Monday, December 17, 2012

Zambia's poor work culture

Zambia's poor work culture
By The Post
Mon 17 Dec. 2012, 14:00 CAT

Fackson Shamenda, our Minister of Labour, says the poor work culture among Zambians has led to low productivity in most institutions in the country. We agree.

Fackson also says that the work culture in the country should change if Zambia is to develop. Again we agree.
It's time for this country to wake up and start taking pride in our work. It is a national disgrace and if it doesn't end soon, the "Made in Zambia" label may completely disappear.

Our respect for work, at all levels, is very low. We have senior public officers who don't work, who just posture around, pretending to be working when they are doing nothing. If an audit was to be conducted at the end of each working day, it would reveal that many people actually report to workplaces to do nothing in connection with the tasks they are employed to perform. There are people who every day report for work just to use office transport to gallivant, doing their own things.

There are also people who report for work every day just to use the Internet to chat with friends, play computer games and do all sorts of personal things. There are also those who go to work just to spend most of the time talking on the phones with friends. In some places, there are women who report for work just to go and continue their knitting activities.

But at the end of the month, all these people, despite having contributed very little, get a salary. For what? For doing nothing!

This is the work culture that is taking root in our country. And in addition to this, there is a culture of pilfering that seems to be very strong in our institutions. Everyone is stealing something. Those whose job is to clean offices in the morning go away with cleaning materials.

They stop buying these things for their homes and just get part of those given to them to clean offices at work. Those who make tea for others also take home part of their tea stocks. Those who issue fuel stop buying fuel for their own private cars and help themselves to fuel from work. The list seems endless. But this is at the lower level. There is also pilfering of another kind at the higher level - unjustified travel allowances, unretired imprests, excessive expenditure and so on and so forth.

There are people in senior positions who spend very little of their time working. They are all the time busy travelling and attending workshops, seminars, conferences, collecting allowances and doing very little work. But at the end of the month, they get paid on top of the allowances. For what?

The wealth of society is created by the workers, peasants and working intellectuals. If they take their destiny into their own hands and take an active attitude in solving problems instead of evading them, there will be no difficulty in the world which they cannot overcome.

But today, we have a situation in the country where those who try to work hard are despised, are often told: finshi mulelwisha?
And those who want to be thrift in the use of resources are told: niva Boma; niva company, sivako.

In this way, a culture of not working, of wastefulness is encouraged.
Employees have a strict duty to give their employers efficient and conscientious work, for which they have a right to a just salary or wage.
But the problem doesn't end here. We also have people who simply don't want to work. We don't understand able-bodied people who simply do not want to work.

We wake up every morning and go to do the same job, at the same place, dealing with the same issues. It gets old, and there are days when we would rather just stay home. Doesn't everyone feel this way at times? The reality is that work is part of being an adult and living in society - we all need to be productive.
But why is it that some people think that they should be able to live a comfortable life without working?

As adults, we all get to make choices and live the consequences. Some people decide not to work and then try to escape the consequences by looking to others for support. They do this by just living off the generosity of others.
When people don't work, they are not contributing to society. This puts a burden on responsible working adults, who end up paying for them in the long run. These people are living off the labour of others.

Don't get us wrong, we believe in being charitable - in fact, we all have a responsibility to help others in need. It feels good to help a family that is really struggling, or someone with health issues, or the elderly, and so on and so forth. Sometimes people just end up in difficult circumstances and need help - we completely understand this.

With all that said, we believe that we are actually doing harm by helping those who choose not to work. We are enabling them, the same way we are enabling an alcoholic or a drug user. We are not talking about homeless people, those who are disabled, the elderly, or people with special needs. We are talking about normal people who are lazy and just don't want to work. These are able-bodied people who want others to pay their way and they are very good at figuring out ways to work the system. If these people don't want to work, they should have to live with the consequences.

Work is a person's most important activity. Work does not detract from the dignity of a human person; rather it increases the person's worth, for it is the means whereby the person overcomes the defects and limitations of one's fallen nature and reaches the goal that God has fixed for that person.

And for this reason, Fackson is right when he says that "people should not look down on each other's positions, everyone is important and should be treated with respect if we want service delivery in institutions". Truly, the true value of work is communicated to it by the worker, so that there is no such thing as degrading work since even the meanest chore is elevated and ennobled by the dignity of the person.

Clearly, if our country is to move forward, honest and hard work is demanded of us all. It is said that what a single ant brings to the anthill is very little; but what a great hill is built when each one does their proper share of the work! We shouldn't forget it has been decreed that "by the sweat of your face, you shall eat bread" (Gen 3:19).


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