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Dwarfed by the task ahead

Stuart White
THE WORLD IN BLACK-N-WHITE

Doesn’t every person deserve a job that makes them fulfilled?  This is the sentiment of Arthur Brooks CEO of Barry – Wehmiller who said

“I have known that my ‘work’ is a source of fulfillment. In fact, whenever my team members say I am working too hard, I tell them I don’t consider it work; I tell them I am having fun. To me, work is energizing, stimulating, and intrinsically rewarding. I feel lucky to have found joy and happiness through my leadership of the 7,600+ people within our organization. I wish the same for every single one of them”.

I think we all know the answer to that question is ‘yes’, in theory at least, but perhaps that is nothing more than castles in the air?. Can we really create work environments where everyone feels that what they are doing is fun, stimulating and full of purpose? And if we were able to create it, is it realistic to think we can sustain it for 8 hours? Even joyful stuff gets boring after a while. So the answer to that is probably ‘no’ but it doesn’t mean management should not be constantly on the lookout for ways to make some elements of work more enjoyable.

We know that when people are happy and fulfilled  at work they do more, produce more, create more harmony, take less sick leave, behave better etc. And we know the sort of havoc that ensues when workers are unhappy, dissatisfied or frustrated – look no further than those French truck drivers blockading the motorways in and out of Calais this week – gridlock and chaos. So what actually can be done to make work more aligned to positive outcomes?

Some of the questions my management team has been grappling with recently are: If we reduced staff’s hours would it increase productivity, improve customer service and make the work environment and the people happier and progress our standing as an employer of choice? For a long time I have believed that it isn’t possible for people to perform optimally for long periods of time.

I don’t think anyone can concentrate at work for eight hours solid, but perhaps something like 6 hour sessions are more achievable? From my own experience any boss who thinks that their employees are working flat out for an entire day are kidding themselves.

To make the day bearable we break it up to  interact, socialise on the phone,   
Facebook or LinkedIn, do personal chores etc. And it can’t be helped because we need to get away from that 8 hour stretch -in my opinion that is just too long.

I am involved as a shareholder in a few companies which all operate differently when it comes to working conditions, so I am able to observe where productivity appears to flourish and where it doesn’t. In one company we have been playing around with more flexible working arrangements for staff. 

If there is no work they don’t show up…and they still get paid.  The staff members manage their own time and only check-in with management when and if they need to. So far it looks like the most profitable and happiest of all of the companies, with good customer service and a happy and contented workforce with practically no staff turnover.

There is another company which is characterised by frequently unhappy faces whose only multi –tasking appears to be watching the clock while pretending not to be on social media and gazing at the door ready to knock-off time, much like a salivating dog waits for dinner.

In this company the workforce appears despondent, discordant and about as eager to serve as a Muslim pork salesman. I am not saying that this is the magic bullet solution between coming to work,  doing what you do best and then clocking out versus show up, endure your prescribed time and go home as soon as the bell rings… but I wonder if there isn’t something in it?

I don’t think you simply wake up one day and create a flexible working environment. Personally, being raised with the Calvinist notions of hard work, the harder the better in fact, whereupon one day you might benefit from the fruits of your labour (but you shouldn’t expect it and you probably wont get it), I believed that people, including myself, should go to their job and toil for their money.

They should work their backside off and their fingers to the bone, and as if that wasn’t enough, do so happily and with gratitude while whistling “Hi ho, hi ho, it’s off to work we go”, like those irritatingly perpetually cheery Disney dwarfs.

And I would always go to work with the intention of working hard and being optimally productive. When I worked hard I felt good about myself and when I did not I would be angry and disappointed, with a measure of shame thrown in to feed my guilt for betraying my Protestant work ethic.

Sometimes if I had not worked very hard then I would take work home, and do it in the evening. I immersed myself in work. I was either intending to work, working or punishing myself for not working. This wasn’t a road to happiness and I needed my Damascus moment!

The problem with many people’s thinking is how they frame the concept of ‘hard work’. Hard work is not when you are putting in time and effort that result in quality, output and impact – that’s work satisfaction. 

You see, when you enjoy and love something, even if it’s not the process, just the result, it doesn’t feel like hard graft. It’s a means to an end and totally bearable. Hard work is when you have to show up and do time, like a prisoner, with no reward bar time off for good behaviour. 

Yet that reward is meaningless. You had liberty in the first place and you can’t be rewarded by giving something back which was taken away.  As for salary, when work is a misery to be endured, you are the original wage slave.

My first  ‘aha’ moment came when I realised that when I wasn’t working hard enough it was because I couldn’t see the end result or I felt I was just putting in the hours. People’s toil and struggle with pointless tasks, unsatisfactory working hours and conditions and waiting for knock-off time only seemed to produce terrible results like stress, unhappiness and resentment – it did for me at least. Any gains under those conditions are short-lived and not nearly as fruitful as what can be gained when you are happy and not overstretched and under-appreciated.

Another came when I realised that I cannot perform 12 hours a day, 5 days a week, nor really be expected to. And I don’t want to. I am susceptible to moods, just as I have higher energy levels some days and dips on others;  I operate better at different times.

So when I am feeling good I make proverbial hay while the sun shines and recharge my batteries when the sun sets. When I don’t have work, or can’t work, I don’t pretend to be busy.  I pack up my bags and go home.

I know that work won’t go away but if it can wait till I want to tackle it and I see its purpose better. And just like Arthur Brooks I want that for my staff too…looks like more flexible working is about to be introduced at HRMC. Watch this space!

STUART WHITE is the Managing Director of HRMC and they can be reached on 395 1640 or at  www.hrmc.co.bw

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Fate of Africa: Underdevelopment Authored in the Corridors of Western Intrigue   

17th November 2020
Howard Nicholas

There is a saying in South Africa which avers that, “the White   man has no kin: his kin is money”.  The saying rings very true considering what Mayer Amschel Rothschild – he of the planet’s wealthiest family – once said, that, “Permit me to issue and control the money of a nation, and I care not who makes its laws!”

To the white man, the dollar sign looms so large in his optics that it was precisely the reason he appropriated Africa towards the end of the 19th century. The idea was to develop his continent, Europe, at the same rate as he underdeveloped Africa. Yet he was driven as much by economic imperatives as by sheer greed and prejudice.

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The Desolation Sacrilege

17th November 2020
THE UNHOLY EPIPHANY

 A “pagan” King violates the Jewish Temple by setting up an idol in the Holy of Holies

 

Why, General Atiku, has the Judean setting (present-day Israel/Palestine) being the focus of so much geopolitical fervour over the ages when it is so resource-poor and is not even that agriculturally fecund being a virtual desert? Why have all the superpowers of history locked horns over it since days immemorial?

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Joy or grief in the hereafter

17th November 2020

Just a ‘teaser’: we are all complaining of the ‘hot weather’ and ‘heat’ – but think about it, is this a reminder / warning from the Almighty that if we find this weather ‘hot’ can you imagine what the ‘fires of hell’ will be like should we get there?

Let us take this as a reminder and a ‘warning’ that we should change our lifestyles so that we follow in the path of righteousness and that which our Lord has directed. Failing this we will face the ‘fire of hell’ which undoubtedly will be many times worse than what we are facing on this earth.

Because as humans we have been favoured and bestowed with the power of intellect thus we enjoy greatness over other creation, coupled with a greater responsibility. Should that responsibility be misused then only on the Day of Reckoning will he know we will live in joy or in grief forever.

Since the dawn of creation Allah has sent down thousands of messengers, dozens of Divine Books but only ONE universal Message to humanity. That message of Divine Revelation and guidance is clear, unambiguous and eternal:

  • Allah is One, He is Master and Creator of the universe and of mankind and to Him is due all worship and obedience.
  • He has sent humanity Divine Revelation and guidance through His Messengers and His Books.
  • As death is inevitable in this world, equally is our resurrection in the Hereafter where everyone will face the consequences of their belief, unbelief and conduct in this temporal world.

This is the basic message, teaching and belief of every religion and without doubt we will all be called to account for our lives in this world and the manner in which we conducted ourselves, will be rewarded thereafter, the consequences of which may be joy forever for some or grief forever for others.

“It is He [Allah] Who created Death and Life, that He may try which of you is best in deeds and He is Exalted in Might, Oft-Forgiving.” (Qur’an: 67: 2)

 

In Islam the teachings of the Qur’an and the Last and Final Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) give clear guidance to the believer on how to live a life in this world so as to achieve success in the Hereafter.

‘If any do wish for the transitory things of this life, We readily grant them, such things as We will, to such persons as We will…… those who wish for the things of the Hereafter and strive for them with all due striving, and have faith, they are the ones whose striving is acceptable to Allah’ (Qur’an 17: 18-19)

In this world when a person sets out on a journey towards our Maker (Allah), he finds two paths, one leading to God and the other path to different destinations. A sincere and faithful believer will always try to find the right path and to live by the Divine injunctions, laws and code that his religion lays down. This requires us to live in harmony with the will of the Creator, in harmony with our own selves, and with the needs of the rest of creation. Unfortunately we have a tendency at times to toy with Divine Law and to surrender it to the laws of man and in the process to translate and interpret them into what fits in with our lifestyle of today.

If we are to use the intellect and the freedom of choice bestowed to us by God Almighty and follow His guidance, we will then live consciously in a state of “submission’ to Him, thus we will be virtuous. On the other hand when we ignore our Creators injunctions we work against the natural order, we tend to create discord, injustice and evil – and we become one without guidance. Therefore it is the intellect and the freedom of choice given to us that we are fully responsible for whatever we do.

However, it would be foolish for us to think of ourselves as totally independent and self-sufficient. If a person thinks in this manner, we become proud and. We will be inclined to become ungrateful for the bounties that we enjoy – the air that we breathe and the food we eat to sustain us, the eyes and ears we use to perceive the world around us, the tongue and lips we use to express our needs, wants and our inner most feelings and emotions. And being ungrateful, we will be inclined to forget or to reject the truth of the existence of God Almighty.

Unfortunately, people have varying views with regards to what the most important characteristic of a person is: for some it is the colour of his skin; for others, it is his economic situation – whether he is wealthy or poor; others think it is his , social or political standing, whether he is ruler or ruled; for others it is his social standing as an aristocrat, middle or working class; yet for some is his birth place and the language he speaks or the tribe he belongs to, etc..

‘Do men think that they will be left alone on saying “We believe”, and they will not be tested? We tested those before them, and Allah will certainly those who are true and those who are false’. (Quran 29: 2-3)

In Islam, these have no significance rather they are merely taken as signs of the creative power of God to enable people to recognise one another. The Almighty declares “O Mankind! Indeed we have created you as male and female, and have placed you in nations and tribes that you may have mutual recognition. However, the most honourable of you, in the sight of Allah is the one who is most God-conscious” (Qur’an: 49: 13)

Hence, the most important characteristic of a person is whether he is conscious of his Creator, believes in Him and through that consciousness submits to Him at all times and in all circumstances.

According to the Islamic view man is created by Allah in a pure state, free from sin. He also created us with the capacity or power to do both good and evil. He gave us the freedom to choose between doing good or evil. The good and evil therefore is connected with mankind’s freedom of choice and responsibility for their actions. “Good” may be whatever is pleasing to Allah and therefore beneficial to us.  Whereas “Bad/evil” may be whatever incurs the anger of God and is therefore harmful to man.

‘By the soul, and the proportion and order given to it; And its enlightenment as to its wrong and its right – truly he that succeeds that purifies it, and he fails that corrupts it….. (Quran 91: 7-10)

Therefore one of mankind’s main tasks is to keep away from and ward off evil. This is why Taqwa, piety and God consciousness is repeatedly mentioned in the Qur’an as the most important quality a person should develop in this regard. This means one must be conscious at all times not to over step the limits set by God. It works as a defence against evil and temptation by keeping a person within the boundaries of piety.

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