectivism orientation of personnel in an organization, which is largely a factor of culture (1977). It is hard to determine from the study what would have caused the shift towards this “collectivism”, but Hofstede does attribute it to factors of religion, age, family values, or cohort issues (1977). Nevertheless, this culture of “collectivism” is consistent with the nature of culture in UAE which indicates that people have strong values attached to family and religion which is probably the reason that they value teamwork.
There also appears to be a trend in the way that Emirati people have shifted their perception regarding business and friendship which now appears to be less separated from each other. But culture continues to be a central factor that influences the life of Emirati’s which would also include the way that they run their business given that more than half of all the respondents surveyed indicate culture as important to them.
Managers in the UAE
The majority of workers in UAE would wish to have a manager with all the ideal qualities that make an effective leader such as people management skills, motivator, understanding mentor, and a role model. Most of these positive leadership qualities are what personnel highlight as desirable for their managers; a factor that would indicate employee agitation in the workplace for quality leadership. It is probably out of this leadership transformation that has reduced the socio-cultural dogmatic perceptions of women in the workplace thereby facilitating their inclusion in organizations.
Indeed as Hofstede once found out the type of leadership style is one of the major factors that influence the nature of workplaces in organizations besides other factors such as organizational traditions and policies (1977). A major determinant to the type of leadership style that a leader is likely to adopt in an Organizations has to do with attitude; as such the approach that a leader adopts to manage people is largely influenced by the attitude of the manager towards the employees (Hofstede, 1977).
This is according to Geert Hofstede, the German psychologist who researched the revolutionary findings that provided the first measurable evidence between the association of culture and organization in what he termed as power distance (1977). The implication of Hofstede’s findings indicates that organizational leaders play a central role in influencing the nature of the workplace in their organizations through their leadership style or what employee perceives to be their leadership style. But since culture determines everything else in an organization including leadership style, one of Hofstede’s dimensions Masculinity vs. feminity is very relevant to this research study. This is because UAE is what Hofstede described as an M culture. After all, “the differences between gender roles are more dramatic” implying that females and males have very specific roles that are defined by society (1977). Other factors that influence the type of leadership styles include personality type that is usually determined by the level of education, skills, experience, and previous work environment (Tannenbaum and Schmidt, 2008). A question that sought to identify the major factors that Emiratis attribute to the modern-day organizational setup indicates that the region has greatly benefited from this transformation of the workplace than they have lost.
Indeed most of the greatest advances that seem to have taken place in the organizational landscape are directly attributed to the phenomenon of globalization that has completely transformed the workplace in the region. Women are now able to take up more positions because of what one responder describes as “losing the clan attitude”; others are the transfer of skills, the emergence of efficient organizations, the ability to compete internationally, and intercultural tolerance among others.
This has resulted in to shift of traditional values among Emiratis because of the exposure to the western culture and ultimately in the way that they relate and appreciate other cultures. In retrospect, throughout this study, no evidence indicates culture to be a hindrance to the prosperity of the organizations in the UAE region as Hofstede’s earlier research on the effect of culture in organizations had indicated. According to Hofstede, “Culture is more often a source of conflict than of synergy; cultural differences are a nuisance at best and often a disaster” (Hofstede, 1977). But in this research study, no evidence points towards this claim.
All of the same findings from this research study are largely correlated with literature review in the same subject which noted the early exposure of the UAE region to foreign professionals at a very early point in time long before the larger Middle East region had started accommodating foreign workers. Incidentally, it is for this reason that UAE has some of the most commercially developed cities in the whole region. It is because of this globalization and westernization culture that started in the organizational workplace in UAE during the early 70s that has led to the flourishing of this region and opened up workplaces more than its neighbors.
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