Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Dealing With Management

A few Friday’s ago, I was at Emin Pasha for dinner and while I rate their food amongst the best there is in Kampala, this time round, Chef was not firing on all six cylinders.
The food was wanting – may be because it was a new menu which he had yet to get to grips with and maybe because Mike O’Rourke, the manager, had moved on? Nevertheless, there was Qwela Band who provided entertainment and distraction from a dinner that was wanting.
Qwela are a talented band – or is it group and it was nice to see that they had some ladies in the horn section playing instruments that are traditionally associated with men.
One of their songs and though I didn’t get the gist of it, had a chorus along the lines of “Okello, Okello…” Interestingly enough, the dentist, Dr. Martin Okello and who was on the adjoining table beamed and presumed rightfully or otherwise that the song was about him. I should have asked them before I left.
Anyway, I hadn’t been that side of town - Nakasero, Kisimenti, in a while and the City Oil gas station complete with coffee shop on Acacia Avenue, took me by surprise. But aya, aya aya, the Aya Brothers Hilton hotel is far from completion! If I recall, was it not supposed to have been completed in time for CHOGM?
Well perhaps they have a different management style from the owners of the City Oil complex.
Talking of management styles, in the early days of Peter Sematimba’s Super FM, I paid him a curtsey visit and it was something else. The sales department was empty, chairs were tucked behind desks and the desks too, were devoid of paper, empty cups of coffee – basically everything save for a laptop. And for a radio station, there was silence. Nobody shouted, or laughed like they do in Owino market. And nobody walked while holding on to the walls. It was organised and that was his management style.
When I asked if he has people working for him, he said he did but in his management style, when you go out into the field, you leave a tidy desk like it is in a furniture showroom.
Up in his office, everything was in place as it should be because it is Peter ‘supa dupa’ Sematimba that we are talking about here.
When the coffee that was sent for arrived, it came in a mug with no saucer and of course after a couple of sips, some of the coffee dribbled down the side of my mug and onto his desk where it left a stain.
On his part, Sematimba exercised considerable restraint for given the opportunity, he would have leapt across the desk and handed me a saucer before the dribble hit his desk. I could tell that Sematimba wanted to do something and say something but he had to tread carefully in case he offended or embarrassed me so he went in for plan B.
His plan B? He suggested that we go and have our coffee out on the balcony. But at some point, he excused himself for five minutes.
Done with coffee, we returned to the inner sanctum of his office and when we sat down, I noticed that the ring of dribble of coffee was no longer there. Further, while we were out on the balcony Tea Girl had not been in the office. So how did my offending ring of coffee dribble disappear? Ah, in the five minutes when excused himself, he must have wiped it away.
In my working experience, I have worked for American’s, English, Ugandan’s, Asian’s and Orthodox Jews and all of them have a different management style.
One Asian firm that I worked for, the way they did things was something new to me. I am a coffee person. Coffee gives me an adrenaline rush that in the mornings, I need two to three consecutive cups to get me going. In the afternoons, two suffice. But there was something that niggled. Tea Girl was always happy to give me the first cup of coffee but when it came to giving me the rest, she was always on the edge, and apprehensive.
In due course, I found out why when I opened my mail to see a communiqué from HR. This is what she had to say:
“Dear Mr. Bukumunhe, it has come to our attention that you consume almost ten cups of coffee a day. Please note that you are only entitled to two cups – one in the morning, another in the afternoon. With sugar, please do not exceed two spoons.” 
Okay so I hadn’t met the lady from HR and I presumed it was a joke e-mail that she sends out to all new employees. I was going to reply but with hindsight, I first touched base with Tea Girl and this was the conversation.
TB: “Tea Girl, how many cups of coffee are we allowed?”
Tea Girl: Munange, I have been trying to tell you. You are only allowed one in the morning and another in the afternoon.”
TB: “You are joking, you must be joking. So are you the one who gives them the information?”
Tea Girl: “Ah, it is not me but that other Asian man, the tall one who sits in the corner.”
I had been meaning to ask who Tall Asian Man is and what he does for the company. You see, Tall Asian Man hardly used to say a word. He would walk round the office with a small note book occasionally making notes or peering over your computer to see what you are doing.
And when I would return from lunch he would be waiting for me at the door and record the time I came back. You see I hadn’t realised that we were only allowed a 30 minute lunch break instead of the customary one hour hence the reason why so many people had lunch at their desks. I just thought that they didn’t like going out.
Tall Asian Man was the office spy. He would make note of the number of sugars we took per cup. He would also make note of the amount of water that we drank even though every Monday, the company got two free big bottles for the cooler. And if you popped out of the office to make a private call or go to buy airtime, again it was noted. So Tall Asian Man notes and so what?
Well when it came to pay day, the pay slip looked like an itemised receipt from Uchumi and Natkumatt, and when I looked at my payslip, I saw the deductions that were made by accounts with the help of Tall Asian Man.
More than two spoons of sugar per cup of coffee: -5k
Drinking more than two cups of coffee:  -5k
Exceeding allocated lunch break: -10k
Okay I do see many HR mangers reading this and wondering why I am moaning for every company has rules and regulations. Yes, they all have rules and regulations but not draconian rules.
When one colleague who like me, is a coffee freak came in with his own coffee and sugar, Management had no problems with it. Except that at the end of the month, on his payslip there was a deduction made for the electricity he used to boil the hot water for his coffee!
It was so bad that at the end of the month many employees, especially junior employees were giving back to the company almost a quarter of their pay.
When, I got wacked for almost half my pay that was it for me. I had to move on and I did. But I did pop round a few months later just to say hello and save for Tea Girl and Tall Asian Man, the rest of the faces were new. This is what Tea Girl had to say.
Tea Girl: “People have been working for free and that is why they left. This month if I get more than 50k, I will be lucky.”
TB: “Things must be tight.”
Tea Girl: “Can you lend me 5k for transi.”

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