On Management and Managing in Nigeria

By Obiora Iloanusi


There’s an old saying: When the world end’s due to nuclear warfare, the only things remaining will be cockroaches and Nigerians.

I was offended for less than a second when I heard this. However, bad as the comparison is, it is testament to the Nigerian’s ability to endure a lot and still come out standing. I personally feel Mike Tyson’s career would have ended prematurely if he fought only Nigerians. He’d never knock them out!

Now, if only we did not drag this mentality into work with us. Why? You might ask. After all, perseverance is a good quality. You would be right. Perseverance is good, but too much of anything can be bad and at some point, you just ‘manage’.

Much like we ‘manage’ bad roads and lack of electricity.

At this point I believe an example will be necessary. I have a colleague who once worked a job where He had to be on site at 5AM in the morning and work up until 8PM. Every day except Sunday’s. Which were subject to change at the drop of a hat (you’d get the notice at 7:30PM).

Now this was tedious all things considered so He reported the issue. It so happened that shifts were meant to be run. The company HR were not aware of the situation.

‘It will be resolved. We will hire more hands’

He finished his 3-week rotation at the site with no hired hands.

I find that some Nigerian managers (I haven’t worked in many other places but enough to make these remarks) do not distinguish between managing and management . They are both the same yes, but when you are overworked and overtasked you are ‘managing’ a situation and it’s your managers job to make sure you are properly managed so you do not ‘manage’ the situation anymore. Get the idea?

It’s as though when such complaints are made, if they are no longer raised after a while, the situation is good. Peachy keen. Now muss no fuss and all that. Yet the problem itself is not gone. Your subordinate has learnt to cope . The economist would warn you of the dangers of overuse of a resource. The economist will tell you to find an equilibrium point so that you might achieve efficiency. Below equilibrium could mean conditions or the individual are not suitable. Above equilibrium, you could stand to add more work to the platter as resources are underused. That’s a crux in management: finding a balance.

If they continue to raise the issue however, there is a problem. Not with the state of affairs but with you. Somehow, you’ve failed to tough it out till a solution comes in the form of extra hands or redundancy. Somehow you’re not good enough. Somehow you’ve failed to ‘manage’.

When, in fact, you should have been ‘managed’ by your boss . Your boss should resolve your situation to equilibrium or close to it.

This might seem like a ranting of a disgruntled worker bee but it is far from it. One day, the floor worker will manage the next set of recruits and would do well to disperse with the ‘my way or the highway’ attitude which is vehemently vacuous in its approach.

This is where this is getting at. Being a manager means you manage people based on their skill set to achieve the greatest outcome. Not force them to do what the job says as it says without accounting for different characteristics they might bring to the table. If they cannot hack it, feel free to reassign them or ask them to leave the organisation. People get fired. It’s a reality.



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