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False Lashes

Stuart White

The World in Black-N-White

This week I was in Kenya conducting a workshop for a client which involved putting some identified high-talent employees through a series of exercises to determine their managerial strengths and weaknesses, the end-purpose of which is to allow participants to gain insight into what they can and cannot do, what their development needs are and receive constructive e feedback on all of this.


Sitting on my side of the table as an assessor I view it as a non-threatening, non-combative exercise but then again I have been doing this for many years and perhaps have become quite blasé about the exercises and numbed to how traumatic it can be for participants. Viewing it through their lens, instead of it feeling like a journey of self-discovery and an opportunity to test your mettle, it may feel more like an excruciating nightmare where you dream of being buried alive; and just like the thought of being trapped in a coffin is enough to trigger a panic attack, the fear of the unknown assessment centre can have a similar effect.

 

Anxious and eager participants may Google ‘assessment centres’ the night before, hoping to learn what they can expect from the experience and enable them to prepare for it, but the fact is that it doesn’t really ready you for the real thing and besides, they are all different. Some may involve a number of tests: aptitude or psychological exercises, role play, verbal or written communication simulations, presentations, activities to test prioritisation and organisational skills, or group tasks with the other participants and if you've never experienced these methods of evaluation before it can make you feel anxious and less confident.


The competitive nature of the centre can also be problematic. In an assessment Centre not only do you meet other participants but you may be asked to participate in a group exercise where you are competing directly with them. And while you may not be being directly compared to others intentionally it’s inevitable that comparisons will be made  and not necessarily by the assessors. 

 

In such situations you may find yourself making huge assumptions about others’ capability compared to yours which can erode your confidence further.  And let’s not forget the feeling one gets of being watched and observed, like a rat in a lab cage. Unless you’re the sort of person who’d enjoy the thrill and attention of streaking at a televised sports event, evaluation can make you fear being exposed so ‘they’ will find out what you are really like.


Another stress can be that the assessors are with you most of the time and this often makes you feel there is nowhere to hide and  that you have to ‘perform’ at all times, even at breaks and mealtimes. This can be quite stressful, and depending on your personality type you may become withdrawn and quiet or overcompensate by talking too much or attempting to project yourself in a way you are not.


So, with the scene set and the curtain about to go up, stage fright can set in.


During a wrap-up session at the end of this Centre, there was one particular candidate who had performed very well but who looked upset and troubled; his previous upbeat and positive demeanor which I had observed had been replaced with lethargy and a palpable look of disappointment. 

 

I asked him how he was feeling and enquired ‘is everything ok’?  Seemingly not – this high achieving participant had reached the conclusion that he had failed badly during one of the aptitude tests (a challenging exercise for most people and common to think that they have performed badly). This belief had ruined the entire experience and his perceived under-performance in one exercise (he had not yet even received the test results) was overshadowing all the other exercises where he had performed very well. He felt devastated.


I tried to challenge some of his thinking , specifically  why he perceived this as such a catastrophe and attempted to help him see how flawed his thought process was as he was giving proportionally greater weight to this one test whilst ignoring his other successes and to use a popular idiom, ‘making a mountain out of a molehill’.

 

Now I myself can be prone to over exaggerating mistakes and failures (I’m that person who loses a business deal and will over-think it to such an extent that I can illogically view it as an omen that my business will fail which will eventually lead to desperation, homelessness and loneliness.  All a bit dramatic of course but such is catastrophe thinking – a cognitive distortion often at the root of much of our anxiety and depression).


Slowly as I worked with him through his flawed thinking which included i) you can’t definitively know how you have performed as psychometric tests are very difficult to predict due to the complexity of psychometric properties, norms etc. ii) your mood and demeanor have been altered because you have accepted your own false premise of  ‘I have failed’, even though you have no idea what ‘fail’ looks or feels like in this context. iii) Jumping to conclusions – when we are no longer in the present moment but in the future dealing with a completely imaginary doomsday scenario.


You may think something and believe it to be true. The thought ‘I have failed’ is a biased false judgement and self-criticism akin perhaps to 30 metaphoric lashes with a whip made of mental self-admonishments. It a different viewpoint from ‘that was tough, I could have done better’ or ‘wow, I wonder what that means?’.  Call it skewed thinking if you want but he had gone straight to that place of low self-esteem in the mind where insecurities and doubts fester and breed, quickly subduing and killing off any remaining self-belief you might once have had.  

The purpose of the test should be to enquire and learn, not to beat yourself up and lower self-confidence and self-esteem.  In his case enlightenment finally came with  the realization that danger lies not in his actions and decision-making per se but rather in how he views and skews them in his mind’s eye.   He left with a brand new pair of rose-tinted specs and his confidence restored.

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Is COVID-19 Flogging an Already Dead Economic Horse?

9th September 2020

The Central Bank has by way of its Monetary Policy Statement informed us that the Botswana economy is likely to contract by 8.9 percent over the course of the year 2020.

The IMF paints an even gloomier picture – a shrinkage of the order of 9.6 percent.  That translates to just under $2 billion hived off from the overall economic yield given our average GDP of roughly $18 billion a year. In Pula terms, this is about P23 billion less goods and services produced in the country and you and I have a good guess as to what such a sum can do in terms of job creation and sustainability, boosting tax revenue, succouring both recurrent and development expenditure, and on the whole keeping our teeny-weeny economy in relatively good nick.

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Union of Blue Bloods

9th September 2020

Joseph’s and Judah’s family lines conjoin to produce lineal seed

Just to recap, General Atiku, the Israelites were not headed for uncharted territory. The Promised Land teemed with Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites. These nations were not simply going to cut and run when they saw columns of battle-ready Israelites approach: they were going to fight to the death.

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Security Sector Private Bills: What are they about?

9th September 2020

Parliament has begun debates on three related Private Members Bills on the conditions of service of members of the Security Sector.

The Bills are Prisons (Amendment) Bill, 2019, Police (Amendment) Bill, 2019 and Botswana Defence Force (Amendment) Bill, 2019. The Bills seek to amend the three statutes so that officers are placed on full salaries when on interdictions or suspensions whilst facing disciplinary boards or courts of law.

In terms of the Public Service Act, 2008 which took effect in 2010, civil servants who are indicted are paid full salary and not a portion of their emolument. Section 35(3) of the Act specifically provides that “An employee’s salary shall not be withheld during the period of his or her suspension”.

However, when parliament reformed the public service law to allow civil servants to unionize, among other things, and extended the said protection of their salaries, the process was not completed. When the House conferred the benefit on civil servants, members of the disciplined forces were left out by not accordingly amending the laws regulating their employment.

The Bills stated above seeks to ask Parliament to also include members of the forces on the said benefit. It is unfair not to include soldiers or military officers, police officers and prison waders in the benefit. Paying an officer who is facing either external or internal charges full pay is in line with the notion of ei incumbit probation qui dicit, non qui negat or the presumption of innocence; that the burden of proof is on the one who declares, not on one who denies.

The officers facing charges, either internal disciplinary or criminal charges before the courts, must be presumed innocent until proven otherwise. Paying them a portion of their salary is penalty and therefore arbitrary. Punishment by way of loss of income or anything should come as a result of a finding on the guilt by a competent court of law, tribunal or disciplinary board.

What was the rationale behind this reform in 2008 when the Public Service Act was adopted? First it was the presumption of innocence until proven otherwise.

The presumption of innocence is the legal principle that one is considered “innocent until proven guilty”. In terms of the constitution and other laws of Botswana, the presumption of innocence is a legal right of the accused in a criminal trial, and it is an international human right under the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 11.

Withholding a civil servant’s salary because they are accused of an internal disciplinary offense or a criminal offense in the courts of law, was seen as punishment before a decision by a tribunal, disciplinary board or a court of law actually finds someone culpable. Parliament in its wisdom decided that no one deserves this premature punishment.

Secondly, it was considered that people’s lives got destroyed by withholding of financial benefits during internal or judicial trials. Protection of wages is very important for any worker. Workers commit their salaries, they pay mortgages, car loans, insurances, schools fees for children and other things. When public servants were experiencing salary cuts because of interdictions, they lost their homes, cars and their children’s future.

They plummeted into instant destitution. People lost their livelihoods. Families crumbled. What was disheartening was that in many cases, these workers are ultimately exonerated by the courts or disciplinary tribunals. When they are cleared, the harm suffered is usually irreparable. Even if one is reimbursed all their dues, it is difficult to almost impossible to get one’s life back to normal.

There is a reasoning that members of the security sector should be held to very high standards of discipline and moral compass. This is true. However, other more senior public servants such as judges, permanent secretary to the President and ministers have faced suspensions, interdictions and or criminal charges in the courts but were placed on full salaries.

The yardstick against which security sector officers are held cannot be higher than the aforementioned public officials. It just wouldn’t make sense. They are in charge of the security and operate in a very sensitive area, but cannot in anyway be held to higher standards that prosecutors, magistrates, judges, ministers and even senior officials such as permanent secretaries.

Moreover, jail guards, police officers and soldiers, have unique harsh punishments which deter many of them from committing misdemeanors and serious crimes. So, the argument that if the suspension or interdiction with full pay is introduced it would open floodgates of lawlessness is illogical.

Security Sector members work in very difficult conditions. Sometimes this drives them into depression and other emotional conditions. The truth is that many seldom receive proper and adequate counseling or such related therapies. They see horrifying scenes whilst on duty. Jail guards double as hangmen/women.

Detectives attend to autopsies on cases they are dealing with. Traffic police officers are usually the first at accident scenes. Soldiers fight and kill poachers. In all these cases, their minds are troubled. They are human. These conditions also play a part in their behaviors. They are actually more deserving to be paid full salaries when they’re facing allegations of misconduct.

To withhold up to 50 percent of the police, prison workers and the military officers’ salaries during their interdiction or suspensions from work is punitive, insensitive and prejudicial as we do not do the same for other employees employed by the government.

The rest enjoy their full salaries when they are at home and it is for a good reason as no one should be made to suffer before being found blameworthy. The ruling party seems to have taken a position to negate the Bills and the collective opposition argue in the affirmative. The debate have just began and will continue next week Thursday, a day designated for Private Bills.

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