By Alex Enemanna
Dear distinguished employers,
I bring you warmth greetings from my very humble and most modest capacity as your fellow countryman and a youth who aspire to one day adorn your highly adored cloak of critical stakeholdery in the labour market and by extension our economy generally.
First of all I must express my profound gratitude to all of you in public, private, formal and informal sectors of the economy or any other cycle of employers for engaging the services of one or two individuals in your employ for a fee. You have not only lent a helping hand at lifting the burden of such individuals and giving them an improved living standard, but that of few others who depend on them for one pepper and salt need or the other. You may be aware that in Nigeria, one pocket is equal to legion of mouths.
However, you may be oblivious (safer to assume so) of the fact that there are deep rooted concerns of a scandalously debasing condition of service and poor working atmosphere leading to unavoidable job dissatisfaction, loss of interest, fatigue, low self esteem and dwindling output on the side of your employees. If you listen to them closely in their private discussions by any means you find potent, you will discover that their minds are always green with grouses because of the pseudo or total absence of welfare package, (obviously not limited to cash) to boost their morale. Even though they will cheerfully complete their daily tasks to make you happy, albeit with red hot grudges while pretending that all is well. Such harmonious relationship between you and your employee(s) is always entrenched on the status quo of a deep rooted peace of the graveyard. The one-eyed man automatically assumes position of a king in land of the blind. No thanks to the wobbling labour market. The automated answer to the question “how is work” from the lips of an average Nigerian worker is “we dey push am” a glaring indicator of job fatigue, precipitated by a zero welfare mechanism.
Back in the days, distinguished employers, as elementary students of management, we were regaled with a cliche that the worker or labour force is the greatest asset of any organisation. While this may be as true as the statement itself in other climes, its truthfulness within the Nigerian context can only be measured on a scale of reality of today. The reason is not farfetched; the value of labour in Nigeria is decided by the popular Economics law of demand and supply, as applicable elsewhere in the world. There is no equilibrium between the availability of labour in our country and its demand. While the supply for labour has remained embarrassingly at the rooftop, almost two times the population of some countries in Africa, the demand is at water drop. The number of graduates being offloaded into the already sick and sickening labour market yearly sirs, is a clear pointer that it is no time for tea party.
Acting on this premise, the consumer, in this case you the distinguished employers are in custody of the knife and the yam. The final decision rests on your palm. The power to view the excessively available labour as an asset to your organisation, who should be treated with all dignity and honour or simply as a tools to accomplish set goals, who should be treated with a full blown disdain, levity and disrespect, the way a roadside motor mechanic picks and throws his spanners, is fully domiciled in your discretion discretion.
While you wield these humongous powers, distinguished employers, let me remind you that under the UN charter, these individuals some of you refuse to see as critical to the actualisation of your set goals and objectives, deserve fair treatment in social and commercial matters and their sense of human dignity protected.
Starting from the obnoxious qualifications some of you look out for before engaging these men and women of my generation, one can only ask, is it only an employee that is needed or is there any other thing? If not a joke, or do I say insult taken too far, what else do you call a situation where an employer includes the colour of eye of a potential employee as a requirement? Are you engaging them to come and see how your ancestors are doing in the land of the dead?
Some of you, out of well orchestrated mischief or lack of the fear of God will go about looking for a 21-year old female graduate with green hair, snake dentition, six fingers, 8 years post-graduate experience to come and be your official tea girl for an amount she is not even aware of since there is always no letter of appointment. To begin with, where will such qualification emerge from? Are these important in line with the job schedule in question?
It is worrisome, pathetic, nauseating and ungodly so for that matter, that at a time when people are out of sheer desperation to meet their stomach infrastructural needs are ready to take up anything by the nomenclature “job”, even the ones far lower than their status and academic qualifications, some of you in a bid to wave your flag of authority have continually posit yourselves as the holder of people’s destinies.
The sadistic ones among you will invite hundreds of people for an interview on three employment slots as early as 7am and will never alter a word to them till about 4pm. The luciferic ones will send the security man to go and tell them to go and wait for a later date, while the relatively considerate ones will send the manager to go and pass the message to the frustrated, haggard job seekers.
Why do some of you sir, not have the milk of human sympathy? Do you realise how much some of these job seekers suffered during their days in the higher institutions, NYSC et al? Is there a part of you that is not sensitive to the fact that some of them may have traveled from another state to attend your imaginary interview? Why does it not give you a shred of concern that your activities and actions are sometimes out of touch with human face?
As someone who has so much to tell on the callousness and sometimes the meanness of some of you, seeing these chaps around me complain of unfair treatment in the course of job search or engagement, really arouses a part of me.
It is enough you see it as a subject for testimony in whatever faith you belong to to have a Masters degree holder as your driver for a peanut, why not pull the brake there? Must he also be your gardener, livestock keeper, official laundry man, your wife’s private detective, your children’s and concubines’ driver? Even when these dozen in one jobs are completed, the afflictions of the employee abound. His pay will be a subject of prayer, sometimes added with fasting because of your sudden reluctance to pay. Those of you in the private sector have notoriously distinguished yourselves in all forms of unfair labour practice against your employees.
When x-rayed in the light of Maslow’s five level of human needs and job satisfaction indicators, some of you have performed abysmally poor at meeting the elementary needs of water, food, warmth and rest to your employees, a set of need Maslow called physiological. It is a deliberate attempt to exploit the bleeding labour market for selfish interest, not that you are ignorant of what should be done.
Maslow’s next hierarchy of need which is safety at work place does not exist in Nigeria. He is of the opinion that every worker deserves protection from elements, should have a sense of security, order, law, stability and freedom from fear. Job security especially with those of you in the private sector does not exist. You hire, fire, rehire and refire at will. Where you are not available to do that, your girlfriends do it and offer the explanation later. The worker’s mind is usually gripped with fear of uncertainty and imminent unprovoked disengagement.
If the meager amount you give your employees in the name of salaries was stable and ever handed in good condition, you will always get the best out of them. Nigerian workers are not difficult to please. But what you see is a situation where a cold hearted employer will deliberately travel to wherever for God knows how long without making provision for the payment of workers, running into months. This is even as he fritters the resources made by these workers with strange women at will, funding a wastefully ostentatious and luxurious lifestyle to the detriment of the real makers of the money who have family members to carter for.
A friend who recently concluded her NYSC scheme was narrating to me few days ago how her employer deducts her salary of N30k with impunity for excuse bordering on lateness and other flimsy trivials. She said in a good month, she may be lucky to go home with 25k but in a bad month, she parts with 20k. This is even as she expressed worry that the pay is not enough to take care of her basic needs. Sadly, this is what a typical Nigerian worker passes through daily in your hands. Motivation is a Haram as far as you are concerned. Instead, you choose to unmotivate, fully aware that another person is already standing by to grab the opportunity. Some of you are quick to punish deviance but very dormant, almost dead at rewarding excellent performance.
We are confronted with a situation where our precious graduates are being under utilized. Their academic training ends up in the paper where it is written while in the actual practice, it is subsumed by the quest for anything that will pay bills. Scientists who should help proffer solutions to myriads of challenges confronting us are either working as caregivers in one Nursery school or the other or serving in one Calabar kitchen as a waiter.
This has brought about reduction in the value of graduateship. Before now, “don’t you know I’m a graduate” was a cliche to bargain for improved welfare at work. The value has steadily dropped to the extent that the sugarcane hawker who just acquired a new wheelbarrow needs a graduate to be his sales person. Dear distinguished employers, is it good?
According to an American psychologist, Frederick Herzberg, people’s job satisfaction depends on two kinds of factors, factors for satisfaction and factors for dissatisfaction. Under his factors for satisfaction, he enumerated performance, recognition, job status, responsibility and opportunities for growth as enablers. Under his factors for dissatisfaction, he listed salary, secondary working conditions, the relationship with colleagues, physical work place and the relationship between supervisor and employee.
What this means is that job satisfaction is not only predicated on financial reward. When measured in Herzberg’s factor for satisfaction and dissatisfaction, some of you can favourably compete with the devil as enemies of your employees. They have deliberately refused to create the enabling environment for their employees to grow, while mindlessly starving him other things that will keep him motivated. You need to grant them opportunity to improve and upgrade themselves academically, through skills acquisition and training, so that even after their sojourn with you, they could be useful somewhere else.
The total saturation of the labour market today is one big enabler of the aggressive rush through any available means out of the country. The mass migration of our youths in quest for greener pasture has come with its own global ridicule and shame on our dear country in particular and Africa in general. While the whites have adopted measures within their arsenal to checkmate the influx of black migrants, our people have continued to advance their Machiavellian crookery to find themselves in oyibo land, just to beat the scourge of poverty which has characterise the beautiful continent. Those who can’t go this route have found solace in sundry criminality.
The umbrella body of workers, the Nigerian Labour Congress unfortunately has been on a constant squabble for one leadership tussle or the other. The unity that will be a driving force for the welfare of our workers is conspicuously lacking. The private sector worker is usually not fathomed in NLC’s equation when they finally choose to come together. This has enabled some of you to walk home with blue murder. You regulate yourself without any form of interference and unilaterally take a decision on what you should make of your workers.
I know you wield enormous power as far as the labour market is concerned. I’m only appealing to you to please remember that in whatever you do, there is a reward for it. You can do better than you are currently doing. Banks, telecommunication companies, insurance companies etc, while your power to offload your workers cannot be questioned, always do so with a scintilla of the fear of God. Pay them their entitlements and whatever that is due to them to enable them plan a new chart for themselves and family members.
Learn to see your employees as sons, daughters, brothers and sisters. Create an opportunity for them to feel needed in the organization. Speak to them kindly and with decent words. Always not assume that you have arrived because the world is very dynamic. The table can turn just any time. Try and work out something nice for your employees so that you will find peace with your conscience and creator. Be rest assured that your children and children’s children will be there tomorrow to reap whatever you sow today. Sow wisely.
Enemanna Is An Abuja Based Journalist