Sunday, August 24, 2008

Insults and the workplace

A good friend of mine recently narrated the most unbelievable story I have ever heard. She told me a female branch manager of one our big banks in Nigeria had asked her members of staff who had been unable to meet their monthly targets to “kneel down” as punishment. Now, that is not the part that is unbelievable because I know many people are capable of wanting to humiliate other human beings in any way they can. The part that is unbelievable is that her staff actually did it! They actually knelt down. Now, may I remind you all that this incident happened recently, in 2008. Of course I refused to believe it, “impossible” I screamed! My friend then informed me that in the world of banking, people were insulted on a daily basis. She told me that one former MD of a bank once asked his staff at MPR (monthly performance rating) if he was a married, the man said yes, asked if he had children, to which the man replied yes, he then asked his staff if when he gets home his children call him daddy or idiot.....because only an idiot can be doing so badly.

Many more horrendous stories such as these were narrated but we shall make do with these two. I doubt my readers need more examples to understand the kind of madness I am talking about. Yet, this is not particular to the banking world in Nigeria. In offices all over the country, people are being called “stupid”, “idiot”, “fool”, “useless” and other derogatory terms. In fact, I remember teachers being part of this madness. Teachers that call their students “mumu”, “olodo”, “stupid”, teachers that should know better are even a part of this social madness. However, I do not blame these human beings that believe it is their right to insult others anywhere and anytime they deem fit. I blame it on this ridiculous system of “respect your elders” that we have been initiated into as children.

As a child, I was taught to respect my elders and basically agree with whatever that “elder” said. Who are the elders? Well, basically, anybody that is older than you. That is why, as a child, you bowed your head down when an adult scolded you and told you what a stupid person you were. As long as this person was “your senior”, it was alright for you to be insulted and degraded. This degrading of yourself continued in boarding house (for those of you that did not go to boarding house, give praise and thanksgiving, your mental health is still intact) where you were basically a slave to everybody that was in a class ahead of you. Here, the insults become natural; it is a part of your life. You are “fool”, “stupid” “idiot”, and you will gladly answer to those names when you are being called. You now await your turn, when you can also enjoy calling juniors “fool”, “idiot” “stupid”. You are part of the system and the system is part of you.

However, as an adult, your “elders” are no longer those people that are older than you, but those people you call “Sir” or “Madam” (and anybody that has money). We have just replaced the “elder” tag with “Sir/Madam”, and allowed the system of insults to continue and why should it not?

I will tell you why it should not. First of all, such behavior is totally unprofessional and does not belong to the office. Anybody in such a professional setting, including the cleaners, drivers and security guards, ought to be respected and treated as a worthy human being. They are working for their money just as you are. They should be respected. In many countries, the cleaners can call the MD of a company by his first name, yes, you heard me right. In my university days, I called all my professors by their first names (it was a shock to my system, but once I got used to it, it was quite liberating) and nobody died. It is because we insist on this “Oga/Madam” nonsense that such people think it is their right to insult their subordinates.

Secondly, we are not kids anymore. Those days of bullying are long gone. We are grown men and women and we will fight for our rights.

P.S:And una mumu people wey dem go dey do like sheep anyhow, una no fit talk? Ehn? I swear, if na me, na rak we for rak that day. Kneel down indeed! Na for her head I for siddon! Nonsense and ingredience!


Homeless said...


Rita said...

I have heard of this kind of treatment before, from a friend of mine that works in a bank. I agree with you that it is totally unprofessional.

But this is one country where people are practically begging for work and would do almost anything to keep their job.

Thanks for stopping by my blog. I like your pidgin...

Anonymous said...

last week our class held a similar talk about this subject and you illustrate something we have not covered yet, thanks.

- Laura