The Best Staff I Couldn’t Keep

I met a chap called Efe about 20 years ago. He was a young graduate but a top marketer. He knew the real estate market like the back of his hand, as we say, and he knew how to reel in a client till you are the one begging him to show you more investment opportunities. When I first met him, he was in the company of two other colleagues, a male and female who had come to me earlier to interest me in a property but I wasn’t fascinated. Then they came with Efe, with his pleasant looks, good dress sense and adequate knowledge of his industry.

Every employer of labour wants to put together a tough team that would produce top-notch results. Sometimes, even in this top team, some workers stand out both in their contributions and in the results they bring in. Efe appeared to be such a worker. He had done his home work and he knew just how to present the pitch to catch my attention. My prepared answer was to decline their proposal but he had somehow found out that I was once involved in the hospitality services and he approached me from that angle. Next, he told me the names of three people who had bought the properties closest to the one they were trying to sell to me, he even went ahead to tell me what the buyers were using the buildings for. That piqued my interest; I am always careful about my neighbourhood.

Through Efe’s calm and careful pitch, I got interested enough to view three of their properties and even recommended them to some friends. While we were still negotiating, Efe lost his job.

I was astounded. How could an organisation bear to lose such a vibrant and resourceful staff, I wondered? I felt his employers were myopic and believed his story that his superior officers had ganged up against him because they were jealous of the results he was bringing in.

Based on the great potentials I saw in him, I offered him a job instantly and made him a team lead to avoid unnecessary wrangling with colleagues. I felt that leading a team would not only help utilize his skills optimally and boost his morale, but would also help us train the more junior marketers under him.

He was with my organization less than three months but already, I was inundated with complaints about his conduct.

Apparently, Efe had no clear understanding of teamwork. He would go out to work without the members of his team and claim that there was a sudden call from his client to meet up. It meant that he would be driving alone in the company vehicle while his teammates would be hopping buses. After more than 20 such complaints and his careless responses, it was obvious that he preferred to work alone. He also arbitrarily increased and reduced the discounts offered to clients without due recourse to the Managing Director; he was running a republic within the organization. The management decided to overlook a lot of his misdemeanors mainly because he was bringing in results and also he was my personal candidate, but they could not overlook his avoidance of HOD meetings. The meetings helped them to know what was happening in all segments of the organization and take cohesive decisions. No one could tell at any point what Efe was doing in his group. He always told his colleagues and superior officers that he came to deliver results ‘not to hold meaningless meetings. The chairman (referring to me then) didn’t go to such great lengths to bring me here to sit around, drink tea and talk rubbish.’

The arrogance and unveiled insults totally infuriated them.

At the same time, he was also quite oppressive of his subordinates. He could get offended by how his teammate spoke and ask the person to get down from the vehicle. He verbally sent two of the marketers under him on two weeks suspension and sacked another one outrightly. He then called HR to give them letters based on his instructions. He said the two constantly refused to disclose what they were working on and that one had closed a deal whereas he, Efe was also working on that project. The same thing he did was what earned his subordinates punishment from him.

Finally, the management had to sit with me. They appreciated Efe’s contributions and the “great lengths I went to poach him.” What great length, I thought to myself, the guy was out of work when I made the offer to him. Not any wiser, the management team told me that Efe’s attitude was disruptive and subversive and they wanted him out. I agreed with them and negotiated a soft landing for him; he could work externally for a higher commission. Efe lost the job.

A few weeks ago, I ran into Efe and he was selling vacation opportunities for a travel agency. I asked how he was faring and said he’d gone through several jobs, more than 15, but obviously he was not any wiser because he was still full of stories about how he was a go-getter and how his colleagues were always jealous of him. I wondered why he had never floated his own agency but he said he’d tried twice but was ‘sabotaged.’

I had 5 minutes for him and I tried to let him know where he constantly went wrong and some key elements that would make a staff more valuable.

Results – Efe was okay on that. He took time to study both his products and his clients. He always had answers to all questions.

Team Spirit – The work environment is no solo flight, people put hands together to achieve the desired results. In this manner, the more knowledgeable ones mentor the younger and weaker staff. Efe failed woefully here.

Respect for hierarchy – Dispense respect as though it is going out of fashion. It doesn’t matter if your social standing is higher or your father used to employ his dad, if he is your boss in the office, give him his due respect. This is different from being a lackey. Give respect without belittling your own position and self respect.

Flexibility – The reasons for meetings is to measure progress continually and to address areas of challenge. Sometimes this might lead to reassignments and realignment. A valuable worker always looks at the bigger picture rather than selfish goals.

Willingness to try new ideas – Things are constantly changing and with it, methods and expectations. The organization that survives is the one that keeps evolving and this can only be achieved when the members of staff are willing and ready to reinvent themselves to suit new expectations.

Camaraderie – an office environment is not a war zone, neither is it a friendship society. It should be friendly, polite and accommodating to allow for a free flow of ideas and information.

You may have heard people say that sometimes, the best is not good enough. It is true. Sometimes, it is actually based on myopic sentiments but when it becomes a recurrent issue, please check yourself. No matter how smart and resourceful a worker is, there are some written and unwritten codes of conduct that he/she must exercise in order to remain relevant in the work space. Having worked in both the private and public sectors, I have noticed that these rules are common to both sectors. There is a sort of decorum that must be observed in the workspace for everyone to thrive. I hope it isn’t too late for Efe to learn these vital lessons… and if you are like him, always bragging about how good you are and belittling the efforts of your colleagues, take some notes.

So long!


Fatherhood with Ibe

The Sins of the Fathers (2)

In my last publication, I shared a story about Onyeisi, my friend from way back in the primary school. He liked to fight and could be provoked into a fight by just a look, a perceived snigger or a comment. Onyeisi liked to use weapons – stones, bottles just name it. If he could lift it, it was good enough to be used to hit his target. Everyone in school avoided him and there I was, the beneficiary of this great lion, because he was my friend and no one dared bully me or the person would become Onyeisi’s target.

So we met again, decades later but the happy reunion had a dark cloud looming, Onyeisi was dealing with a personal problem: a flow down from him to his scions. This is an account of what he told me (abridged and amended please).

“You know that I used to fight a lot, in fact, I bought other people’s problems because I hated injustice passionately. That is how I met Odi. She was in a brawl with three hefty guys. She was holding her own but they were too many for her to subdue so I tried to mediate and when one of the guys pushed me and called me a big buffoon, the fight became mine as well. Odi and I beat up those guys and left them bleeding. We ran away when more people tried to join up. That is how we became friends. But there was a huge problem; where I could get provoked and get into a fight, Odi was the one that would provoke others into a fight. Every day, she had one bout or the other with boys and girls alike. I got tired of joining her in fights that she engineered or even trying to placate her victims. She was harsh, mean and brutal. We were already dating when I realised that I didn’t like her character but at that time, she was already pregnant. Her family insisted that I had to marry her but I refused. I was 23 years old then. I told my father that I would take responsibility for the child but there was no way that I would get Odi into my house as a wife. She was infuriated and nearly killed me on two occasions. She threatened several times to abort the baby but her uncle who was the only person she seemed to respect forbade her from harming the baby. She gave birth to my first son, Ekene and my aunt took the child because Odi went several times to my parents’ house to try and take the child. She later moved to one of the west coast countries and I never heard from her again till date.

I later went on to the university and somehow it remained convenient to leave the boy with my aunt. I visited frequently but I never took him to live with me. Five years after my graduation, I met and married Agnes, my late wife. We had two other sons and a daughter and life seemed pretty good. Having a family and huge responsibilities had helped me curb my quick temper. But not Ekene. I guess he got his terrible temper both from me and his mother. He came to stay with me during one of his vacations as an undergraduate and he disrespected my wife so much and so frequently that I had to ask him to leave the house. It was a big scene but he finally left. During his service year, although it was in Lagos, I got him an apartment. He accused me of hating him, tried to fight me a few times but we managed to maintain the equilibrium.

The first catastrophe happened 10 years ago. He came to my house, seemingly to look for me but obviously to find trouble and there was Agatha waiting like a sitting duck. She told him to go back to his own place and tried to protect her territory. He gave her a hard shove and Agnes hit her head on the wall and passed out. She later went into coma. My other kids told me what had transpired and I begged them to leave Ekene out of it but they wouldn’t. They told their mother’s family and Ekene was arrested. He stayed in custody for months. They only let him go when Agnes regained consciousness and yielded to my plea to forgive Ekene. She told her family to withdraw the matter from the police and court. However, Agnes never really recovered, she died 18 months after that incident but before then, Ekene got into trouble again.

I had decided that the best thing was to keep Ekene away from his siblings especially after he got released from custody but he still went to his brother’s school to challenge him for telling the cops to arrest him. Ekene beat up his brother so badly that the boy was in intensive care for two weeks and still limps till today. Ekene was rearrested and taken to court. He was jailed three years for assault and battery. My other children fled from my house and went to stay with their maternal family. My in-laws became so hostile that they almost refused to allow me bury Agnes.

When Ekene got out from prison, I helped him to relocate to Abuja. I felt a change of scene would help him but he was still so full of bitterness and anger. Several times, I got him professional help but he rejected their attempts to counsel him.

A week ago, I don’t know how his path crossed with that of my last son, Promise and how they got into a fight. Promise had just got the job he had been praying for and that was his first week on the job. Ekene sought him out and started beating him. A young man tried to intervene but Ekene pushed him away. The guy came at him in anger and Ekene picked up a chair and hit the man. He slumped and died before he could be rushed to the hospital. Ekene was arrested again.

“This is what I am going through, my friend.” Onyeisi concluded. “My family is in total disarray. My children are blaming me for all the calamities. The young man that was killed is the son of a member of the National Assembly. They are charging Ekene with murder instead of manslaughter and their lawyers are making all sorts of claims.”

“How old is your first son?” I asked when I could find my voice.

“He should be about 47 years old.” Onyeisi replied. A grown man, I thought in disgust. How could he be so unreasonable and unruly?

“It’s unfortunate.” I muttered. My heart was filled with sadness on Onyeisi’s behalf. What could I tell him? What looked like a flex when we were young, had grown horns and destroyed his family. The sins of the fathers!