23 January 2013

Zimbabwe: It Is Time to Take Your Job Seriously

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WORKING for any one employer is a choice. Therefore employees must understand that if they are not happy with an employer they are free to look for a better employer.

Employees must move away from putting all the blame on their employer for everything that goes wrong in their own lives. Employees must realise that they work for their families and not any employer. Yes, they are employed by an employer in order to work for their families. Before complaining look at what you have contributed to the organisation first. Most of the employees who complain are habitual poor performers who complain all the time in order to hide their poor performance record.

This is made worse by an incompetent management team that has no clue on how to lead people. The majority of managers have appalling people management skills that affect the morale of staff. They are where they are not because they know better than those they lead but because of their connections. Improper promotion systems have lead to the elevation of incompetent managers to positions of authority. The majority of these managers think like "employees". They are in the workers committees by proxy. They direct workers committee proceedings through their people in these associations.

It has been an interesting observation that the internet contains very little information on how employees can individually improve their work performance but contains thousands of articles on how management can enhance employee productivity, how managers can motivate employees, how management can improve the workplace to enhance productivity, job design methods etcetera. Most information is targeted at management. What does this say about employee productivity? Are we saying the onus is on management to improve productivity? Are we saying the employee has to be pushed and cajoled into working by management?

Let us go back a little bit and trace the meaning of the word "Management." "Management" comes from Old French ménagement "the art of conducting, directing", from Latin manu agere "to lead by the hand") .This definition is interesting because it traces the root meaning back to the Latin phrase meaning "to lead by the hand". Leading by the hand implies giving direction that is stronger than just a passing suggestion yet still fairly gentle in approach. Leading by the hand also implies that the person doing the leading is first going where the follower is being lead. The leader is not asking the follower to do something he is not willing to do himself.

Good enough definition but there is no mention of the one being led. Can the one being led by the hand go where he does not want to go? Sure we can argue that he can be forced into going but would it not be easier if the one being led actually wanted to go where he was being led to? Is the responsibility of getting to the destination all management responsibility or should there be input of some sort from the employee?

I think the employee has been left out of this equation for too long. It is of no doubt that management should drive productivity but employees should be responsible for this process as well. They should individually have a role to play in productivity enhancement. So what is this role that employees should play?

Change of mindset is the first on my list of "to do things" for the employee. This at the end of the day is up to the employee. Management can facilitate this process in various ways like training for instance but at the end of the day the bark stops with the employee. Are you willing to change? It is a bit like an alcoholic for instance. They might receive a lot of information about the dangers of drinking and the benefits of not drinking but until they make up their minds to stop, it is all just cheap talk.

So how can you as an employee change your mindset? Being positive is a start. Be positive about your life and the organisation you are working for. Stop complaining. If you want to leave the organisation you are working for please do. The fact that you are there must mean you have nowhere better to go or that there is no organisation that wants you at the moment so why not make the best of where you are?

Stop seeing management as the enemy. The "them" and "us" mentality should stop. It doesn't matter that your boss is "horrible" or "doesn't care about employees." The fact that you are in that organisation and getting paid (no matter how much) to conduct specific duties means it is your mandate to perform because you have an obligation to the organization to do so. This is regardless of whatever circumstances might be present at that moment. There is a common saying among us when we have had a busy day at work, "Nhasi ndashanda!!" In English it roughly translates to, "I have worked hard today!" So what does this mean? Isn't working hard what you are supposed to do everyday? If you don't work hard everyday, what is it that you do on every other day?

A lot of arguments have been put forward about unavailability of resources, the rough economic times, management style, etcetera, all of which can hinder performance. That is very true but are we as employees putting in an honest day's work? With that little that we might have to work with, are we honestly giving our best to whatever duties we have been assigned to? The answer most frequently is no. Maybe it is high time in the famous words of Michael Jackson; we take a look at the man in the mirror before we go blaming our employers for our "misfortunes."

Develop a hunger for knowledge. It is not management's responsibility to better your knowledge and skills; you can do that on your own. If we ask ourselves when the last time was that we picked up a book that was not a magazine, newspaper or novel just to read on a topic of interest, we would be surprised at the answer. Some of us complain we are bored with our jobs because we have a lot of downtime due to the current economic hardships that a lot of organisations are facing, but what we choose to do with our 'free" time is a lot of our doing. We have to do way with the mentality that we read only for exams. Being knowledgeable improves our thinking capability and makes us more effective in our work.

Commit to excellence. This covers every area of your life. Adopt a motto of exuding excellence in all you do, what you wear, your work area and what you say. Make it a habit and eventually it will become a way of life. Be excellent even if no one is watching.

The employer will never be able to solve all your needs. This is a sad but true reality. Once we accept this truth we can stop being resentful and start taking control of our lives. Stealing to "fix" the employer for being stingy is not an option. As previously mentioned, "if you are not happy with the heat, get out of the kitchen."

Change is never easy but if management and employees work together towards a common goal, the results will definitely be worthwhile.

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