I wrote this article in 2012 but I thought I would republish it. I think it applies now more than before.
I am shocked by the level of complacency that I see in many organisations. This complacency is seen through all levels of employees. People see things going wrong and they say “it has nothing to do with me”. In some instances employees see wrongs things which they or their colleagues can correct immediately but they do not bother to correct because the company is not theirs. People wasting bond paper, people abusing company resources like vehicles but still staff do not bother because it does not affect them directly. People see company customers crying for assistance but they ignore them because they “do not work in the customer services department”. Some of the ideas employees have can save the company thousands of dollars but they are not bothered to bring the idea to the right person because their salary comes in full all the time. Some people see potential clients or business development opportunities for the organisation when they are off duty but they do not bother because they are not in business development. Image the amount of business opportunities that each one of your employees can bring to the table only if they think differently. Some companies employ more than a thousand people; imagine if each one of them regardless of their department can bring two customers per month – that could change the course of your business for better.
How do we change the mindset of our employees so that they may never have to regret when things go wrong. I want to share my own career journey that taught me lessons that most employees ignore today. Employees must remember one important principle that should guide them as they do their jobs: You work for your family and not for any particular employer. Once you know this important lesson your mindset and how you do your job will change. You go to work so that you can look after your family. I learnt the hard way and this is how it happened.
After university I was lucky to have worked for some of the best brands in the country. I joined one mining house and at that time I thought “I had arrived”. Anything that any employee would want was there. However just like any other ordinary employee I saw things going wrong and said “it has nothing to do with me”. However after 3 and half years in this particular organisation one Wednesday morning one of the senior managers who was an expatriate but well experienced came to the bus as we were arriving at the mine site and said “ladies and gentlemen, we have had a slight hiccup at the mine and we would like you to go back home while we sort out one or two things.” People in the bus clapped hands in jubilation unknowing that this was the last time they were ever going to set foot at this particular organisation. We only learnt about the demise of this once mighty organisation during the eight o’clock news at night. The news came “Thousands of employees have lost their jobs after one of the major companies closed today due to viability problems.” It was hard to believe because we had not even gone for one single month without pay at this organisation. Cellular communication was not very common as it now so there was no one to ask what had happened and how it happened. Some people never recovered from that setback and whenever I meet some of my old workmates they are so bitter about the demise of this giant organisation.
The lesson I leant then was you must always be prepared that you might not have a job tomorrow. In your current job always do your best even if you are given tasks that you do not like. Always be on the lookout for signs that show that something might be wrong and prepare accordingly. I was fortunate that I was in human resources so I was given three months to work out people’s packages. I also managed to find another job two days after the company closure because my boss then gave a sterling recommendation of me to a prospective employer and they never regretted why they hired me. For some of the retrenches it was a prolonged period of unemployment. For some of them it was easy to see that they were unemployable and they still are up to now. They missed an opportunity to do the best they can because they believed they worked for this employer instead of thinking that they were working for their families.
After four fruitful years at the new employer I left amicably to join another employer after spotting a good opportunity to further my career. Like any other executive, life was good then and there was no reason to think that one day I will be unemployed. One Wednesday afternoon, we were all summoned into the boardroom where we were told we no longer had jobs and we should put our car keys on the table. Some thought it was a joke but when we were informed that we were not allowed to come to the premises unless invited. That was when it started dawning on many of us that it was indeed goodbye to this company that had so much potential. Since most of the people were used to some luxury and never dreamt of a day they might wake up without a job it was such a shock to many of them. Some had never been to a commuter omnibus rank but they had no option but to ask, “Makombi eChisipiti anowanikwa kupi”? It was the first time in many years that they were going to go home in a kombi because they were so used to company cars.
Your working life can change overnight and you must prepare accordingly. Ever since I started working I was preparing to start my own business which I did and I have never regretted. Company luxuries such as cars, school fees, food and other executive packages can disappear overnight. Those who have been in a situation where they lost their jobs not because they had done anything wrong know losing a job is part of the game in life.
The question here for every working individual is if you were to lose your job without notice tomorrow morning will you be able to cope or will you be able to walk into another job in less than a week. If your answer to this question is no, change now and start preparing for losing your job without notice. Work hard in whatever you are doing regardless of the odds against you. Once you do that people who matter will notice.
Memory Nguwi is the Managing Consultant of Industrial Psychology Consultants (Pvt) Ltd a management and human resources consulting firm. Phone 481946-48/481950/2900276/2900966 or cell number 077 2356 361 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org or visit our website at www.ipcconsultants.com