Workplace Doctor: Duty manager at Abu Dhabi firm refuses to support team growth

I work for one of the best companies in Abu-Dhabi which has a great culture and work values. My challenge is with my duty manager who does not support my growth or that of our team. She is always reluctant to give us the opportunity to participate in any of the company’s development programmes. What are the best methods to tackle this unsupportive attitude? Is it to complain to the senior management or HR, or to stay idle? AA, Abu Dhabi 

An organisation like yours, with great values and a strong company culture, is hard to come by. Workplaces like this are where people fight to join and if treated well they fight even harder to stay. However, if there is one missing link such as an unsupportive boss then it really can affect not only an employee’s drive to perform but also their desire to remain working for the business.

It is unfortunate your duty manager is not supporting you or your team’s growth. She needs to be aware that her behaviour can affect the reputation of the entire company and in this competitive marketplace, a place that is currently viewed as one of the best companies to work for in Abu Dhabi can become average very quickly.

I want to provide you with some suggestions that you could first share with your manager to help transform her unsupportive attitude into a positive one. Then if that doesn’t work, I would suggest an open conversation (rather than a complaining session) with HR or senior management. Staying idle will leave you feeling stuck and clearly you would like to move your career forward.

Prioritising employee development is an important way to attract and retain great people. She may be concerned that losing you or your colleagues out of the office for a few days could affect team performance. However, it will be even worse if you decide to leave.

Employee retention is a huge challenge (and expense) for employers, as is the hiring process. Having a solid employee development programme can lessen this burden and development can be seen as a benefit, which is something all employees weigh in the “pros” column when finding a job.

Development is not only attractive for newcomers but for existing staff it is the quickest way to build loyalty. Knowing an employer is willing to provide training makes an employee feel important and creates commitment. Loyal employees become the greatest spokespeople for a company and they serve as a further channel to source good talent.

One of the main reasons I have stayed with my company for so long is it has always provided me with opportunities to learn and grow. I speak positively about the company and have also encouraged talented people I know to join the team. Research says that the war for top talent is not won by salary but by opportunities for growth and to experience new challenges. Share this information with her and it may open her eyes. If it doesn’t I am sure HR or senior management will be interested in it (and why she is not).

If talent retention and loyalty is not a good enough driver for her to change her tune, then maybe try and appeal to her ego. Supporting development not only increases a company’s reputation, but the reputation of those bosses who encourage their employees to take these chances. Having a reputation as a great boss – one who cares enough to provide training, is beneficial for hiring new employees, developing existing talent and will improve how senior management perceive her working style. Play to her drivers and you may find she champions your development as a vehicle to further her own glory.

I have just spent a week in San Francisco, working with a group visiting some of the world’s most appealing companies to work for. When you look deeper at the Facebook, LinkedIn, eBay and Apple of this world, as well as the trendy workspaces and informal culture, something key they have in common is that they support the growth of their people and invest in their learning and development both in and out with the workplace. They have realised that talent is worth more than any product or service and hopefully your manager will open her eyes to this too in time.

Doctor’s Prescription

Paying attention to employee development is good for business. It supports retention and reputation and creates a positive atmosphere at work. Bosses who support development are favoured by their team and by senior management. Those who strive to win small battles, by keeping their team members at work, away from development opportunities, eventually lose the war when better opportunities do come along.

Alex Davda is a business psychologist and consultant at Ashridge Executive Education, Hult International Business School, and is based in the Middle East. Email him at for advice on any work issues


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