One thing I have noted, after having conversations with people in positions of power and thereafter observing people in the typical Malawian workplace is that we love mediocrity. Actually, we enjoy and celebrate being mediocre; doing the same things everyday and producing the same results without making room for improvement, upward mobility or being dynamic.
Woe betide anyone who comes in with a bit of ambition and tries to implement new guidelines to make us more productive because often-times we will rebel against their guidance and complain from here to eternity.
Most times, people would like to be left alone so that they can work at their own time and pace irrespective of set deadlines and milestones to be achieved.
They would like to hand in flat, uninspiring work without being criticised or corrected. When a manager pushes them so they can stay on their toes or produce good quality work, they label that person difficult and develop an unsavoury attitude towards them.
It is amusing to note that sometimes, responsible adults go to work expecting to be patted on the back and pampered just like children! We expect our bosses to appreciate our every effort and keep quiet about all the other things we are not good at, forgetting that honesty and constructive criticism are key in personal development and career progression.
And, because we would not like to think of ourselves as being at fault, we play the blame game; blaming our company for not appreciating or motivating us and blaming our bosses for being hard on us.
A member of my extended family brought up this issue a few weeks ago, when he started stressing over the attitudes of the people that he works with.
He said and I quote;
Ã¢â‚¬ËœI love my job; in fact I am passionate about it. What frustrates me, though, is working with people with the wrong attitude. Each time I try to teach them something new, they brand me as the difficult boss and close themselves up to the lesson I am giving. They would rather have a superior who laughs and jokes with them but refrains from correcting them when they are wrong. They would rather trudge through the days with no marked improvement or no star performances, as long as they are getting paid at the end of the month.
Each time I look around the office, I realise that if I had the money to quit my job and open up my own place, or if I was given the chance to recruit new staff, none of them would make the cut. The unfortunate thing is I would like to groom them, but they wonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t let me.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Now, I am certainly no career expert or columnist (for that, you might want to read Vera NgomaÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s column just beneath mine!) but I have learnt, (as I pointed out; from conversations with people who manage others and from introspection), that sometimes, our own lack of initiative and openness to learn poisons our career progression. If we are constantly bypassed for promotions, training programmes and pay rises, we should seriously sit down and ask ourselves what we could be doing wrong.
Ask yourself whether your boss would view you as a liability or an asset, whether s/he would rely on you to take care of business or let you off easy because you are difficult to groom. Ask yourself whether the achievements you have made on your job will sit comfortably on your curriculum vitae and make you proud. Objectively, ask yourself what you have learnt from someone you previously considered difficult. If you are honest, you will probably admit that you learnt plenty!