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clogging up the works

Stuart White

The World in Black-N-White

It’s generally accepted today that employee workplace happiness can beneficially impact everything in your business, from behaviour, productivity, customer service et al; it’s therefore logical that the opposite is also true – that an unhappy or disengaged worker can adversely affect every aspect of your business as surely as one rotten apple will spoil the entire barrel.

According to a Harvard Business review, disgruntled employees have been known to cause a host of problems, including the creation of irreversible damage to your brand, alienation of your most valuable clients, effecting very expensive mistakes, leaking  important company information,  participating in internet “bad-mouthing”, stopping potential hires from joining the company, causing others around them to be upset and disengaged in their work and be guilty of theft, tardiness, missed deadlines. Bottom line – they are dangerous provocateurs and saboteurs!

Interestingly, the word ‘saboteur’ is derived from the French word ‘sabot’ or wooden clog and refers to protesting French factory workers in the 19th century who removed their wooden shoes and threw them into the machinery of the weaving looms to disrupt production.  Of course, there can be a whole host of reasons that employees feel similarly disgruntled and much research points to a feeling of unfairness, or at least the perception that what is happened to you, is the catalyst for discontent.

A case in point, which made headlines around the world this week, was when one worker, a builder from Liverpool, England, demonstrated in grandstanding style how being treated unfairly can have dire consequences for the employer.  After he was not paid £600 (around P8000), the maltreated and malcontent employee drove a mini-backhoe through the glass entryway of a newly built Travelodge hotel. On the video taken by a fellow workmate and shown on SKY news, the 20-minute rampage included the vehicle crashing through the front door of the new building where the employee had worked. You could hear the angry man’s co-worker yelling, "That’s what happens when people don’t pay your wages, mate!"

Interesting, though, was that instead of outrage there has been much support for the builder after the video of his tantrum went viral online."Pay your bills next time, Travelodge," one person tweeted, though the building work had been sub-contracted by the hotel chain. One colleague said "I stand by what my colleague did today," he added. "He is owed £600 in unpaid wages and it just isn’t fair. That’s a lot of money to all of us and he has tried in every way to get what he is owed. He felt this was his only choice."

A spokesperson for Triton Construction, the main builders at the hotel, told the Mail Online  the labourer actually became upset after he couldn’t track down the boss that was due to pay him. I guess we all can relate to how mad we get when we are treated badly and money is often at the heart of many labour disputes.

This act of inconsequential minor vandalism pales into insignificance, however, next to the incident which happened here at home on October 11, 1999, when off-duty Air Botswana pilot Chris Phatswe commandeered one of the company’s Aerospatiale ATR 42-320 aircraft, took off from Sir Seretse Khama airport and for nearly two hours, circled the skies alone before radioing the control tower with the announcement: “I intend to kill myself.”

After a long series of conversations that included Phatswe being granted an audience with the Vice President, he deliberately crashed the plane onto the tarmac, thereby killing himself and taking out two other ATR-42s. Within hours of the accident, newspapers around the world described Phatswe as “disgruntled” and angry at Air Botswana officials for suspending his flying privileges due to ill health.

In both these situations the employees felt they were being treated unfairly and reacted quite aggressively, with one taking it to an extreme level, and both clearly demonstrate that it is often not what happens to us but what happens in us.  You see, when people feel they have been treated unfairly or see themselves as having been victimised unjustly, they  respond as if it were a threat and go into "flight or fight" mode. 

Many neuroscientists are using scanning and monitoring techniques to study  "Psychology Today looks at moral"moral "Psychology Today looks at decision making"decision-making which in these instances both went awry. They have found that basic, primary and primaeval reactions occur when your brain determines a situation is “just not fair",  demonstrating that your reactions are instinctually, not logically driven. The brain has such a robust response to unfairness proves that sensing an injustice is a basic, evolved capacity.

I know there was a time in my life when if I felt something was unjust I could stew on it for days – a reaction I know, logically and rationally, does not work for me or anyone for that matter. If we keep reliving the unhappy moment and devote endless hours to appealing the verdict of a wrongdoing in our minds, we will be left spent and miserable. Though it is sometimes hard to see, time passed in the courtroom of our mind trying the case over and over is really time wasted.

Even though we're sure the verdict is ‘guilty’, there is usually no way to bring about justice in this life without becoming guilty ourselves and this is what both the pilot and driver did.  They became prosecutor, judge and jury, rational thinking flew out of the window and they both chose a precipitous course of action which in their ‘right’ minds, they would never have contemplated.  In each case they were pushed beyond their individual endurance and they acted accordingly to make a point.

The two incidents represent the polar ends of the sliding scale that is employee unhappiness to the point where logic becomes lost in a mist of retribution, from the ‘don’t get mad, get even’ to the ‘I’m going out in a blaze of glory and that’ll teach them’.  In both cases, the object of this unreasoned nemesis was the employer, the real or perceived instigator of all the problems. 

So next time you create havoc by treating your employees poorly – even when that ill-treatment is largely in the eye of the beholder –give a thought to the wreckage – both literal and metaphorical – that can be caused and the damage it can do when someone is pushed to the edge of reason:  And let’s hope that a trashed lobby is the worst-case scenario.

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The Daring Dozen at Bari

8th December 2020

Seventy-seven years ago, on the evening of December 2, 1943, the Germans launched a surprise air raid on allied shipping in the Italian port of Bari, which was then the key supply centre for the British 8th army’s advance in Italy.

The attack was spearheaded by 105 Junkers JU88 bombers under the overall command of the infamous Air Marshal Wolfram von Richthofen (who had initially achieved international notoriety during the Spanish Civil War for his aerial bombardment of Guernica). In a little over an hour the German aircraft succeeded in sinking 28 transport and cargo ships, while further inflicting massive damage to the harbour’s facilities, resulting in the port being effectively put out of action for two months.

Over two thousand ground personnel were killed during the raid, with the release of a secret supply of mustard gas aboard one of the destroyed ships contributing to the death toll, as well as subsequent military and civilian casualties. The extent of the later is a controversy due to the fact that the American and British governments subsequently covered up the presence of the gas for decades.

At least five Batswana were killed and seven critically wounded during the raid, with one of the wounded being miraculously rescued floating unconscious out to sea with a head wound. He had been given up for dead when he returned to his unit fourteen days later. The fatalities and casualties all occurred when the enemy hit an ammunition ship adjacent to where 24 Batswana members of the African Pioneer Corps (APC) 1979 Smoke Company where posted.

Thereafter, the dozen surviving members of the unit distinguished themselves for their efficiency in putting up and maintaining smokescreens in their sector, which was credited with saving additional shipping. For his personal heroism in rallying his men following the initial explosions Company Corporal Chitu Bakombi was awarded the British Empire Medal, while his superior officer, Lieutenant N.F. Moor was later given an M.B.E.

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A Strong Marriage Bond Needs Two

8th December 2020

Remember: bricks and cement are used to build a house, but mutual love, respect and companionship are used to build a HOME. And amongst His signs is this: He creates for you mates out of your own kind, so that you may find contentment (Sukoon) with them, and He engenders love and tenderness between you; in this behold, there are signs (messages) indeed for people who reflect and think (Quran 30:21).

This verse talks about contentment; this implies companionship, of their being together, sharing together, supporting one another and creating a home of peace. This verse also talks about love between them; this love is both physical and emotional. For love to exist it must be built on the foundation of a mutually supportive relationship guided by respect and tenderness. As the Quran says; ‘they are like garments for you, and you are garments for them (Quran 2:187)’. That means spouses should provide each other with comfort, intimacy and protection just as clothing protects, warms and dignifies the body.

In Islam marriage is considered an ‘ibaadah’, (an act of pleasing Allah) because it is about a commitment made to each other, that is built on mutual love, interdependence, integrity, trust, respect, companionship and harmony towards each other. It is about building of a home on an Islamic foundation in which peace and tranquillity reigns wherein your offspring are raised in an atmosphere conducive to a moral and upright upbringing so that when we all stand before Him (Allah) on that Promised Day, He will be pleased with them all.

Most marriages start out with great hopes and rosy dreams; spouses are truly committed to making their marriages work. However, as the pressures of life mount, many marriages change over time and it is quite common for some of them to run into problems and start to flounder as the reality of living with a spouse that does not meet with one’s pre-conceived ‘expectations’. However, with hard work and dedication, couples can keep their marriages strong and enjoyable. How is it done? What does it take to create a long-lasting, satisfying marriage?

Below are some of the points that have been taken from a marriage guidance article I read recently and adapted for this purposes.

Spouses should have far more positive than negative interactions. If there is too much negativity — criticizing, demanding, name-calling, holding grudges, etc. — the relationship will suffer. However, if there is never any negativity, it probably means that frustrations and grievances are not getting ‘air time’ and unresolved tension is accumulating inside one or both partners waiting to ‘explode’ one day.

“Let not some men among you laugh at others: it may be that the (latter) are better than the (former): nor let some women laugh at others: it may be that the (latter) are better than the (former): nor defame nor be sarcastic to each other, nor call each other by (offensive) nicknames.” (49:11)

We all have our individual faults though we may not see them nor want to admit to them but we will easily identify them in others. The key is balance between the two extremes and being supportive of one another. To foster positivity in a marriage that help make them stable and happy, being affectionate, truly listening to each other, taking joy in each other’s achievements and being playful are just a few examples of positive interactions.
Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “The believers who show the most perfect faith are those who have the best character and the best of you are those who are best to their wives”


Another characteristic of happy marriages is empathy; understanding your spouses’ perspective by putting oneself in his or her shoes. By showing that understanding and identifying with your spouse is important for relationship satisfaction. Spouses are more likely to feel good about their marriage and if their partner expresses empathy towards them. Husbands and wives are more content in their relationships when they feel that their partners understand their thoughts and feelings.

Successful married couples grow with each other; it simply isn’t wise to put any person in charge of your happiness. You must be happy with yourself before anyone else can be.  You are responsible for your actions, your attitudes and your happiness. Your spouse just enhances those things in your life. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “Treat your women well and be kind to them for they are your partners and committed helpers.”


Successful marriages involve both spouses’ commitment to the relationship. The married couple should learn the art of compromise and this usually takes years. The largest parts of compromise are openness to the other’s point of view and good communication when differences arise.

When two people are truly dedicated to making their marriage work, despite the unavoidable challenges and obstacles that come, they are much more likely to have a relationship that lasts. Husbands and wives who only focus on themselves and their own desires are not as likely to find joy and satisfaction in their relationships.


Another basic need in a relationship is each partner wants to feel valued and respected. When people feel that their spouses truly accept them for who they are, they are usually more secure and confident in their relationships. Often, there is conflict in marriage because partners cannot accept the individual preferences of their spouses and try to demand change from one another. When one person tries to force change from another, he or she is usually met with resistance.

However, change is much more likely to occur when spouses respect differences and accept each other unconditionally. Basic acceptance is vital to a happy marriage. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “It is the generous (in character) who is good to women, and it is the wicked who insults them.”
“Overlook (any human faults) with gracious forgiveness.” (Quran 15:85)


Other important components of successful marriages are love, compassion and respect for each other. The fact is, as time passes and life becomes increasingly complicated, the marriage is often stressed and suffers as a result. A happy and successful marriage is based on equality. When one or the other dominates strongly, intimacy is replaced by fear of displeasing.

It is all too easy for spouses to lose touch with each other and neglect the love and romance that once came so easily. It is vital that husbands and wives continue to cultivate love and respect for each other throughout their lives. If they do, it is highly likely that their relationships will remain happy and satisfying. Move beyond the fantasy and unrealistic expectations and realize that marriage is about making a conscious choice to love and care for your spouse-even when you do not feel like it.

Seldom can one love someone for whom we have no respect. This also means that we have to learn to overlook and forgive the mistakes of one’s partner. In other words write the good about your partner in stone and the bad in dust, so that when the wind comes it blows away the bad and only the good remains.

Paramount of all, marriage must be based on the teachings of the Noble Qur’an and the teachings and guidance of our Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). To grow spiritually in your marriage requires that you learn to be less selfish and more loving, even during times of conflict. A marriage needs love, support, tolerance, honesty, respect, humility, realistic expectations and a sense of humour to be successful.

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Chronic Joblessness: How to Help Curtail it

30th November 2020
Motswana woman

The past week or two has been a mixed grill of briefs in so far as the national employment picture is concerned. BDC just injected a further P64 million in Kromberg & Schubert, the automotive cable manufacturer and exporter, to help keep it afloat in the face of the COVID-19-engendered global economic apocalypse. The financial lifeline, which follows an earlier P36 million way back in 2017, hopefully guarantees the jobs of 2500, maybe for another year or two.

It was also reported that a bulb manufacturing company, which is two years old and is youth-led, is making waves in Selibe Phikwe. Called Bulb Word, it is the only bulb manufacturing operation in Botswana and employs 60 people. The figure is not insignificant in a town that had 5000 jobs offloaded in one fell swoop when BCL closed shop in 2016 under seemingly contrived circumstances, so that as I write, two or three buyers have submitted bids to acquire and exhume it from its stage-managed grave.

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