First thing that came to my mind when I started to write this article is its intended negative connotation. Since my (debating) experience thought me to observe things from different angles I couldn’t continue writing without asking myself: isn’t there something bright and shiny I can share with the world about Emirates Airline and my experience? And when I think about it hard – yes, I think there is, but it’s all obscured by clouds of incapable and bullying managers. Indeed, I have never met one, only one, EK manager who is not aware of the bullying strategy of managerial system (because they feel it too) and who is prepared to do something about it. Moreover, I would say that half of them there are just aiming for promotions (and, therefore, supporting the mobbing) and half of them are drowned in the sea of silent despair but with no intention to change anything since, on the other hand, they do have good packages (housing allowance, wages and benefits) that they don’t want to lose. To be honest, there is a great possibility that managers, actually, serve as dummies since all the decisions are made at the presidency level.
So, it’s every man for himself.
For starters, EK has a nice policy of welcoming new staff. When you arrive to Dubai Marhaba service is waiting for you. They help you with the immigration service and they transport you to your hotel where you have to stay one month. Hotel is pretty nice. You are alone in the room and you have nice bed, nice TV, internet, clean bathroom and a pool on the roof. OK, meals were not paid, not even a breakfast (I suppose that hotel has to earn a little extra bucks) but that was forgiveable. Training is also fun. You are excited to learn new things and to make your way in airline industry.
Transition to your work post is pretty smooth, although the first days on your job post are extremely stressful, since training doesn’t provide many information (on visas regimes especially). Everything after that is just a black hole with the moments of sunshine when you manage to travel with discounted tickets (even then you have to die on replacements to have few days off and you have to starve after the journey, because your salary is not enough to spend two days abroad and to even survive till the end of the month). So your discounted tickets are pretty much useless, except in couple of occasions. And yes, people do manage to see some of the world, but with a lot of personal sacrifice and health damage.
This is where this whole experience with Emirates Airline reminds me on usual behavioural pattern of an abusive husband, for example. You fall in love with someone. That someone shows you only the best of him (or lies to you). After sometime you get married and harassment starts. This is the point when you are in the trap. You still love this person but you don’t know how to help yourself. Should you leave him? Should you, even, escape (in cases of serious molestations)? Should you try to explain him that you will stay if he stops harassing you and behave like at the beginning of your relationship? Even if you leave him, wounds of abuse are open for a long time because you have had many kinds of attachments with him and it’s not easy to let go.
I have received many e-mails and messages from ex employees. At one point I asked myself: these people say that they are better off without EK so why do they bother to write me and support me? After sometime I figured it out. They are still, somehow, attached, and they will, probably, always be. EK is, maybe, their first experience outside their home countries. They’ve been trough a lot to adjust to cosmopolitan surroundings and to totally different culture and people. They missed their family and friends, they cried, they were happy, they gave their best at work, they started to love aviation (aviation has that itchy habit to get under your skin), they met new friends, they made attachments to people and places, they built their home, bought beds, paintings, lamps, carpets… And, suddenly, one day, something happens. Maybe its their fault, but people make mistakes. Problem in Emirates Airline is that those mistakes are usually over-exaggerated and blown to bigger proportions by useless and/or scared managers (managers don’t want to solve problems on any other way than by punishing staff, since they don’t want to take responsibility for any decision except punishment in fear for their own job). And you’re out. Just like that. Go home (whether you are forced to resign, which happens very often, or you can’t take it any more and you decide to resign or you are terminated). We will replace your staff number with another one.
If you are working with EK for more than three months you start to notice that there is something profoundly wrong with the whole system. The system has false settings. And you feel it badly. Everywhere you look people are tired and depressed. Working too much for too little, treated like cattle and called for interrogations, punished, forced to deal with hundreds of passengers per day which is mentally unbearable and it leaves deeper psychological repercussions for those who are not strong enough to build themselves defence mechanism against madness.
Now, that madness could be easily avoided if there are some useful and capable managers. But they are rare because experienced, smart, honest and brave people don’t want to put themselves under the constant rule of fear (for a long time).
So it happened that I was scheduled to sit 5 or 6 hours at the same counter continuously checking in the passengers, dealing with their problems with excess baggage (so usual in Dubai) and their mentality so different than where I am coming from. At one point I have decided to fetch a bottle of water (we are not allowed to drink it at the counter). I stood up, closed my counter, and passenger (or concierge service staff) decided to come to my counter, although it was obvious that I was preparing myself to leave (it’s usual in Dubai that respect for other people’s needs is also on a low level). I have instructed the concierge staff to wait for a call of an available agent and I left. It turned out that those passengers were family of some high manager who wanted investigation about the fact that his family “was refused” at the counter. The same manager is the one who came up with irrational and tiring shifts for staff. I have asked to meet him to discuss the shifts but he never accepted me for a meeting. Instead, I was called by our controller Joshua Waltz to “explain” what happened.
Of course, since I do have some managerial experience this was so illogical to me. Why I have to explain something that is an obvious airport organization’s fault? First of all, I am not given any breaks during my 6 hours at the counter and I do have a right to drink water. Second of all, you cannot expect from passengers to behave in the way you would like them to behave, but you can expect from the airport managers to organize the airport in such a way that these (lets call them) misunderstandings don’t happen. You just have to protect your agents from overcrowding by making a system of counter availability. So, when the agent, for example, presses green button it means that he is available to check in the next passenger. When he presses red button it means that he is busy or going away. So, instead of doing this simple thing to improve the customers’s and staff’s experience, Mr. Joshua had to listen the order of his senior and he had to call me for a meeting to explain myself. Obviously, he could make his life easier also. It’s not nice when your only job is to punish your employees. It has to be more than that in a job of an average airport controller. But, these managers don’t know how and they are too afraid to do something even if they knew how (probably thanks to abusive people on the highest positions).
And this is how every day at the airport passes by. Passengers are angry due to chaos at the airport, staffs are suffering due to crowdedness and manager’s behaviour and managers are constantly punishing (it seems that similar things are happening in cabin crew department also, according to the writings on this blog: http://sodwee.com/blog/2008/01/a-to-z-joining-emirates-cabin-crew/). Every day. And, as far as I know, there are no laws against mobbing (or sexual harassment). In the matter of fact, EK is a law for itself (since it is not the subject of any Governmental Law).
Ridiculous for such a known and big company, isn’t it? We were also surprised when we came to work there.