Cross Cultural Management Guide – UAE


What will you Learn in this Guide?

In this guide, expatriate managers will gain an understanding of a number of key cross- cultural areas when working in the UAE

  • Hierarchy
  • Leadership style
  • Time and scheduling 
  • Communication style and; 
  • Negotiation style 


Gain an Expert Understanding:

Once you've read this guide, ensure the success of your UAE business venture by:

  • Requesting an in-depth UAE Country Insight Report, authored by a country specialist and outlining detailed country and culture information.

  • Taking part in a two-hour live webinar, customised to meet your unique needs, with one of our UAE country and culture training experts or;

  • Enrolling on our online UAE training course, which is authored by UAE business experts. This course will help you navigate UAE business culture, create trusting relationships and maximise your business performance. Here's a preview below.


Being a Manager in the United Arab Emirates

Successful cross cultural management will understand the importance of maintaining a degree of formality and treating everyone with respect. Patience is critical to successful business dealings.

  • Emiratis prefer to deal with people they know. They spend a great deal of time in relationship building. This is a crucial process and you would be wise not to rush it.
  • Expect things to take longer than they would in a more western culture.
  • It may take several meetings to accomplish what could be handled by a telephone call at home and patience may be a necessary cross cultural attribute.


The Role of a Manager

Cross cultural management will be more effective when managing in the UAE if you keep in mind that each person has a very distinct role within the organization, and maintaining that role helps to keep order.

  • In the UAE, as in other hierarchical societies, managers may take a somewhat paternalistic attitude to their employees.


Approach to Change

UAE’s intercultural adaptability and readiness for change is minimal. This means it is difficult to bring about and is not received with any enthusiasm.

  • Projects will need to be carefully analyzed every step of the way to assure that all the risks have been assessed and understood.


Approach to Time and Priorities

The UAE is a fluid time culture, and, as is the case with many fluid time cultures, it is also very relationship-oriented.

  • People in the UAE will not want to upset others in order to push through a deadline.
  • While timescales and deadlines need to be set well in advance and reiterated carefully, it should be understood that these will be viewed as flexible.
  • Global and intercultural expansion means that some managers may have a greater appreciation of the need to enforce timescales and as such, agreed deadlines are more likely to be met.


Decision Making

Managers reach decisions only after discussing the matter with the major stakeholders. Employees do not publicly question the decisions that managers have made. They wait to be told what to do. Risk-taking is limited to those in decision-making positions.

  • Managers do not publicly chastise employees because it would cause the subordinate to lose dignity and respect so intercultural sensitivity will be needed.


Boss or Team Player?

If you are working in United Arab Emirates, it is important to remember that honour and reputation play an important role and so some cross cultural sensitivity will be required.

  • The risk becomes amplified in a team or collaborative setting.
  • If you would like to encourage participation it is important first to clearly establish a non-threatening work environment and communicate fully that team-member participation is desired.


Communication and Negotiation Styles

Good personal relationships are important since trust is required in order to conduct busines.

  • Emiratis are event rather than time-driven. If you try to rush things, you will give offense and risk your business relationship so patience is a necessary cross cultural attribute.
  • Emiratis are tough negotiators. Do not use high-pressure sales tactics.
  • Repeating your main points indicates you are telling the truth.
  • Emiratis may repeatedly ask the same question to see if your response is consistent.
  • There is a tendency to avoid giving bad news and to give flowery acceptances, which may only mean "perhaps". In Abu Dhabi, all bids must be in English.
  • Proposals and contracts should be kept simple.

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