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Tommy Weir: Need For Corporate Citizenship In The GCC

Tommy Weir: Need For Corporate Citizenship In The GCC

Corporate citizenship tries to deepen the level of belonging and invoke a level of pride among employees, writes the founder of the Emerging Markets Leadership Center.

With my thumb covered in ink, pressing on the Official Registry of Lebanon, I was overwhelmed with emotion. Actually, two completely different sets of emotions: Personal pride and the impactful recognition of what others feel when holding their hand in the air repeating the Pledge of Allegiance.

In April 2013, I asked in this magazine what seemed to be an impossible question – “Can I be an American Arab?”

The premise was that there are more than 1.5 million Americans, who are of Arab ethnicity, cultural and linguistic heritage or identity and maybe called Arab Americans.

But the same is not true for an American (or anyone else) who moves to the Arab world. They will never be called an “American Arab”, even if they want to be.

The Arab American identification runs deep into American society, and other societies, such as the UK, Canada, and Australia, that welcome Arabs and allow them to become a part of their citizenry.

This identity is worn as a badge of pride depicting their belonging. But for me, and many of others, it is different. I wanted the opposite – to be an American Arab.

The Arab world holds a special place in my life – it is my home by choice. I don’t really think of myself as an expat anymore, while I am sure others probably view me this way – as an outsider.

I want to belong. My wife is from here and our kids were born and are growing up here. My business is here. It’s our life. So becoming an American Arab was a real dream.

Well, now I am. My dream has come true and I have joined the very limited class of American Arabs.

I’ll never forget the June afternoon I was stamping my place into the Lebanese registry, thinking, “If I feel this much pride, and I don’t really need another nationality, what does it feel like for someone who does?”

Everyone needs a place to belong.

We should not accept a world that leaves stateless people. Not belonging is frustrating – it creates an anxious discomfort, which can lead to outbreaks for recognition and a place of security.

Citizenship bestows on a person the rights and duties of that particular country or land. It’s a legal recognition showing that you belong, bringing with it the right to vote, work and live in the country, the right to return to the country, the right to own real estate, legal protections against the country’s government, and protection through
the military or diplomacy.

It also brings duties; the duty to follow the law of the land, pay taxes and serve the nation. Everyone deserves this sense of belonging at a national level. And ideally, belonging where they are invested through toil and finances.

What I really want to talk about is something in your control – belonging, more specifically helping your employees belong.

For most people, who work in the private sector across the GCC as expats, belonging is limited to work and a group of friends. This does not limit their decision to work here and even desire to settle here.

Employment, having a job, fails by comparison to corporate citizenship. Employment is governed by a contractual relationship, which reveals the limitation of belonging in the GCC. Term limited employment defies the concept of belonging beyond the transaction.

Corporate citizenship tries to deepen the level of belonging and invoke a level of pride that is missing in a contractual relationship. While corporate citizenship is still evocable, it attempts to provide surety – you can say the rights of belonging – as long as the employee is executing the duties of corporate citizenship.

I learned something through this experience – a sense of belonging is more powerful than I had ever acknowledged.

If you had asked me the day before gaining my Arab citizenship, whether I’d feel any different when I got it, I think
I would have said no.

Don’t get me wrong – this has been a hope of mine for well over a decade. I just didn’t understand the power of acceptance. Nor do I think most leaders understand the power that corporate acceptance can have.

The best part about this power is that you control it. You have the opportunity to redefine what dual citizenship, a national ad a corporation citizenship, means for your workforce.

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