Chioma Nnani: Staff Psychology in Nigeria - the truth of it
One of the lessons that never gets old is just how “the way you treat people in your business, will go a long way to determine the longevity and profitability of that business”.
There's a … disease that the average Nigerian business-owner suffers from. In fact, I feel that many Nigerians go into business,so that they can exhibit traits of this malady with impunity and without compunction. I call it I-am-the-only-star-in-the-universe syndrome. As hilarious as that sounds, it's real. Maybe shrinks have a more academic or clinical name for it – but this is real.
I recently started ghost-writing the memoirs of someone I'm calling “One of Nigeria's best-kept secrets”; I'm referring to them like that partly because there's an iron-clad contract in place that precludes me from ever mentioning their name in public (which is the point of ghost-writing) … and partly because they really are 'hidden in plain sight'. In having to interview the staff of this individual, I was absolutely gobsmacked to hear what their staff had to say. At first I thought, “Well, you're receiving a salary and I am filming you; what else would I expect you to say about your boss?” Then some of them started to give me really personal stories about this individual. These stories explained why some of them stayed with the company for years; I'm talking double digits. Let's just say that if this individual ever lost it and asked anyone to kill on their behalf, there would be a massive colony of people willing to do just that.
On the other hand, I know a person who claims to have run their business for a decade. On paper (which I've seen) – yes, this is true. But they don't have any staff that has stayed with them for any good length of time. They feel like because they pay a stipend, salary or wages they own the business as well as the lives of their staff. They think that being the one who signs the cheques makes them some sort of superstar. So, the entirety of their business life is summed up in Sam Smith's “Stay with me”.
The staff I interviewed also spoke about the humility of their boss; how the boss had no problem admitting when they were wrong, or didn't know the answer to a question. Their boss identifies the strengths of staff, and is secure enough not to think that letting a person shine in their key area takes away anything from them (the boss).
Yes, it's true that there are some really ridiculous people who think they should get paid for doing basically nothing. Some Nigerian employees would win a competition for “The Most Entitled Brats On The Planet.” Hands down.
But the fact remains that you cannot treat your staff badly and think that all will be well. It doesn't matter how many church services, night vigils and prophetic crusades you attend – you are on earth, which is inhabited by human beings. No deity has the power to make unhappy staff to stay with you; even if they are physically present, they will turn on you faster than a coin being used for a 'heads-or-tails' bet.
Chioma Nnani is an award-winning author, who also contributes to business, lifestyle and literary publications. One of Africa's most fearless storytellers, she is a two-time UK BEFFTA (Black Entertainment Film Fashion Television and Arts) Award nominee, who consults for businesses, shuttles between Lagos and Abuja, can be reached at @ChiomaNnani and blogs at www.fearlessstoryteller.com