Uganda is relatively immature when it comes to employee ethics, business etiquette, professionalism and proper conduct at the workplace. I will illustrate this with a simple example: observe the time-keeping at your own office on a rainy day, or arrival of attendees for a meeting or a training session. And this is just the simple requirement of their job – to arrive on time.
Almost every sector in Uganda complains of corruption at all levels of employment, including top management. Therefore everyone’s assumption is that they can buy their way into any deal and buy their way out of any trouble. Currency of corruption is majorly money when dealing with authorities but in organisations and at inter-personal level this currency is often friendship, praise, sex, relationship, protection, nepotism and so on.
Very common scenario where employees’ stay in the organization is shortened by circumstances is getting involved with a colleague. A female employee in a (usually secret) relationship with her colleague may still be excellent performer but chances are she will involve herself in the job both professionally and emotionally; any situation that involves the employees in a relationship may impact everyone’s performance. Since all our workplaces in Uganda create cliques and thrive on gossip for in-job entertainment, the consequence of such situation is that the female employee finds herself under pressure from all sides and something’s got to give, most often in form of her resignation.
Male employees face a different kind of common scenarios. It is usually either excessive popularity among employees or the opposite, not finding a friend to lean on.
Hugely popular employees get away with a lot; they will mostly shift their responsibilities to others and use the time they had freed to build empathetic, proactive, positive relationships in the workplace. They will continue building their popularity in order to gain more favours from colleagues who look up to them. These charmers require tight focus and clear deliverables with frequent reviews because they are likely to have the whole team happily do their job while they steal all the praise. This behavior alone can create rifts and dissatisfaction within the team, when the reward is not equally distributed to everyone who contributed to success. The charmer won’t tell you that his work was done by everyone else because he wants the popularity and success only for himself. Team reaction is often a silent strike, where they refuse to do any work under the instruction of the charmer.
The unpopular employee will either draw the wrath of the whole organization on himself or quietly fail to connect to anyone, including the job he’s hired to do. If you have no one to bring you into the politics of the organization you are left alone to dry, like a fish in the sand. Not a promising start for your career development.
The examples given are based on personalities and it is these personalities that do or do not fit the organisation’s culture. Hence it is hugely important to define the culture of your organisation, what it stands for and what kind of people it wants to attract. If you have the HR department, their job should be to constantly and consistently convey the messages related to organisation’s culture to all employees, new or old. Consistent reinforcement of the organisation’s culture message is the uniting factor for the whole organisation.
So, is it okay to fire and hire and how is the turnover affecting the organisation and its people? Of course, letting go of an employee is never a pleasant task for anyone in the organisation, even if it happens during probation, after a short time. Employees make friends immediately – remember, everyone wants to be accepted and popular and the first days in the job are used to achieve this. So when the decision is made that someone is not suitable for the role, the whole organisation is more likely to mourn the departure of the colleague than to objectively see that the person was the wrong fit.
Hiring process is what management must rely on for success of each new hire. Organisations spend huge amounts of money for onboarding, induction, mentoring, coaching – only to eventually let go of someone who turns unsuitable for the role. Therefore the emphasis must be placed on hiring for success.
I have experienced many a wrong hire in my career. My company’s culture focuses on giving opportunities to people who want to start a career in advertising. My agency has shaped and produced many specialists in the advertising industry and experienced a lot of heartbreak when people had to leave. I got better on the hiring by using Predictive Index to determine individual’s suitability for any particular job. With time, wrong hires were phased out and a consistent, strong team was put in place.
When someone has to leave, there is emotional disturbance at the workplace but employees are free to continue relationships outside work. It is important that the employees clearly understand the reasons for letting go of their colleague. Soon enough, they move on to looking after their own benefits. After a lapse of time, when they unearth all the shortcomings of the former colleague and see the scope of potential damage to the organisation if that person remained in employment, they are relieved and life goes on.
Until we arrive to the level of professionalism where every employee is clear on his job requirements and deliverables, where inter-personal communication focuses on job delivery for the benefit of teams and organisations, businesses will continue to hire and fire. There will be heartbreak and unpopular managers who are tasked with making unpopular decisions, for as long as our focus is on our selfish, personal interests and relationships. The day we start focusing on professional job delivery and overall benefit of he organisations we work for, it will become difficult to hire and fire because everyone will be doing their job, and doing a great job at that.