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Brass monkey weather

I found myself awake at 3 am this morning ruminating about my feelings of anger and injustice towards a company which is ignoring me.

Yes, it feels like the whole company! Many people may relate to this feeling – if you don’t, ask yourself the question how many times have you sent an email message and heard nothing back or submitted a proposal and all you heard was nocturnal crickets in the early hours, just like me?  What about raising a customer complaint to a digital answering mechanism when you are in the endless ping-pong world of press number 1, 2, 3 for assistance then back to 1 without speaking to a real-live human being?  How did you feel when being ignored – insignificant and ineffectual – an all too common feeling in business today?  As somebody remarked the other day, it may be the new norm.

I totally get it that we are flooded with emails every day and it is fair to say that we cannot possibly read, respond to, or return every message. I face this challenge constantly and if I add in the management of business networks like LinkedIn,  it’s daunting. What I know is that people, myself included, will respond to mails they are interested in, want something from or there are consequences if they don’t.  So what makes people not respond or simply ignore you?

In my annoying tale that’s keeping me up in the wee small hours, it’s about a consulting job I did and have not received payment for. To add some colour it was a difficult task with low margins (so no easy money) but we did an excellent job and the result was valuable to the client. When it comes to payment however there has been none and a year later we are still awaiting our dues and being ignored.

The company’s behaviour has been unprofessional, and I am not taking about a small organisation here – this is a multi-national! When following up, nicely and gently at first, we are sent from pillar to post (when there is a response), starting with the country CEO who says“I will look into this and revert”and doesn’t and further emails are ignored. Country Head of HR says “We are on it and will revert”.  

She eventually loses interest and also goes into silent mode. Our emails demanding payment are sent sometimes to all 5 people who are connected with the project, know we delivered on time and on spec, know we are due payment and who, at some time or other have also committed in some way to ‘revert’ – their standard lie which people in this organisation blatantly and unashamedly use, as if their word is nothing more than a series of letters strung together for the purposes of deflection, much like a skilled tennis player lobs the ball back over the net before you are ready and know you are down a point and have to serve again.

Tactic one – fob me off, followed by ignore. What’s amazing is that 5 people will read the mail and collectively ignore it. My last attempt was to include the Group MD in the mail and guess what? Yep, no response.  I have this image in my mind of the mail recipients putting their hands over their eyes and impersonating the three brass monkeys going,  'la la la, hear no evil, see no evil and speak no evil.'  Me, on the other hand, can be heard saying to anyone who will listen ‘xxx are absolutely useless’, referring to the organisation, of course!

But organizations are made up of people and it is the people’s behaviours that makes the organization what it is. It doesn’t matter the type – it can be a club a corporation, a church or a family business –  its identity is determined by the people in it.  Whether that means it is efficient, corrupt, inept, carless, irresponsible – the group doesn’t have an identity on its own – that identity is made up of the people within it. And the identity changes as and when the people’s behaviour changes and sometimes this happens virtually overnight, as appears to be the case here.

I have worked closely with this organisation for many years, so I know (knew) the culture pretty well; I have known the type of people they recruit; who they fire; I have been close to their vision and values. Were they perfect? No.  Did they try?  Yes! Did I want to work with them, oh yes! Today it’s a different picture and all of this has changed in exactly 12 months. There is a new set of behaviours and attitudes to match the new order or, from where I sit, disorder. Included is not taking responsibility, ignoring suppliers and a lack of integrity (ironically these are listed as their values!).

Viewing this from a non-emotional and academic view point because my emotional self feels anger frustration and as a positive psychologist I know that acceptance comes from understanding, I realise that corporations are not people. Governments are not people, unions are not people, companies etc., because they do not define their own identities. They do not think; therefore, they aren’t, to parody Descartes.  It makes no sense to vilify an organization because of the kind of organization it is. Whether you are talking about a corporation, a government, or a football team, they are only as good or bad as the people within them.

At this moment this organisation is not looking too good. From my perspective gone is the can-do attitude, a willingness to listen to and respond to customers/stakeholders/suppliers and distributed decision making (in this instance I don’t even know where the decision to pay is to be made, such is the avoidance of responsibility). Organizational culture grows over time and for people to consider culture change, usually a significant event must occur.

An event that rocks their world such as flirting with bankruptcy, a significant loss of sales and customers, a new CEO with a different outlook and agenda or losing a million dollars – any or all of these might get peoples' attention, and a few were definitively played out in this company.

There is also another factor at play here. According to scholars of behavioural science, ignoring is devastatingly and inevitably becoming the new norm.  As Alex J. Packer, author of the manners guide How Rude!’ points out, so inured by technology are we, that if a query comes via text or Facebook, it's much easier to ignore than a human voice; your smartphone isn't going to burst into tears if you don't respond.  Email is the same.

There is a decrease in empathy and social desirability (how much we care about what other people think) in business today means that we're more prone to take the route of avoidance. And herein is I suspect is part of the problem – alongside the shocking decline in company culture.

My e-mail strategy has completely failed – it’s too easy to ignore me that way. The second error might be believing that collective responsibility is working each time I send an email message to 5 people, presuming someone will care and with a further expectation they will care enough to do something, not just promise to revert and don’t.  I am left thinking what happened to the good old days when you would simply get in your car, go to an office, sit in reception, wait till you see the manager then demand your cheque? Perhaps that won’t work as it’s a long drive to Tanzania – but I might just pick up the phone!

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The Daring Dozen at Bari

8th December 2020
JEFF---Batswana-smoke-unit

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.

POSITIVITY
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”

UNDERSTANDING

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.”

COMMITMENT

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.

ACCEPTANCE

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)

COMPASSION, MUTUAL LOVE AND RESPECT

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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