Frustration, resignations in Saudi Arabia amid delays in promotions

Government employees said delays in promotions are unfair and unjust especially in light of the high cost of living

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Concern is growing among government employees on long delayed and unrealized promotions, which many observers see as a serious problem that requires a radical solution, Al-Riyadh daily reported.

Government employees said delays in promotions are unfair and unjust especially in light of the high cost of living for their growing families and increasing needs. The Ministry of Civil Service plays an important role in the promotions of employees in the public sector, as it is the body entrusted with monitoring, tracking and implementing rules and regulations for such promotions.

Despite the ministry’s repeated assurances that it seeks to achieve justice and equality, and practice fairness toward all employees who are eligible for promotion according to its standards, human resources experts stress the importance of clearly legislating standards and laws for employee promotions.

The Ministry of Civil Service has taken steps to develop its promotion system. Most recently, it directed personnel departments and promotion committees in all government bodies to exercise care and justice in awarding promotions and not to neglect any employee. The ministry has also asked that employees with seniority and graduate degrees be given priority when it comes to promotions and instructed its departments to evaluate employees’ performance in the past two years and pay attention to their attendance records.

Professor at King Faisal University and head of the non-profit HADZ group for human resources, Dr. Mohammad Al-Qahtani, said the promotion system has always been the primary concern for generations of public sector employees and in the public education system.

Al-Qahtani explained that some teachers rightly claim their promotions are not reflected on their salaries, as the services of a distinguished teacher may qualify him or her to become a principal or deputy principal, but their salary will not exceed the salary of other teachers.

“Such teachers will have salaries on par with other teachers but they also have additional administrative duties. It is cases like this that has prompted teachers to demand justice,” he said.

Al-Qahtani believes the promotion system, in its current form, should be reviewed and reconsidered as it fails to do justice to all employees.

“It should be concerned with defining a clear employee development path and defining their duties during the coming few years to be eligible for promotion. We are aware of the bureaucracy in the public sector, and it seems that the private sector has also been infected with such bureaucracy, and that is a serious matter! The private sector should be much more flexible than the public sector, and should have strong and effective human resources departments that can put things in perspective and pay this matter the necessary attention,” he said.

He went on to say that promotions come as a result of the efforts exerted by employees during a certain period, and there are a lot of theories and research that supports the role of promotion in the refinement and the capabilities of employees.

“Whenever there is a promotion, it usually results in an outstanding performance in the enterprise, but there is less than a 20 percent possibility that the promotion will be counterproductive and reflect negatively on the business,” Al-Qahtani said.

He noted that promotions should encourage employees to perform better but under the current system, promotions are subject to personal considerations rather than on a predetermined set of goals.

The lack of a clear promotion system results in employee resignations, and frustrations in addition to their unwillingness to work, which may in turn result in overemployment or a shortage of employees, he warned.

Al-Qahtani believes that there is a strong link between the national economy and the failure to implement promotions with an integrated and balanced approach.

“Many managers have a phobia of promotions, and are afraid that promoted employees may take their places,” he said.

He added that it is human elements that spur the growth and development of national economies. He pointed out that Islamic teachings emphasize thanking and appreciating the efforts of humans and this is the basic ground for promotions.

The executive manager of a private sector consulting company, Adel Al-Ibrahim, said private companies always consider their profitability, and that common interests between managers and their subordinates determine promotions, and many managers simply do not promote employees because they fear they will one day take their place.

“Such promotions are based on personal interests and not work interests, and result in frustrated employees who deserve promotions but have been overlooked due to personal interests. Eventually, these employees will resign and look for better opportunities elsewhere,” he said.

Other observers concurred by saying that the lack of promotions is due to an absence of career development programs, a lack of training and the selfishness of managers. The situation has remained unchanged for years with both favoritism and tribalism playing a large role in the matter, they claimed.

This article was first published in the Saudi Gazette on Aug.14, 2014.

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