How long is too long to stay in the same job in the UAE?

Spending more than six years in the same role could signal that you have lost your edge

Powered by automated translation

How long to stay in the same job before you should consider making a move is a quandary that most people face at some stage in their career.

The most recent survey by jobs portal found that a whopping nine out of 10 professionals in the Mena region are considering changing jobs in 2022, as the job market returns to pre-coronavirus levels.

Workers who find themselves in the same position for seven to eight years could be perceived as having lost their edge and lead to question marks about their drive and motivation, said one Dubai-based recruiter.

It might look like you have lost your way slightly and are treading water
David Mackenzie

A stint of up to six years in the same role, however, impresses some recruiters in the UAE, who see people as tenacious and loyal for remaining in a role rather than moving from job to job more frequently.

What many recruiters agree on is that people who spend several years in the same job, without being promoted internally, should consider a new role, particularly those in more junior roles.

“If you’ve been in the same role for more than six years then it’s probably time to make a move, be it internally or elsewhere,” said David Mackenzie, group managing director of recruitment agency Mackenzie Jones.

“Being in the job for around six years shows you have the tenacity to stick with it and have probably been part of several cycles in the workplace.

“But when you’re in the same role after about seven or eight years it might look like you have lost your way slightly and are treading water.”

One major sign that it might be time to make a career change, he added, is when colleagues are promoted but you are still in the same role.

“If you’ve been passed over for promotion more than once then you have to question what your boss is thinking,” he said.

“You would have to look at the KPIs [key performance indicators] they gave you and if you met them.

“It’s human nature though. You want to be seen as a success not as a failure. That’s often measured by you getting promoted to a more senior position in your company.”

Longer stints

A recent survey from Hays recruitment agency suggested only 5 per cent of staff liked to change employers after one or two years, with almost 40 per cent staying an average of three to five years.

Another 38 per cent in the survey — a poll of 5,000 people this year in the GCC region — said they would stay more than five years.

The sectors that staff were most likely to remain in a position for more than five years, according to the study, were manufacturing, automotive, construction, education, engineering and financial services.

The industries with employees most likely to move on before serving two years were marketing, media, hospitality, tourism and sport.

“Staying in the same role for a long period of time without promotion can be perceived negatively,” said Aisha Amarsi, a senior manager with Hays.

“Depending on the length of time, it may suggest that an employee is not ambitious, capable or adaptable.

“However, before a judgment can be cast, there are many factors which may contribute to the lack of promotion.”

Staying in the same job title for a longer period was more common among senior managers than mid-level staff, she added.

“If a junior to mid-level employee has the same job title for a long period of time, it is likely to affect career opportunity,” said Ms Amarsi.

“In this situation, employees should speak to their manager and ask for additional responsibilities and promotional targets and therefore, another job title which reflects this.

“It could be as simple as adding ‘senior’ to the title.”

However, spending a short period of time in the same job could also raise red flags with recruiters and potential employers, added Ms Amarsi.

“We often receive feedback from our clients on the short tenure of candidates' employment history,” she said.

“Spending too little time in a role can also be perceived negatively as it can be difficult to ascertain the achievements and impact of that individual in their previous roles.”

Going nowhere

Nevin Lewis, chief executive of Black & Grey HR, urged people to think carefully about their options if they feel their career is going nowhere.

“If you stay too long in one role without promotion it is possible you will become unmotivated,” said Mr Lewis

“Up to five years in a job without promotion should trigger some thinking.

“However, the decision … depends entirely on an individual and their circumstances at the time.”

He said anyone considering resigning should think carefully and have enough money saved to survive for six months without pay.

“I think people should stay in an organisation as long as they are treated with respect, rewarded fairly for their efforts, challenged with new responsibility and career advancement opportunity in the UAE,” he said.

“If they believe in what they’re doing, and it has purpose and meaning, they should stay and if not, they should plan and move. Planning is important in the UAE for expats.

“Make sure the new opportunity you are exploring is clearly better than the one you have now.”

Gratuity factor

Employees building up their possible gratuity payments could be another factor in an employee’s decision to remain in a role.

Currently, if an employee has served more than one year but less than five, they are entitled to gratuity based on 21 days’ salary for each year of work.

However, if they have served more than five years they are entitled to 30 days’ salary for each year they have worked with a company.

“I have seen cases where people have stayed in the same role because they want to build up their gratuity,” said Mr Lewis.

“That’s not uncommon but I think in most cases staff are more likely to leave if they are offered a better opportunity elsewhere in a more senior position.

“Another reason why some staff are happy to stay in the same role is because of their company’s schemes. In some cases, I’ve heard of staff receiving annual bonuses of 10 or 11 times their monthly salaries.”

He said this was particularly common in the financial sector.

Being in the same role for many years is not always regarded as a bad thing though, according to Emily Roberts, principal consultant at Dubai-based recruiters Genie.

“I believe spending a significant amount of time in the same company expresses loyalty to your employer. However, I believe it is important to progress and grow within your employment,” said Ms Roberts.

“Job titles and responsibilities vary from business to business and sector to sector. Someone may stay with the same title but take on more responsibility as they progress.

“It is imperative that the changes in responsibilities are clearly highlighted within your resume, so future employers do not perceive your career as stagnant, due to the same job title.”

Updated: August 21, 2022, 5:18 AM