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Employers and their biggest headache

Ehi Braimah

By Ehi Braimah

MON 12 APRIL, 2021-theGBJournal- Bishop Samuel Noi Mensah is the President of Full Gospel Church International, a Pentecostal and Charismatic Church with its headquarters in Tema, Greater Accra, Ghana. In a video that went viral, Bishop Mensah narrated the frustrations of employers of labour due to the heart wrenching behaviour of dishonest staff.

The position he took should not come as a surprise. Rt. Rev Mensah is a renowned leadership expert, motivational speaker, author, publisher and entrepreneur. The summary of what the Ghanaian preacher said in the video was that it is very difficult to find honest workers. It is a familiar story everywhere – not only in Ghana.

Citing the story of African entrepreneurs such as Aliko Dangote who recruit expatriates, especially Indians, into top management positions in their organisations, he explained that competence and skills are good but honest people – who are in short supply — are better.

The painful part of the story, according to the Bishop, is that a majority of dishonest employees are Christians who go to church every Sunday. He queried the values they imbibe as Christians if they do not know the meaning of integrity. You could sense easily in the video that the popular preacher is deeply troubled. “The people saying there are no jobs or foods to eat are thieves,” he blurted out, as he narrated his encounters with business leaders.

Explaining why “we are our own worst enemies” in the video posted on his Facebook page on April 5, 2021, the charismatic public speaker in a pointed message wrote: “We fight against the success of our own people. Let’s support the dream of others.” Supporting the dream of others is a challenge Tony Elumelu, the Chairman of Heirs Holdings, UBA and the Tony Elumelu Foundation took up some years ago for young African entrepreneurs by investing in them to create wealth and prosperity across Africa.

Interestingly, organisations – whether small or big — must employ people based on their human resource (HR) policy. The corporate culture that grows out of the vision and mission statements of the organisation is the glue that holds everyone together to achieve the goals of the organisation.

 You often hear “Our people are our greatest asset” as the holy grail of most organisations. Isn’t it therefore paradoxical that a majority of these people are also described as dishonest? Don’t get me wrong; we have honest and decent people working in several large organisations, SMEs and non-profits. I doff my hat for them.

It is true that most entrepreneurs are looking for people to trust with their money. Even our brothers and sisters in the Diaspora are also quick to say it is difficult to find trusted Nigerians – including their family members – to be custodians of their seed money. They truly wish to invest in different sectors of the economy but they need a trusted investment pipeline through which they can send money back home for businesses that can create jobs amongst other benefits.

The common practice is for invoices to be inflated and the difference collected through the back door. Meanwhile, the employees who indulge in this bad behaviour also expect to be paid their full wages at the end of each month. When the business begins to bleed, these people would grumble the loudest and complain about “mismanagement”.

You cannot even trust your driver to buy petrol for the right amount. It is pointless asking for a receipt because the petrol attendant will write any amount on the receipt that does not correspond to the amount spent to buy the fuel.

A driver once drove a Range Rover into a fuel station with his boss who was sitting in the “owner’s corner” reading newspaper. He was oblivious of what transpired between his driver and the fuel attendant. A deal was struck between both of them. The driver added N5,000 to the cost of petrol that filed the tank.

When it was time to pay, instead of N9,000 which was the actual cost of petrol bought, the driver told his boss to pay N14,000. That was when Oga frowned because his expectation was that about N9,000 at the prevailing pump price was enough fill the tank. There was fuel in the tank before this incident. Apparently, Oga had become wiser and he was monitoring the fuel level in his car.

Oga, who had lost his cool at this time, got out of his car and sought audience with the station manager. The fuel attendant confessed that she agreed with the driver – who at the time was earning N70,000 as monthly salary — to inflate the cost of fuel bought by N5,000. It would be taken out of the cash with her since Oga was going to pay with his bank card.

The driver agreed to pay the fuel attendant N1,000 for all the trouble he caused her so that he could pocket N4,000 as “extra cool cash” for the day. Well, his greed landed him into trouble; his boss fired him on the spot. If you are unlucky, your driver can disappear with your car and arrange for it to be sold.

The story of a female cashier at one of the Shoprite outlets, the popular supermarket chain, was even more daring. Media reports indicated that the lady brought a private POS terminal to her desk and used it to divert payments. By the time the bubble burst, she had stolen well over N300 million. Police investigations usually reveal that fraudulent activities of this nature are perpetrated by syndicates that involve employees and their outside collaborators.

The temptation to steal is high with cash based transactions but stealing under any circumstance cannot be justified. A thief is a thief. If you have poultry, just count your blessings on daily if the eggs are not stolen but that would be highly unlikely. More often than not, security officers join the plot to steal.

I know a friend who established a bakery as another stream of income immediately after the lockdown was eased last year. He shared his frustrating experience with his employees and it was not different. He told me they stole from him every day until he asked some people to go. You are not even sure who will come next and become the employer’s worst nightmare.

It is reasonable to suggest that some “cultural” factors may be motivating this type of behaviour: wreak havoc in a business and move on to the next victim. The inequality between the rich and the poor, ostentatious lifestyles of corrupt political elites and government officials as well as corruption in the public and private sectors may influence workers to “take care of themselves”.

The lack of social safety nets, high cost of living, taking care of extended families, poor and irregular wages, exploitation of workers without commensurate rewards for working extra hours, no incentives and foreseeable benefits, unreliable pension schemes, lack of access to healthcare and so on may be some of the reasons for increasing thefts in the work place.

An HR expert told me the motivation to lie, cheat or steal can be curtailed by hiring the right way. This includes conducting background checks because some employees may have been fired by their previous employers due to unethical behaviours.

When a business owner worries about poor electricity supply, bad roads, insecurity, lack of clean water, environmental sanitation and hygiene, multiple taxation, apathy by the banks, and then theft by workers, the entrepreneur begins to wonder whether it is actually worth the trouble setting up the business in the first place. It’s a tough call.

This explains why some high net worth individuals with deep pockets prefer to keep their money in the banks or invest in stocks, bonds and mutual funds because of bad experiences but they miss the thrill of entrepreneurship.

However, technology has provided some comfort in addressing some of these challenges: solar and wind energy in place of irregular electricity supply; payments with bank cards or direct debits in place of cash transactions and the installation of cameras to monitors your business premises.

When employees are “empowered”, it can foster a sense of ownership which will pay off in the long term but it will not totally eliminate the greedy appetite of the bad eggs in the organisation. Those who steal from where they work must understand that there are no medals to be awarded. While they think it is in their self-enlightened interest to cheat and inflate invoices or connive with third parties to defraud their organisations, eventually the long arm of the law will catch up with them.

In spite of our challenging operating environment, there are good employees and any employer who is lucky to find such people should keep them and groom them for future roles.

Braimah is the Publisher/Editor-in-Chief of Naija Times (https://naijatimes.ng)

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