As Maureen Dowd would put it, ‘The minute you settle for less than you deserve, you get even less than you settled for.”
- Your Work ‘bible’: The Employment Act
Frankly speaking, the minute you decide you want to be some kind of employee (working for someone) some day then that is the right time for you to acquaint yourself with the Labour Law in your country and the country in which you intend to work. For Uganda this would come in handy http://www.mglsd.go.ug/laws/employment%20Act%202006.pdf
In short “know your rights” and if you don’t then employers, companies, and HR Managers will easily toss you about and you will feel helpless as many do simply because they do not know what they should be knowing.
You will not only know your rights as an employee but your obligations as well. You will learn what penalties exist for non-compliance for both you and the employer and what action can be taken in the case of dissatisfaction or grievances.
The most crucial aspect is that both sides can file a complaint to the Labour Officer (Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development), and both sides can sue. Get the Labour Law and familiarise yourself with it so you will know 1) what is legally expected of you during your employment; 2) what to expect and demand from your employer; 3) your rights and how to demand legally for fair treatment when you don’t get it.
- Your First Priority: Yourself not The Company
Ever heard the song ‘Irreplaceable’ by Beyonce? Well never be fooled into thinking that you can’t be replaced at your workplace no matter how good you are or you think you are. Replacing is easy and companies (read bosses) do it a lot and oftentimes not with someone as good as you or better but that does not stop them from replacing you anyway.
Now I love to work towards mutual goals, the overall objective, realising the company’s vision through team effort but at the back of my mind I am honest to myself in the face of reality. The reality?–well, for as long as you are doing what you are being ‘assigned’ to (whether or not it is what you were employed to do; and whether you are being fairly or unfairly compensated for it) at the end of the day the boss (your supervisor, the company) is really interested in meeting either the company goals or self-goals. Now I know there exists a possible 1% of companies, bosses, supervisors that honestly care,reward and are worth the employee’s best efforts and sacrifices. If you ever find yourself working with these then thank God because you are one-in-a-billion.
So if it helps, whenever you are faced with a conflict in deciding what to put first–simply get used to asking yourself one simple question and ask the boss the same when you can–‘how do i benefit?’ or ‘of what benefit is it to me, to my goals, to my family?’.
- Your First Loyalty: Yourself not the Boss (Supervisor, Company)
I remember some years back during an impromptu senior management meeting where the top boss announced the company needed to downsize. Almost half the staff would leave (laid-off or fired). The task for the managers was simple–‘submit a list of names of those staff members in your departments that should leave the company and communicate in the most sweet way to all staff that this was unavoidable and not your fault.’ Straightway everyone got to ‘work’ even if most of the managers were honestly not that competent in their roles and were usually under-performers who took credit for the hard and honest work their subordinates did. In my perspective it was a test of ‘loyalty and a mockery of sorts’. Names of ‘friends’ quickly came up and were considered for dismissal even if these ‘friends’ were frankly very good at their jobs. But well ‘the managers had to save themselves, somehow’.
Now–YOU owe your body, your mind, your personal goals, your personal commitments –the purest and highest form of loyalty. When it comes to being loyal to your boss, your department, your supervisor, your company–then they must earn it first and not merely expect it. In the same way they must earn your respect not demand it.
Utmost, you have no business being loyal or showing respect to someone who does not show the same to you. It’s practically hard to value someone who doesn’t value you; to show respect in an environment where your presence or contributions are not fairly recognised nor appreciated; to show loyalty to someone or company that seems to be selfish where your interests ought to be considered; and to always sacrifice your very best for a boss or company that does not ‘have your back’ in times when you need them to.
The rule here is simple “Try your best not to mix business with pleasure”. I have had to learn the hard way and while this may work for me now it may not work for someone else–I am friendly towards everyone at work but these are work-friends, i know the limits, the ‘friendship’ is put on hold when i leave work at the end of the day and i don’t have my work-friends anywhere near my personal space or family issues. If you think this is harsh then you haven’t been to a downsizing-meeting.
- On Whose Side Are You?: Yours
Remember the question ‘how do i benefit?’, well you could add to it ‘how do i lose?’. I recall the movie Taxi when Queen Latiffa acting as the cab driver was asked on whose side she was and her answer ‘MINE.’ It doesn’t get any clearer nor more precise than that and for years it is the only part of the entire movie i remember.
Perks or those extra-benefits in the job are good and when you have the chance to have them then please enjoy them, make the most of them and be grateful. BUT DON’T GET COMFORTABLE. Never, in your work-life should these perks fool you into thinking ‘you have arrived and all is well’.
I have known some supervisors that use these as a way to bribe unsuspecting employees into thinking they are being un-deservingly ‘favoured’ for things they are in actual sense entitled to and these bosses keep referring to ‘Oh John, sure your colleague is getting more pay for doing almost nothing, but John–do you remember that we give our staff free parking space and sometimes your car stays parked overnight, we don’t charge you do we?‘ or ‘ Martha, do you think it’s fair we pay you even close to what you were paid in your previous job at ExampleCompany–look my dear, we give you free airtime to make company calls, medical insurance, and blah blah..all these added total up to way more than you were paid at that other company and in our industry we are being praised for being the best at compensating employees. What more would an employee want? I have a more important coffee-break to consider in the next 3 minutes.”
To cut the long story short, if you stand to lose as you in something the company or boss is asking you to ‘sacrifice’ then think twice, think long and hard if you have to; suggest a different alternative and stick to it; if the worst comes to the worst and you must find a new job then do just that. The truth is, if you fail to stand up for yourself at a time when you must then it will be close to impossible for you to ever stand up for yourself all throughout your employment and what you get the bosses used to is how they will always treat you.
Same applies to a situation when the bosses or company get in trouble and it’s not your fault. Trust me they will want all your ‘support’ in this but think first on whether your involvement could in anyway affect your reputation, your career, your future prospects.
Your interests first, always!
- Your Contingency Plan: ….
There once was a new staff member who had just joined the team, he asked about my work and found I was complaining a lot although on the outside the rest of the world imagined i was having the best-time-of-my-life and i guess many envied me. He asked if i had tried looking for a job and i said i was but i had given it a break because the response from employers was not as i expected and my bosses had raised my salary probably to ‘bribe’ me into staying longer. Without mincing his words he replied “never stop looking for a new job, there is always something better, someone or company wanting you so bad on their team and willing to treat and compensate you better; every morning you wake up or go to work make sure you continue your job search aggressively as if you are being fired next week.” The most interesting part was that he was hot-cake in the industry, had just been brought on board in his first month of probation, was being offered a crazy salary and yet he was already looking for a ‘new’ job and before his probation ended he had left. (I guess you can read between the lines on this one.)
The other advice I could give is, when you are looking for a job freshly out of school set your mind into accepting that you will not work at a certain company for all your life. For example, I started out as a freelancer, told myself that after i graduated with my Bachelors I would work only for purposes of raising capital and savings that I would need to invest or have for rainy days if ever i got out-of-work prematurely. I got a good job and told myself, now I am going to use this as a platform to learn all i need and experiment everything i learned, I will put my Bachelors to the test and this company will be my new ‘classroom’. Did it work for me? Perfectly!
Will it work for you? It could and I hope it does. But you may come up with your own strategies and alternatives.
All the best!