Work ethics and national development
The officer sitting in the executive chair in front of me had a thick air of importance around her. She spent well over 10 minutes fidgeting with her mobile phone. First to fix the
earpiece, then to plug in the charger.
That was not all. There was a second phone that must be given equal attention. Then a call came through one of them. There was laughter as the conversation took place.
It came to an end and just as I thought it was my turn, a food vendor, from the look of things a regular one, entered. There was exchange of convivialities the usual Ghanaian way and
order was displayed.
All these while, I sat quietly like a convict awaiting sentence or a desperate job seeker waiting for an interview. In both cases, there was no choice. But in this case, I was there to
transact legitimate business for which reason the officer was employed. There were many others also waiting in the queue.
This is just one officer whose conduct epitomises the work culture of this country. It is, therefore, not strange that a simple transaction that should take minutes, can take hours, days,
weeks and even months.
Some call it bureaucracy. It is simply a system which creates frustration and corruption. It turns public office into empires where people reap where they have not sowed.
We have talked extensively about indiscipline in this country and the adverse effect it is having on our progress as a nation.
We have seen the tragic consequences of indiscipline on the roads, the devastating effects on the environment and the debilitating results in our political governance.
What we may not realise is that indiscipline at the workplace has had its spiral effects on almost every facet of our national life and the consequences incalculable.
Until recently when the banks have become very competitive, a customer who wants to withdraw his or her own money could stand and look for minutes while a teller indulges in
This habit is not entirely wiped out of the industry since some individuals have certain crooked character traits that could not be mended easily. But generally speaking, one could
isolate the banks and some private companies, especially those with doses of foreign ownership and expatriate management.
The ministries,departments and agencies of state do not offer any solace. The workers at these places know you have no other place to go and they are confident that they will suffer
If you do not know anybody or nobody knows you, then you are likely to make several trips for a simple transaction. If you do not know, try acquiring or renewing your driving
licence,try registering a title to your land or try getting a building permit.
In several jurisdictions where people value time and progress, some of these things take hours and not days, let alone weeks and months.
There is a lot of illegality in the country not necessarily because people do not have regard for the law. But often,it is very frustrating to go through the due process.
Ordinary persons who yesterday were clamouring for jobs suddenly become the monarchs of all that they survey as soon as they get their appointment letters.
Incidentally, the managers or senior officers who one would expect to inject sanity into the system are no better. In fact, one could say without any fear of contradiction that bad
managers are the source of indiscipline tearing the public services apart.
Right from the recruitment stage to supervision, the hands of bad managers are at work and the result is the lawlessness and poor attitude to work that we are witnessing today.
Visit an office, and you will be told the manager is busy. For all you know, he is on the phone in a long chat with a friend, relative or just a drinking mate. At another time, the visitor
with him is not on official business, but has dropped by to discuss family matters or worse still to while away time.
All these while there is serious business to be tackled. If they are not indulging in any of these frivolities, they are somewhere attending a workshop, a seminar or one of those
numerous meetings which waste time and money as they do not bring any tangible returns.
We would be making a mistake if we measure performance at the workplace by the number of hours spent without relating it to output. While it is possible for some to do a lot outside
the office, there are many others who will spend close to eight hours in the office without meeting a fraction of the target for the day.
If filth has engulfed us, if our drains are choked, if buildings spring up anywhere and if reckless and irresponsible drivers have taken control of our roads, it is an indication that the
indiscipline in the offices has been extended to other parts of our national life.
With such a work culture, it would take a miracle to meet our national development goals. If we appreciate the fact that development and progress do not come by accident but
through conscious efforts, we will do well to change our attitude at our workplaces, starting from the managers.
The tragedy of our time is that we yearn for development but spend the greater part of our time loafing about or just talking.