There is a bashing behaviour I have noticed by employees in Nigeria everytime employer issues are raised particularly in the context of indigenous firms. People are quick to castigate business owners. Saying how most of them do not care, treat them badly, are wicked, pay peanuts, are greedy and hire and fire at will. When staff leave, it is because they were badly treated and the culture was toxic. And when employers fire it is because the employer just woke up in the morning and decided to fire. I could go on and on.
On the other hand, when I speak to business owners and examine my own experience as an employer, most of us feel the same way. We see bad behaviour, eroded values, no staff loyalty, many don’t care, they leave without notice, they are wasteful, manage the business badly and when staff are fired, it is done to maintain one’s sanity. If I begin to narrate what I have seen in the hands of employees, many ears will shut. But I am sure employees will be defensive and say it is because of how they were treated.
In physics, we say action and reaction are equal and opposite. So if employees behaviour is a reaction to how they are treated, then employers who are also human beings are subject to the same law, they are also reacting to how they are treated.
But you know what? Playing the blame game doesn’t give us solutions, we need to examine the context.
My point is, both employers and employees are of the same crop. Why? Because they are part of the same system.
Employees can never understand the difficulty and the mental torture that comes with running a business in Nigeria. There are days it appears that the entire system is designed to make businesses fail especially small busineses which constitute 84% of employers. It’s a constant battle to survive. With pressure from government, clients and employees, the employer’s heart strings are in constant pull.
I have been an employee and and employer for the same amount of time. I will tell you for free, there are moments I can say I enjoyed being an employee but I must admit, I haven’t nearly enjoyed being an employer. The only thing that keeps me going is the purpose and impact of my work. On some days that’s not even enough. If you think you don’t feel like going to work as an employee, my dear for years I didn’t even feel like stepping into the office as an employer and I know I am not alone because I have friends who run businesses that feel the same way and some have even attempted suicide.
You think you are depressed being unemployed and an employee in a toxic work place? Try being an employer in a toxic business environment, depression becomes part of your normal life. Many business owners are not just struggling but suffering in silence as they can’t share their burden. What you are seeing is symptoms of troubled minds and bigger issues. As a result, many employers detach emotionally but this I can tell you is a survival instinct to manage the constant emotional bashing received over time. Then sadly it appears like one does not care, whereas it’s self preservation.
I urge every employee who is criticising their employer to take a look at themselves in the mirror. You could be part of the problem. Employers are not a different breed, most were once employees. Many employees have become employers and yet things have gotten worse in workplaces, why? You are not better than the person you are judging and given the same circumstances, you will likely do the same or worse. The chances of you being any better are very slim and you know why? You are part of the same failed system. Hence, do not try to exonerate yourself from the problem, you are a big part of it, every Nigerian is.
If you can do better and yes a few will, start your own business and be that change you want to see. And if and when you succeed, come back to help other businesses do the same. The change begins with you, not government, not business leaders but you. Change your own attitude to work. Defy all odds and find a solution to creating better workplaces in Nigeria. It is a big problem and anyone who can succeed at it will be honoured.
Blaming employers is like Nigerians blaming the government. Nigerians are to blame for their government. As adults we are responsible for our behaviour, however, you can’t examine behaviour and exclude the external operating environment. The systematic failure cannot be overlooked.
Are there no good employers? I am sure there are, so come out and tell the stories. Even so called bad experiences have good parts, so let’s appreciate them.
A whole lot of employers and employees in Nigeria behave badly. The real question is why? The problem is beyond business owners and employees, there is a huge systematic problem and it will only get worse if Nigeria isn’t fixed.
We need a think tank to tackle the issues one by one, and I know that the biggest issues border around the poor governance, hostile business environment, national values, systems and regulation.
See eh, the problem is deep, but for now, start with you, have empathy, stop the blame game and be the change that you want to see.