Expatriates in Abu-Dhabi : an investigation of cross-cultural management, adjustment and training of Western expatriate managers in Abu-Dhabi, (UAE)
This field work study furthers understanding about expatriate management, in
particular, the nature of cross-cultural management in Abu Dhabi involving Western
expatriate and U. A. E. host national managers, the important features of adjustment for
expatriates living and working in Abu Dhabi, and the type of training which will assist
them to adjust and to work successfully in this Arabic environment. Qualitative and
quantitative data on each issue was gathered during in depth interviews in Abu Dhabi,
using structured interview schedules, with thirty nine expatriate and thirty one host
national managers drawn from a cross section of functional areas and organisations.
Despite the adoption of Western technology and the influence of Western business
practices, micro-level management in Abu Dhabi retains a cultural specificity which is
consistent with the norms and values of the local culture. There are differences in how
expatriates and host nationals define their social roles, and Abu Dhabi's Islamic and
Bedouin history appears to influence cross cultural interpersonal interactions.
The inability of the spouse and/or family to adapt to Abu Dhabi is identified as a major
reason for expatriate assignments to fail, though the causes have less to do with living
away from family and friends, than with Abu Dhabi environment. Culture shock is not
identified as a major problem, but in Abu Dhabi micro level social factors require
greater adjustment than macro level societal factors. The adjustment of expatriate
mangersi s facilitated by a strong orientation toward careerd evelopment,p ossessiono f
technical/professional expertise, and willingness to engage in a process of continuous
`active learning' with respect to the host national society and culture.
A four-part model of management training suitable for Abu Dhabi is derived from the
study data. It consists of a pre-departure briefing, post-arrival cross-cultural training,
language training in basic Arabic and in how to communicate more effectively in
English with non-native speakers.