“We recently employed four members of staff in my office. Two weeks in, I noticed it was just one of them working. For others, I would have to ask what they were doing, why they had not brought requests in, or why I hadn’t received an update on a particular instruction. After several follow-ups, I realized they were just here to pass the time for monthly pay. So, I took the initiative to have a one-on-one performance review with them to reinforce clarity. To my amazement, one of them sent her resignation letter the following day and stopped coming to work.

Even though I was shocked, I hoped it would make the other two sit up. After back-and-forth on their lagging deliverables yet again, I advised them to make the call. What can I do to avoid this type of experience again?”
This case is interesting on multiple fronts. First, it’s the first stressful workplace scenario from an employer posted here. Secondly, the employer did everything by the book but was still somewhat hoodwinked by these new intakes that were not ready to work. Also, this case has brought up a discouraging situation that business owners often face in Nigeria.

Interestingly, the business owner cut his losses in such a short time without any infringement. Even though the company size made it easy to quickly detect the ‘sit back’ agenda of the three employees, he stayed on top of things through regular check-ins. The way everything panned out gave him an upper hand and a vantage position to handle the situation. Moreover, such experience becomes very handy for future reference when making judgment calls. The core winning acts in this scenario were clear leadership and expectations.

Surprisingly, this psychosocial factor that safeguards mental health in the workplace also serves as the bedrock for organizational health. When management fails to address this critical issue in a workplace, a party or both get cheated out of time and other resources. Clear leadership stems from the following six major questions:
What do we do? – Although it is easier to box this question into the organization’s vision and mission but it carries more weight when management thinks critically about why everyone must be at work. This question seeks to know why the company exists and why it opens its doors for business daily.

How do we behave? – Organizational behaviour, work ethics, values, and culture are the go-to areas to answer this question. Answering this question prompts an exercise that leads to a well-defined organizational culture that aligns with the business’ core values.

Why are we here? – The purpose question is arguably the most important, and here is why. Most businesses started small with probably just a client or two at a time. At this point, making money could easily be the reason for being in business. It is also possible for it all to start without knowing the why. However, over time, it is critical to pinpoint the “real why’ which must be beyond money or personal reasons. A business purpose should identify at least a problem it’s solving that defines its position in the grand scheme of things.

How will we succeed? – This question brings out goals to achieve the company’s vision and the strategies to adopt for success. Adequately answering them enables easy identification of competitive advantages that set an organization apart. In the process, a unique value proposition gets unraveled and honed to break new ground.

Who does what and where? – The combined question informs the organizational structure. It defines the company’s organogram and the market/industry in which the business operates. It also reveals possibilities for business expansion, talent prospects, and overall growth initiatives. It sets the stage for accountability as all employees have clearly defined roles with job responsibilities.

What is most important? – It’s necessary for a business or its units to have a rallying cry or focal point for a maximum of two weeks. The focal point ensures the resolution of pressing issues, the emergence of growth opportunities, and the rejiggling of business models to meet present realities.

Please note that it is not enough to have all these questions answered. Employees must be reminded of them, severally over time, for internalization to occur. Studies have shown that it takes an average individual about seven times to hear something before it sticks. Moreover, management must model what they seek to achieve and not pay lip service to expectations alone. Human beings learn more when they watch someone do certain things than when told what to do.

Call to action
Kindly send your stressful work scenarios for analysis to [email protected].
Opaleye, a wellbeing specialist and corporate wellness strategist, writes from Lagos