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Satisfaction and Dissatisfaction among Saudi employees and Expatriates

Extensive scientific research has been conducted and provided compelling evidence that motivated employees are more likely to display organizational citizenship compared to those that are not motivated. Employee motivation has been found to positively correlate with organization’s performance and effectiveness. This may explain why some employees perform better than others.

According to one study conducted in 2011, around 86 percent of employees indicated that they were ready to go extra mile. However, majority of management personnel that were surveyed in the study highlighted disengaged employees as one of the major threats to their organizations (Al-Sulami, 2011). This shows that motivation is a great motivator and the one that makes organizations gain and retain competitiveness. The same study also found out that un-motivated employees can have a detrimental impact to an organization’s bottom line. The findings indicated that organizations that motivate their employees achieve revenue growth 4.5 times higher than their competitors. Therefore, employees’ motivation translates into organizational productivity and competitiveness.

In the context of Saudi Arabia, local employees express a higher level of job satisfaction – satisfaction with promotion opportunities, job characteristics, and pay compared to the expatriates. The high dissatisfaction found among expatriates can be attributed to lack of integration in formal and social network of the host country and work groups, culture and language barriers, and the authoritarian management of Arab managers among other factors. Over the last few decades, every part of the world has experienced rapid economic expansion and this has created a severe labor shortage especially in the Middle East countries that could only be filled by expatriate workers (AbdelRahman, Elamin & Aboelmaged, 2012). Therefore, most of these countries heavily rely on multicultural expatriate employees. One of the expansively studied sectors in regard to employee satisfaction in Saudi Arabia is the health sector. The Saudi Arabia health sector experiences a high shortage of workers. Due to this shortage, retention of these health workers has become a major priority for healthcare institutions.

In his research study, Sayaf (2014) investigated the impact of employee motivation and job satisfaction in healthcare professionals working in the southern region of Saudi Arabia. The study found out that hospitals in Saudi Arabia are increasing their employee motivation initiatives so as to retain their employees. However, this may not be the case in other organizations in Saudi Arabia. In majority of organizations in other sectors, local employees are guaranteed employment and provided with motivational incentives, including financial privileges, educational scholarships, government-sponsored universal health care, and legal favoritism. These incentives are advanced to local employees with an objective to reduce the country’s heavy dependence on expatriates. Contrary to other Middle East countries such as United Arab Emirates, the business culture in Saudi Arabia is rigid and strict. As a result of high unemployment rates among Saudis nationals, the government has implemented a policy of Saudization mandating the replacement of expatriates with local workers (Sadi & Henderson, 2005). While many Saudi nationals are employed in public organizations, majority of expatriates are employed in private organizations.

The turnover rate in private organizations is very high compared to public organizations because employees (comprising majority of expatriates) are paid less, private organizations demand extended working hours and the failure of private organizations to offer their employees incentives such as the ones that are offered by public organizations (Mousa, 2013). As a result, employees in private organizations, comprising majority of expatriates, are dissatisfied with their jobs. Therefore, expatriates are less dissatisfied with their jobs compared to local employees. On the other hand, there exists a wide difference in cultural values of locals and those of expatriates. Therefore, the managers, especially of private organizations have a difficulty when it comes to motivating their employees through social factors.

For organizations to achieve high productivity, they must rely on the engagement between employees. Wide language barrier between local employees and expatriates may demotivate employees, especially expatriates who may not be able to act to their maximum due to this. Expatriates, on the other hand are demotivated by the government’s decision to Saudize the workforce. Currently, organizations in the private sector are being forced to high locals so as to meet Saudization quota (Mousa, 2013). When these employees join these organizations, their motivation level continues to remain low because these companies lack intentions to develop their workforce education-wise or professionally. Once they hire these nationals, these private organizations are requires to retain them through healthy and proper working conditions. Organizations offer incentives to employees out of their own volition, they will not be motivated too to give incentives to employees that the government imposes on them. In turn, lack of incentives leads to high turnover rate among local employees.


AbdelRahman, A., Elamin, A. & Aboelmaged, M. (2012). Job Satisfaction among Expatriate and National Employees in an Arabian Gulf Context. International Journal of Business Research and Development, 1(1), 1-16.

Al-Sulami, M. (2011). Saudi private sector employees are highly motivated: Study. Retrieved from

Mousa, M. (2013). Investigating the High Turnover of Saudi Nationals versus Non-Nationals in Private Sector Companies Using Selected Antecedents and Consequences of Employee Engagement. International Journal of Business and Management, 8(18), 41-52.

Sadi, M. & Henderson, J. (2005). Local versus Foreign Workers in the Hospitality and Tourism Industry: A Saudi Arabian Perspective. Cornell Hospitality Quarterly, 46(2), 247-257.