I am thankful to all the EK staff who had the strength and courage to describe their experience with depression while working for Emirates Airline. Common thing of all people with depression is that they think that they are alone and that nobody feels like they do. They are also pushed to believe that something is wrong with them, especially by EK managers.
Only one EK employee can truly understand another one as we all have been through the system which deliberately tries to make you feel worthless and brainwash you to ensure that you will remain obedient and scared and do more for less.
You are not alone and your reaction to circumstances in the company which abuses its employees in every possible way while giving no appreciation for your hard work is only normal. I can guarantee that most of EK staff experience some form of depression.
As an Human Resources professional I have to say that after reading all of your confessions and stories I am deeply disturbed and sometimes even surprised by the extent of managerial indifference to the problems of their employees.
I still wear my “I love Emirates” bag and my Emirates key-chain as I really do cherish my time spent in this company. But its management achieved unthinkable levels of inhumanity and lack of understanding that only satisfied staff can ensure future profit.
As I sometimes receive disturbing messages when I mention Dubai and UAE’s economy and future plans I will not do it this time but I would like to raise my doubts in benevolence of EK management. Everyone who has a little corporate experience and education can see that their actions really do bring profit in short terms (by cutting costs on the expense of their staff’s quality of life and working conditions), but in long terms they are destroying the company from the grounds.
Managerial structure of Emirates Airline is seriously damaged and it serves only to milk the Emirates cow and let it die in the desert. As local managers should be more concerned about their legacy, their education, experience and tolerant personal culture should help them reverse current power driven and arrogant organisational culture to more humane one. If western managers are mostly there because they couldn’t find jobs in their home countries and to take as much money as they can before leaving UAE, local managers should give up on fear culture and build new team work and mutual care culture. For the sake of their still truly great brand.
As I’ve explained to you before, my story is very similar to the one you posted recently, and no doubt to many anonymous crew remaining silent.
I moved to Dubai nearly two years ago with the same innocent hopes and foolish dreams most of us have former to becoming cabin crew. Previous work experience helped me decipher the false advertising, constant brainwashing, not to mention lying on open days and during training (quote: “We’re the best airline in the world, if we chose YOU it’s because you’re the best as well). How ironic.
I wasn’t displeased, even after seeing the candid environment of the UAE, being of a cheerful nature. However, the constant pressure of having to be ‘perfect’ while lacking the resources to do so, receiving absolutely no gratification for a job well done, soon got to me. You can add to that stress: loneliness, long hours, jet lag, and everything else previously mentioned on this blog that most crew know only too well.
In the end, I’m just an ordinary girl that didn’t look in alcohol, sex or humdrum friendships what Emirates refused to give me: respect. And was just left with her own shortfalls. I did my best every single day, tired myself out, but still the company was telling me via flight reviews that my best wasn’t enough, my fatigue wasn’t valid and my sick days should be justified. There’s only so much a person can give without burning the candle at both ends.
One day, I was doing a flight to Rome, and spent 5 hours trying to explain to my superiors why I didn’t constantly have a smile on my face. I felt close to tears, and the horrible weight of depression that had threatened to smolder me over the past months became overwhelming. I arrived in my room, collapsed and couldn’t get out of bed for that 24hr layover. (Which seemed so absurd to me.. I was in Italy! This was my dream!) I told the company I had food poisoning as a way to get out of doing the return flight, and as soon as I got back, seeked help with the Employee Assistance Program.
That’s when the endless appointments and useless explanations began. One person referred me to another, who referred me to someone else, and all the while they repeated the word ‘confidentiality’ which I didn’t trust. So I lied. No I’ve never felt like this before, no I don’t think I need any official help, I have no suicidal thoughts, I eat and sleep properly. The questions asked resembled more an interview than a genuine desire to help.
When the last therapist I saw suggested I needed to go back to my country to get some proper rest, he gave me a week off, but my manager had to approve my return home. Although he said I didn’t have to give reasons, she refused to see me that day (Monday) claiming she was ‘too busy’, made me wait until Wednesday before an appointment, not even consenting to pick up the phone (I called her five times that day and left numerous messages both with her secretary and on her email). She refused to call me back, and sent me a short email claiming once more that she was ‘too busy’. Two days later, after 45minutes delay, she invited me in a closed off room (not her cubicle) with no witnesses, where she promptly started harassing me for details, at first pretending to be conciliate, then using blackmail. Only an hour later, when it became clear I would yield no personal information, did she consent in letting me go, explaining her disappointment, and forcing me to promise I would return that Tuesday in much better shape (or else). Papers were signed to consolidate this agreement. I was desperate and signed, although I did of course read the papers which she tried to dismiss as ‘formal nonsense’, but had little options. By then, it was too late to catch a flight, so in total I got to spend 3 days with my family. This was supposed to be enough to recover from the nervous breakdown I could sense I was having.
Prolonging my sick days proved to be a hassle, since my manager had all but warned me that if she did let me go home, it was because I had to promptly go back to work. She assured me lots of people managed to work even with personal issues, and although she had no idea what my dilemma was, it didn’t matter. The fact was, if I didn’t get over it, I was clearly too weak minded, and Emirates wouldn’t pay me to stay at home.
The pressure intended to make me feel guilty just outraged me enough to take my own sweet time in getting better.
Emirates clearly doesn’t know how to deal with real people with real problems. Their solution is to send them home. After receiving threats from my manager, and basically hearing her tell me I should resign, it only confirmed my belief that we are just a number. Not once in all these months when I visited the clinic did they ask me what my name was (except to confirm they had the right ‘staff number’). I don’t remember any of the secretaries ever saying ‘Hi, how are you’ to me either.
As for therapy, that was a wonderful joke. After filling out more interview-like questions, the Dubai Healthcare Clinic psychologist decided that I should be on antidepressants, which would result in another month at home (by then half my pay was going into the pockets of Emirates) and further complications, including the suspension of my GCAA license.
When I finally got it back, it reads in small print that I should visit a doctor once a month. Which is entertaining when I go into briefings before flights, have my documents checked and hear the SFS say “What’s that specification on your license?”. None of your business, that’s what.
It’s been a couple of months now. I never took the medication, and I haven’t seen a doctor since November. No one seems to care. The only person that checks up on me regularly is my manager to have reassurance that I am ‘back on track’ and will not ‘let her down again’ (her words, not mine).
Anyway, that’s the whole story. No doubt a lot of people have similar ones (if they haven’t been fired for being ‘weak’).
Thanks again for allowing us to speak up, your blog is truly inspirational,