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Employees in the Middle East won’t tell their bosses they’re using AI. Here’s why

Experts say AI is gaining traction, and we need to focus on the correct usage

Employees in the Middle East won’t tell their bosses they’re using AI. Here’s why
[Source photo: Krishna Prasad/Fast Company Middle East]

Artificial intelligence (AI) is rapidly transforming the modern workplace. From automating repetitive tasks to analyzing vast datasets, AI is poised to revolutionize our work. However, this integration has its challenges. 

A report by PwC shows a wave of optimism surrounding AI in the Middle Eastern workplace. Nearly half (46%) of respondents across the region believe AI can significantly improve their productivity, exceeding the global average of 31%.

This positive sentiment is echoed across several nations, with strong favorability towards AI reported in Egypt (43%), Qatar and Saudi Arabia (41% each), and the UAE (39%).

Nader Paslar, General Manager at IT services and consulting firm CODE 81, says that his company actively encourages teams to embrace AI technologies like ChatGPT, Gemini AI, or Co-Pilot as their primary tools. 

He advocates using AI as the default resource over traditional search engines like Google.

“We want to make AI a part of everyone’s day-to-day, as the tools can assist with everything from drafting an email to content creation and even coding, which are all central to our core offering. Looking outside of our specific industry to other sectors, the adoption of AI tools is on the rise as the technology continues to add value to businesses and make them more efficient,” says Paslar. 

While some employees welcome AI’s ability to boost efficiency and streamline workflows, others harbor concerns about job displacement and a potential loss of human connection. The report highlights these lingering anxieties, showing that a significant portion (21%) fear AI will negatively impact the nature of their work. Job displacement remains a concern, with 19% worrying that AI could replace their roles entirely.

Additionally, in creative fields such as marketing, content writing, and design, some workers are concerned about how colleagues and bosses might view their use of AI.

“While AI tools are increasingly integrated into the workplace, it does not necessarily mean that all uses of AI are endorsed or properly governed by companies,” says Emmanuel Durou, Technology, Media & Telecommunications leader at Deloitte Middle East.

“In the Middle East, AI adoption in the workplace, including in the main employer (government agencies), has been driven by national government initiatives around AI, supported by a generally tech-savvy population. Still, adoption challenges include data privacy, resistance to change and talent shortages.”


A 26-year-old copywriter, Maria Sameh, incorporates AI into her workflow to enhance efficiency. “AI has definitely helped me finish my work in a more timely and efficient manner. Sometimes, tasks are cramped, and AI helps shorten the process. The tech is especially easy for someone in my field.”

Sameh, however, feels uncomfortable informing her coworkers or colleagues about her use of the technology.

“Creativity and authenticity are highly valued as a copywriter, so using AI is not highly welcomed within my industry. Using it in creative fields, in general, is perceived to be taboo; it implies you lack the skill to do these things yourself. I use the tech, as it’s a great help to me, but I do not make it known.”

Sameh makes sure her writing doesn’t become entirely dependent on the tech. “I continue to infuse my style and creativity into my work, but I use AI to assist with the structure and phrasing of certain elements. I never let it do my entire job.” 

“While we are seeing significant use of AI in the workplace, interestingly, many employees do not believe their employer would approve of them using Generative AI for work purposes,” Durou says.

He notes several reasons why employees might use AI without realizing it. The most common reason is that AI is often integrated into existing software or processes. This reflects a discrepancy in how people perceive AI usage in their personal lives versus at work. While nearly everyone uses AI-enabled applications daily, such as maps and predictive product suggestions, far fewer would acknowledge regular interaction with AI.

Durou points out a second reason involving substantial risks for organizations, including data privacy and copyrights. He explains that some employees regularly use AI tools to aid with daily tasks but choose to refrain from reporting this usage to their employers. A frequent example is the swift adoption of generative AI conversational models that assist in drafting various types of content.

“Employees might not explicitly mention this because they fear being perceived as less competent, losing a competitive advantage, or not being aware whether or not their organization would allow such usage.”


Sameh contends that creative sectors are more likely to view AI negatively than other industries. She suggests that these industries see AI usage as inauthentic and indicative of a lack of skill and talent.

Durou also notes that attitudes towards AI vary across industries, with tech sectors typically being the earliest adopters.

“Technology industries have quickly embraced AI to gain a competitive advantage, particularly in software development where it’s used to enhance coding efficiency,” he explains. “Conversely, highly regulated industries such as financial services and healthcare have been more cautious in adopting AI, balancing the need to comply with regulations while also considering the benefits AI offers for patient care and financial management.”

Paslar says that in his organization, a tech company, AI tools are not something people are shying away from. “By leveraging AI tools, we can benefit from greater efficiencies, which remains a core value. Once used effectively, it creates space and opportunity to focus on new areas and unleash our greatest potential.”


A BCG report shows a difference between how employees and business leaders view AI. 68% of leaders believe their organization has an adequate responsible AI program, while only 29% of frontline employees feel the same.

Overall, business leaders are also much more optimistic about AI than frontline employees (62% vs. 42%). 44% of leaders say that they have received training to sharpen their skills and stay relevant, while only 14% of frontline employees say that they have received similar training.

Sameh says she has yet to receive formal AI training from any organizations she has worked for. “At a previous company, I did have a short stint with AI training, but not in my current one. Here, they lean towards a more traditional approach.”

Durou notes that introducing AI could make employees feel deeply undervalued or out of place. He points out that the enhancements in efficiency and changes to the work model might cause employees to worry about the security of their jobs.

“This is where leadership will have a key role – to make sure they communicate openly about the changes and involve employees in the transition towards AI by training and upskilling their employees. A positive communication towards the benefits of AI to improve the meaning and value of the work by avoiding routine tasks in favor of higher value activities is equally critical.”


“We are at a critical juncture right now,” Paslar notes. “AI is gaining traction quickly. We need to focus on the correct usage, and ultimately, governance will play an important role. In practice, organizations should seek to adopt ethical guidelines, promote transparency, and provide employee training to ensure that effective adoption is implemented.”

Sameh holds a similar viewpoint. “AI will continue to be more integrated in all industries, even creative ones. And while that might leave a bad taste in the mouth of some, it’s inevitable. Learning how to use this technology efficiently and ethically.”

Durou says there is no doubt that AI will play an increasingly prominent role in the workplace. “We will progressively see AI less as a standalone tool but embedded in our ways of working and doing business from process optimization to decision-making.”

He notes that organizations need to take action to scale AI adoption amongst their workforce safely.

Guidelines and governance: Establishing guidelines for AI use informs employees on proper application and limitations. This includes highlighting potential risks and biases in AI-generated content to prevent over-dependence.

Upskilling and training: Investing in training equips employees to collaborate effectively with AI, maintaining their relevance and maximizing AI’s productivity benefits.

Open communication: Transparent communication clarifies how AI will be incorporated, addressing concerns and emphasizing the collaborative nature of AI, highlighting its role in enhancing human capabilities, not replacing them.

Feedback mechanisms: Providing channels for employee feedback on AI fosters a sense of ownership and facilitates successful AI implementation.

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