Happy Labour Day all

1st May is one of the most important day in the lives of employees especially in Kenya since this is the day they all wait with bated breath for the new Wages Order.

If you have worked with unionized employees, then you must understand the importance of Bro. Atwoli’s speech on this day. The most unfortunate part is that the Wages Order declaration has been politicised in recent times. It is now been used to gain political mileage instead of actually aiming at benefiting the life of an employee.

After the government, the private security industry is the second largest employer in Kenya. However, they are some of the most lowly paid employees inspite of the great risks they take. You may argue that they are not very highly educated, but in the end, their contribution to our lives cannot be taken for granted and I believe they deserve better.

It is pretentious for the government to claim that private security guards should be paid above the minimum wage when in actual sense, when you get a tender with them to supply this service, their rate is way below the amount that would get a guard to even collect the minimum wage. Look at any government office and evaluate for yourself, they would rather go for the cheapest provider but with the poorest services.

The Kenya National Private Security Workers Union (KNPSWU), with all its shortcomings, I must say, has been very strong on the ground to fight for the rights of its members. On the other hand, I still believe that providing private security guards in Kenya with fire arms as proposed is a wrong move. Having first hand experience with our security guards, I believe that there needs to be a lot of ground work done before this can be implemented. A firearm is not a toy or a button that one plays around with.

So even as we wait for the new Wages Order to be announced, we also urge the government to provide the employers with competative payment for services provided, irrespective of the industry.

Happy Labour Day to all Workers!!!

Letting an Employee go

As a HR Practitioner, you definitely have found yourself in a position where you have had to terminate or summarily dismiss an employee or probably declare their positions redundant.

Contrary to the popular belief that HRPs are heartless people, the process of relieving an employee from their duties is actually very tasking. It takes courage and heart. Sometimes it weighs so heavily on your soul that you literally have to go down on your knees to ask God for grace.

Over the years of my practice, I have relieved very many people from work. Some have been very easy while others not quite. One, because I know these guys are good people who just made a terrible mistake and secondly because I’m only human. The process of starting over for an employee who has been let go is never easy and most especially when they have a family to take care of.

In my own opinion, it is always very important to remain as truthful and factual as possible with an employee. Be very specific about your reasons; don’t say too much that could be used against you or too little that leaves the employee wondering what they did wrong. The ‘you are fired, pack your things and leave’ is quite unfair and unprofessional. Most importantly, ensure that the due process has been followed.

Regardless of how we are separating, we must do so respectfully because at the end of the day, you are dealing with a human being and loosing your source of income isn’t usually easy to accept. Sometimes it’s never black and white though, it can be dramatic. There was actually one instance where after dismissing a staff, she stripped down and started walking out of my office almost naked. My horrified office mate rushed to close the door while I just sat there thinking to myself like, ‘really?’.

I however always believe that every relationship has an ending, the only question is, will it end quietly or publicly. Which ever the case, every HRP must always be prepared.

Why take the stairs if you can use the elevator?

Recently, I heard one popular radio presenter ask his listeners the question, ‘why take the stairs when you can use the elevator and get there faster?’

This gentleman was discussing a very different subject matter altogether though. One of the things I have noted and mostly in the young people looking for jobs is that most of them want to start at the top, or other, get there immediately. Some look at you and quote a six figure salary in their first attempt at looking for a job, and that’s because they say they have a Bachelor’s Degree in that area.

The thing is, unless you were born with a silver spoon in your mouth, you will have to start from the bottom. Some of the most successful and rich men and women around the world will tell you their story and you will be surprised by how far they have come. But then again, we live in a world of instant gratification, we want everything NOW! Remember that the fact that you have two degrees does not guarantee you a Managerial job, neither does it make you more competent than a Diploma holder.

You need to understand that starting from the bottom has its perks. It builds resilience, patience and character in you. You get to learn the basics as you prepare for greater responsibilities, otherwise, you will crumble too fast under pressure. I can tell you freely that it is very lonely at the top sometimes. You need all these people you met along the way to help you ‘stay sane’ there at times.

At the Dojo as a Karateka, the Sensei insists that at the beginning of every class, we all start with the basics of karate before any student can move to the more advanced techniques. Whether you are a 3rd Dan or a 10th Kyu, we all start from the same level. It is mandatory.

It is important that you are patient in life, take your time, learn, perfect your skill and keep climbing the stairs until you get to the top. If you ever lost everything while at the top, you will be in a better shape to start over again if you rose there steadily, as apposed to someone who got there instantly.

So whether you take the elevator or the stairs, you will probably get to the top. However, taking the stairs, though a bit slower, will get you there STRONGER and more resilient. I choose the stairs!

Making the Exit process bearable

If you have ever resigned from a job or been fired, the exit process has sometimes not been smooth especially when the employer makes it their priority to make the separation process as painful to you as possible.

My question is, why should it be like this? Everything that has a beginning has an end, only God lasts forever, I believe. So if we all die at one point in our existence, why should an employer make your exit seem like the end of the world?

When an employee chooses to leave an employer by resigning, or is forced out by means of summary dismissal or termination, it is always important to make this process as quiet and painless as possible. You however find Managers who treat you very badly. They will delay your handing over process, the clearing process and even the payment of the final dues. You find out in the end that you spend so much time doing follow ups when it really shouldn’t be that. This has actually resulted into so many cases ending up in the Industrial Court when they could be avoided.

You see, when you leave an employer, through whatever means, it is your duty as an employee to ensure that you surrender all company property in your possession. It is on the other hand the duty of your employer to pay you everything that they owe you, less any loans, advances or surcharges if any, in good time. You should further be issued with a Certificate of Service for as long as you have worked permanently for a period of more than four weeks. All the above are not favors an employer is doing for you. A recommendation letter is however issued at the discretion of the Management, you can never demand for it.

There are companies that assume that when an employee is dismissed from the services of the company summarily, they loose the right to their final dues. That assumption is incorrect. Even a thief still has employment rights.

Therefore, as an employee, the next time you are exiting, make it easy on your employer. And for the Managers, it is not the end of the world. Treat them with respect. You never know, they could be your next boss.

What are we so afraid of???

Fear is the loud voice is our head that keeps telling us that we can’t do it, we are not strong enough, we are not good enough, we will fail!

Fear will make you stay in a job you hate simply because you don’t want to start all over again. Out of fear of being alone, you will stay stuck in an unhealthy relationship. Fear will drive you into depression because you imagine people will judge or mock you if you share your problems with them. Fear is so powerful it can make you take your own life simply because you can’t think of any other way out.

The question is, what are we really afraid of? You see, you can doubt everything else around you except your own abilities. When fear makes you doubt that you can’t do it, you have already failed. The faith that you have in yourself is enough to make you beat all the odds. Imagine those times in the past everything around you seemed so dark, all you wanted was to disappear from the face of this earth. That you are reading this now, it means you survived. Trust me when I tell you that that is not the last battle you have fought, many will come, bigger and scary ones.

Do not be afraid to quit your job if you don’t like being there anymore. Be bold enough to say enough is enough and leave, then start afresh. You will feel so much better and free. Be bold enough to stand up to that colleague who keep walking over you because they think you are weak. Be bold enough to take charge of your life and stop allowing people to run it for you. Be bold enough to tell yourself, ‘I’m wrong, I made a mistake this time but I can do better’.

When you realize that fear is all in your head, you will also realize that you can overcome it. There is always a way out and yes, it is okay to be afraid sometimes. You are only human. But snap out of it in good time and take back the steering wheels of your life.

Dealing with workplace bullying

A few years ago when I was still new in HR practise and knew nothing about karate, I worked in a certain company with this lady whose sole purpose in this life was to make my life impossible.

She used every opportunity to frustrate my efforts. Nothing I did was good enough. She would shut down any ideas I had even before I could finish the sentence. I was obviously inexperienced, but not stupid. She would shout and threaten me all the time and so I tried as much as possible to stay clear of her. I felt like she was God’s punishment to me for my many sins!

For the next over three months, I put up with the abuse and not once told my boss. But then one afternoon, while having a normal work conversation, as I started to speak, she shut me down and began shouting. She threatened to beat me up but this time, I wasn’t having it. I was done with her immaturity. What ensued in the office afterwards is a story for another day but that was the last time she ever raised her voice at me. And NO, it never got physical. I then reported myself to the boss, lest he hear it from other people. The next time we met as colleagues in a different company, we were besties, she would literally pour tea for me.

Workplace bullying takes many forms, it could be physical, emotional, verbal or sexual. However, being warned, fired, demoted or punished by your employer does not amount to bullying if they are done rightfully and in good faith. It is the job of every employer to provide a conducive working environment for it’s employees. Every company should also have a clear policy on bullying and ensure it is communicated to the staff.

As an employee, you should report every form of bullying to the HR Office and follow up to ensure action is taken. Secondly, you need to learn to speak up, talk to someone you trust about it, confront the bully and make it very clear to them that what they are doing to you is not right. Stand up for yourself because sometimes if you don’t, no one else will.

It is one thing to be respectful but it’s another to allow yourself to be walked all over by others. You need draw the line between what’s acceptable to you and what’s not. Avoid any form of physical violence at the workplace. Respect is earned but sometimes I believe you need to demand it from some people. So be brave and stand up against workplace bullying!!!

When you are ready for that Promotion

Have you ever felt in your career that it’s the right time for a promotion but the promotion doesn’t seem to come even though you have given your employer your all?

When we join an organization, we make projections in as far as career advancement is concerned. One of the reasons why people leave organizations is lack of career growth opportunities. You stay in a company for years doing the same thing until you can literally do your job with your eyes closed. It’s boring and too monotonous.

One of the things people have failed to realize is that there are times your employer has noticed the potential in you, but is waiting for you to see it too. There are other times also when the employee needs to push the employer, just a little bit, towards the right direction. I live by the mantra, ‘if the mountain cannot come to Mohammed, Mohammed must go to the mountain!’

Some Supervisors may not recommend you for a promotion, even though they know you deserve it, simply because they have gotten so used to you doing all the donkey work while they sit back and play Candy Crush, so much so that they can no longer imagine their lives without you. Worse still, we accept you remain there year after year because we want to please them. You see, if your job doesn’t challenge you anymore, it’s time to pack up.

As an employee, know that it’s not a criminal offence to ask for a promotion from your employer when you feel it’s that time. Write a proper formal letter outlining why you think you are fit for that higher position, justify it with your previous achievements and conclude with what you believe you will do if given the opportunity. Hand it over and make follow ups.

Do not ask your boss for a promotion when you are in the bar drinking alcohol. Also note that there are certain instances where the company is genuinely not in a position to afford your promotion, exercise patience, until you can’t. Most importantly, always remember that if you buy your promotion or bribe your way to the top, the thud with which you will crush back down is still warming up for you.

So don’t just sit there and wait for others to notice how good you are in your job or wish you could get promoted, push for it, keep improving yourself.

How deep are your connections?

When the current Nairobi County Governor (before he became one) took out his phone in a public demonstration and called the President of the Republic of Kenya on loud speaker, claiming the president was his good friend, in order to appease some crowd, it left a very bad taste in my mouth.

I have nothing against the Governor really, but I love to analyse issues from a management perspective. You may call it a political move if you like, but I looked at it from a different angle. I felt so embarrassed for the president at that moment. Only God knows where he was or what he was doing when he received that call.

You see, when we are ambushed like that, especially when quick and tough decisions need to be made, we panic. That’s because whatever you say can and may be used against you. You have not thought about it carefully and any public pronouncement especially when you are in a position of authority will be hang around your neck for ever.

As a Manager, it is of absolute importance that you never put your boss on the spotlight like that. It is your job to protect her and her reputation by all means necessary. You always represent your boss/employer within and outside the organization as a Manager. You may have serious concerns or private disagreements with her about operations and so on but when you stand up in public to represent her, you cannot embarrass her by badmouthing her to other people. It speaks very negatively about the kind of person you are.

Sometimes you need to be the bad guy in public so as to protect your boss/employer. You must be able to ‘take the bullet’, not because you are a kiss ass, but because it is part of your job. If you have serious issues regarding how she is doing things and no longer want to be associated with her, quit her and move on but don’t embarrass her in public.

So next time you are in a tight spot and you need to use your boss to help you do some PR for crisis management, call her privately, on the side, explain the situation and then go out and communicate the message. It doesn’t matter if you are best friends or spouses, use that opportunity to be your own person by handling the situation professionally, rather than showing the whole world and your boss how incompetent you are.

Workplace Dress Code

One of the most controversial topics at work places has been how employees should dress.

Apart from companies that provide uniforms for their employees, the rest of the staff have always been at liberty to put on whatever they choose. There is no law that states that staff should dress in a certain way to work. Companies though, have always come up with dress code policies to offer clarity in this area.

This is probably for the ladies who at some point have found themselves in situations where they have been accused of indecently dressing. Men on the other hand have used the dressing issue to justify sexual harassment at the work place. I wish to state categorically that there is no justification for sexual harassment towards a male or female staff and any perpetrator should be held accountable.

I will not tell you the best dress code, that’s a personal choice. However, what I believe is that how you dress to work reflects directly on the image you wish to project of yourself as well as the image of the organization. It’s called packaging yourself. People tend to see the outside of you first before they get to know the real you; your inside. It is human nature to judge someone from how they dress, even though most of the time, the reality is always different.

As a HRM, I’m not a ‘morality headmistress’. It is however my job to ensure that the image of the company does not come into disrepute from certain employee conducts.

I’m a huge believer in maintaining a certain image at the workplace, depending on the industry one is working at. It is always said that you should dress according to the occasion. So if you are dressing to work, look like it. Look like the image you are trying to portray. You do not need expensive clothes to look good. You can dress up in your regular outfits and still look great. It is mostly not about what you wear but how you wear it. And don’t forget to put on your most important accessory: confidence.

Handling Rejection

Simply because you have not gotten what you want doesn’t mean that it’s the end of the world.

I really wanted to join Precious Blood Riruta when I sat for my KCPE. I had heard great things about the school back in the village. I could see myself there, I fantasized about it all the time. When I received my calling letter though, I had not made the cut. I was called to a very good Provincial School back home. I had to make the best out of it.

Then I started thinking of being a journalist and KIMC was my next destination after KCSE. Great journalists at the time had come from there. I can remember scribbling KIMC on my book severally while in class. So when I applied for a Journalism course there, they wouldn’t accept me. I was disappointed and broken so I proceeded to a different college. That’s when I realized I didn’t even like journalism after all. I hated photography classes, the details of how to handle a camera, the lenses sizes etc was just too much for me. Back home on Christmas day, our village photographer would walk around the homes, ask us to line up and count one, two, three and the shot would be taken. I therefore didn’t understand what the hullabaloo was about camera adjustments and all. I majored in something different. I soon found my true passion elsewhere and I’ve never looked back.

The point is, when one door closes on your face, as they say, another opens. The problem is that we spend so much time staring at the closed door we fail to notice the new one that has opened. Sometimes, we do all in our power to break down the closed door just so we can come back in again.

I’m not saying that you should not pursue your dream passionately, you must give it your all, but should it fail to work out, don’t just stop there and organize a pity party. Start over again. It doesn’t matter if you have to start over one hundred times, just keep going until you find that which your heart truly seeks.

We have all been rejected at some point in our lives, but we didn’t die. It really doesn’t matter if at one point in your life, one or two people think you are not good enough at the time; whether professionally or otherwise. Believe in yourself, what you can do and the dreams you have inside of you and keep pushing.

So if you are currently whining and drinking yourself silly over a lost opportunity, it’s time to gather yourself together. Do not let the naysayers get into your head. Run your own race with grace, determination and passion.