Yesterday, one commenter on this blog, Filippo Boebel, wrote something very insightful. He effectively pointed out something that management in Emirates Airline doesn’t understand or doesn’t want to implement: “your work is time you lend to your employer not a favour that employer does to you.” Indeed, Emirates managers behave like they do the favour to their employees, so everyone should be honoured to work for a glory. Money is a taboo topic.
We can’t discuss this issue without knowing a little bit more about labour structure inside Emirates and disturbing some closet ghosts.
Yes, Emirates Airline has exclusively dealt with cheap labour in recent past. No, I don’t want to offend any nationality (don’t get me wrong) but they were mostly Asians.
Now, we can’t bypass the fact that there are some cultural (and economic) differences between Asian and Western culture. People from all over the world may have the same abilities, skills, be equally intelligent and educated, but culture can play a big role in dealing with working force. I even have friends from Asia who told me that they are taught to be submissive and to be satisfied with what they are given and not to ask for more. And they told me that while they were watching me fight for our basic labour rights (not all of them, of course. Some of them are real fighters). But when we put this fact together with the fact that their economy allows them to have (what is regarded) below minimum wages and still to send (what is considered) big money home, they have no reason to ask for better or more. They are taught to be satisfied and their otherwise small salary in Dubai means a lot of money in their home countries. This is not the case with Western employees.
Since Emirates Airline has a huge ambition to be the first airliner in the world and a life style brand, they needed some Western employees in their customer service positions.
Now, they have always had Western employees, but those people were hired as managers.
To hire people from Western countries just because they are native English speakers or because they are holders of certain western passports is wrong to begin with. People whose only qualification for managerial position is language or passport are useless and their presence makes fake image of having highly educated management, when in reality most of those managers have no skills or knowledge to deal with airline operation and human resources.
There are also cases of employing some nationalities on management positions because they belong to different privileged groups or their lobby in the company is strong (nepotism).
This is just one way of discrimination in Emirates and there are many more yet to be described here.
Lets get back to Western people that Emirates wanted for the lower positions. Since Western people have different culture and they know that nobody is doing them a favour by employing them (they’re aware that working contract is a deal between employer and employee, where both of them are making a commitment: employee is lending his knowledge and skills for the money and certain working conditions that employer has to provide in order to gain profit), Emirates HR Management figured that there are enough troubled countries in Europe and South America where they can benefit from cheaper labour. From the economic point of view nobody can judge them for that. But the issue here is a different one. It is, in fact, a cultural one.
So, they come to Argentina, Ukraine, Brasil, Poland, Hungary, Serbia, Croatia, Portugal, Bulgaria, Greece, Romania and so on. They choose the cream: all educated and/or smart people but used to different (more respectful) treatment in their countries.
All of these people sign the contract for 700 euros per month and come to work with one of the biggest airliner in the world. Most of them have an expectation: to begin on the lowest positions, but, aware of their value and education, they do expect to grow and advance in their careers. Why else did they finish all those schools and trainings or travelled that far away from everything they know? Some of them want experience, some of them want to be cabin crew and some of them came for adventure.
But all they run into is a wall of ignorant managers, fear of job loss, impolite orders from superiors, exhausting shifts, corruption and nepotism and surviving salary.
They already left everything and came to Dubai, so they want to make something out of it. They start to struggle, get loans, live day by day, but its difficult. They are used to go out with their friends sometimes, to watch a movie, to have rich social and cultural lives, but all they get to do is sleeping and working for a small salary with almost non-existing opportunities for progression.
Treatment is reckless as there is no organizational culture at all. Everyone is ordering everyone else in a rude and aggressive way (except few). Almost no one is respecting anyone else. Everyone is treated like numbers and replaceable kleneex. So, some of them resign, some of them just escape, some of them stay, but totally disinterested in the job, making, actually, damage to the customer service rather than contributing to the company’s profit and image. And lets leave a discussion about privileged groups for some other time as it is a huge problem in EK.
This made me wonder: is it really possible that any serious company is not interested in its own human resource wealth? Moreover, is it possible that one company treats the cream of its staff as shit?
Is it possible that any serious company develops such a strong system of making voluntary slaves from its employees by taking away their value and sense of self-esteem and then still expects to be sustainable and first in the world?
Is it possible that one international and multicultural company is not able to produce and implement procedures and organizational culture that will reduce cultural differences and equalize various managerial styles?
Is it possible that any serious company digs itself such a huge hole that everyone else sees it except the highest management (mainly chosen by previously mentioned passport criteria or nepotism)?