By Fatma AlKhaja (@Fay_Alkhaja)
A long time ago, I worked in an organization that was quite multicultural in all aspects. It was a demanding working industry with a lot of expertise around and flexible working hours. However, the place lacked the ‘Emirati’ element, as we were only 10%, so a lot of our behavior just seemed ‘odd’ to everyone there.
As I began working in different fields, I started realizing that all organizations have some sort of ‘social’ and ‘unofficial’ clubs that varied in terms of members and activities. These clubs were basically formed unintentionally most of the time, or sometimes purposely in order to obtain the golden ticket – a promotion or recognition. However, it is very important to mention that all clubs had the highest senior members of the organization in them, which of course was the aim. For fun, I have decided to name them.
‘Smokers Club’ – it is usually located in a little corner outside in the garden, regardless of the weather that day. The little minions all gossip, circulate vicious rumors, and kiss up to the highest ranking ‘club member’. I personally know someone who even took up smoking just to be part of that club! More or less, they all got promoted on the next appraisal cycle.
‘Night Club’ – Have you ever heard your colleagues say things like “that was amazing last night!” “Did you try that new club?” “Are you going to this concert?” “Hey I saw you in an after party celebration at that exclusive club, how did you get in?” – Ironically, on many occasions, I knew individuals, “Emiratis”, who were part of a huge project that was successful. They got a thank you email, pat on the back, and then they later realized that the whole team except ‘him/her’ were partying at a club celebrating the great success that evening. During the same year, they all received bonuses except for him/her.
‘Lunch Club’ – You are sitting in your cubicle, with 5 other people all of which working on their own tasks and someone enters, calls all 5 people out for lunch and does not give you the time of the day because they think you are too conservative to mingle/socialize with them. I know that times have changed and that does not happen as much but trust me, I still know quite a few who face this.
“PA Club” – In my opinion, the most powerful individual in an organization is the boss’s PA. You kiss up to that person, you are guaranteed a raise/promotion. I personally know a friend who was ‘fired’ because the PA hated him and kept telling her/his boss how incompetent he was, which he was not. She just insisted on getting rid of him because he would not give her the time of day or bow to her when necessary.
“Social Club” – Forget the after parties, what about social media where you will do your utmost best to get the ‘boss’ on your social media accounts’ lists so then you can stalk him/her and ‘accidentally’ run into him/her at their favorite social places. I have seen it happen folks, and some people are really good at it.
“Family Club” – How do you make sure the boss hears about you? Befriend the wife/husband. Believe it or not, it works because they will start seeing you in a different light.
“Flirt Club” – Shortest skirt? Low cut tops? 6-inch stilettos? These are all charmers especially in a male dominant environment (no offense). If you walk in a meeting room with one of these, you are going to get noticed. I specifically knew girls who wore their best and tightest when there was an important ‘boss’ or board meeting.
“Road Trip” – Try explaining to your colleagues that as a conservative Emirati girl, you are not allowed to drive long distances on your own (Fujairah, AD, etc) from Dubai. As I mentioned before, times are changing, but there are some individuals that go by these restrictions and end up getting the title of being uncooperative and not a team player.
Again, these are just little things but trust me, they get you noticed. I look at all these clubs from an Emirati perspective and ask myself – just where do I fit in? I am confident in my work, successful, and have the ability to let my boss know what I think. But he/she has never seen me outside the work place and does not know me on a ‘personal’ level.
I try my best to fit in and show them the real me but there are times when I simply will not compromise my cultural values. Is it really worth going through some of the above for a higher title or salary?
In view of the above, I would like to ask you the same question– where do you think you fit in?
Sail eMagazine’s 18th Issue – September 2011
Here We Start – Art of Living 101 – Community Talk – Food for Thought
Just Another Undergrad – Society of Tomorrow – The First Years Last Forever
The Mind’s Eye – To the Point – Too Blunt for Words – Words, Observations, and Ramblings
Fatma (Fay), Emirati girl, with an experience in Corporate Communications and CSR. She is passionate about anything that is traditional and Emirati. In her free time she loves to watch Japanese anime, read manga, and play videogames. Spas are not the only thing that relaxes her, but cooking as well.
Fay’s columns observe work-life experiences and balance. A lot of her articles are based on first-hand personal experiences and issues she has seen or been part of. She loves to observe her surroundings, and watch how people handle different situations they’ve been put in.Also, she is trying to balance the art of staying positive at work and helping her peers understand that not everything should be a problem. With her writings she hopes to make a difference and make people more observant of the little problems in life, or work that hasn’t escalated to a catastrophe. It’s the little things that matters.