Two-thirds of promotions denied in UAE due to lack of technical skills

Research published in the Robert Half 2020 Salary Guide found two in three (67%) UAE business leaders have denied a promotion to an employee in the past three years.

  • 67% of UAE business leaders have denied an employee a promotion in the past three years.
  • Reasons offered were a lack of technical skills (48%) followed closely by a lack of leadership potential (47%).
  • 49% of UAE business leaders have given them a unique project to work on to help maintain motivation.

Dubai UAE, 5 November 2019 – For aspiring UAE professionals, the prospect of earning a promotion is a key source of motivation in the workplace. For some it signifies a salary increase and a step-up in responsibility. However, securing a promotion can be challenging in an environment where there is high competition for senior roles. Indeed, new independent research published in the Robert Half 2020 Salary Guide found two in three (67%) UAE business leaders have denied a promotion to an employee in the past three years.1

Why are UAE professionals being denied a promotion?

Business leaders meticulously look for a range of skills when considering candidates for promotion. When awarding promotions, it’s hard work that’s truly acknowledged and business leaders should have confidence in the working style and strategic capabilities of the employee. Still, according to the research, a lack of technical skills was cited by almost half of respondents (48%) as the top reason for denying a promotion, followed closely by a lack of leadership potential (47%).

Table 1: Reasons for being denied a promotion.

Lack of technical skills 48%
Lack of leadership potential 47%
Lack of experience 43%
Lack of soft skills 41%

Source: Robert Half Global Study 2019 UAE. 

What are UAE bosses doing to keep their staff motivated?

From decreased productivity to dwindling motivation, it is apparent UAE business leaders recognise the potential negative impacts of denying promotions to employees. Consequently, business leaders are implementing several measures to keep employees motivated. Almost half (49%) have given an employee a unique project to work on while 48% have let employees work within a different team. Other common measures include allowing employees to shadow other employees (46%), delegating responsibilities (36%), and respectively calling for their input in challenging situations (34%) and providing training opportunities (30%).

Gareth El Mettouri, Associate Director of Robert Half UAE says:

“For an employee, the thought of being offered a promotion is incredibly motivating, and business leaders who actively work with their employees to reach their next promotion can be a key retention tool. However, the disappointment of being unable to secure that step on the next ladder rung will certainly decrease their enthusiasm, making them lose interest and confidence in their professional abilities. It's important managers take the required measures of making sure those team members still feel sufficiently engaged and motivated in their role by, for example, providing them with exciting projects, new responsibilities or other team members to work with.”

“Being denied a promotion is undoubtedly a disheartening experience, but it does not mean there aren’t future opportunities for career progression. It’s important for employees to recognise how much resilience plays a part in these circumstances and for them to maintain their job purpose for their continuous improvement, which will eventually lead to achieving their goals. If employees feel they have limited career development at their current company, it’s worth considering other employment opportunities more likely to meet their career progression expectations.”

Robert Half UAE has developed seven tips on how to get a promotion:

1. Take initiative
To be eligible for a promotion, you’ll have to show you’re capable of taking on greater responsibility and new challenges. Don’t be afraid to show your commitment and go beyond requirements and duties for your role.

2. Pursue learning opportunities
Delve into the training opportunities offered by your employer and partake in any programs that may be relevant to your existing or future employment. This will show the type of enthusiasm and dedication necessary to secure a promotion.

3. Show leadership
Through meetings, project planning sessions and any review periods you can prove your capability to show leadership. During these times, don’t be afraid to speak up, challenge processes and offer considered ideas and innovative solutions – all the leadership qualities that could get you recognised.

4. Join working groups
Joining working groups are a great way to meet a range of people from across the organisation and show you’re truly committed to improving how the business operates.

5. Get a mentor
An experienced mentor could be a valuable source of guidance and inspiration on your path to securing a promotion. What’s more, they may be able to act as a highly influential reference when key decision-makers are considering you for promotion.

6. Participate and be present
If you’re seeking an internal promotion, it’s likely key decision-makers will consider your participation and performance in meetings and contribution to projects as part of their assessment of your suitability for a higher-ranking role.

7. Update your CV
Ensure your CV thoroughly details your ability to go above and beyond your existing role requirements when you’re seeking a more senior position outside your existing organisation. To give employers confidence, provide concrete examples of your successes, drive and determination.


Notes to editors
1The annual study was developed by Robert Half UAE and is conducted by an independent research firm. The study is based on more than 200 interviews with hiring managers from companies across the UAE, with the results segmented by size, sector and geographic location.

About the Robert Half 2020 Salary Guide
Since 1950, Robert Half has produced Salary Guides to offer business owners, hiring managers and professional’s information on prevailing starting salaries and insight into the latest employment trends. Companies consult the annual Salary Guide to determine appropriate remuneration for accounting and finance, financial services technology, legal, human resources and business support professionals at all levels.

The starting salary figures are national averages represented in US dollars (US$) and are based on a number of sources, most notably thousands of placements and negotiations managed each year by Robert Half's recruitment consultants. 
Bonuses and other forms of remuneration, such as pension scheme and long-term incentives, are not taken into account. This is because professionals joining a company may enter at a variety of experience levels and we report salaries in ranges. The ranges represent averages and will vary by industry and hard-to-fill skill sets.

Download the Robert Half 2020 Salary Guide

About Robert Half

Robert Half is the world’s first and largest specialised recruitment consultancy and member of the S&P 500. Founded in 1948, the company has over 300 offices worldwide providing recruitment solutions for accounting and finance, financial services, technology, legal, human resources and business support professionals. For more than 20 years, Robert Half has been named to FORTUNE® magazine’s list of “Most Admired Companies” and offers workplace and job seeker resources at