Kelechi Eke, Head of Operations, DLM Capital Group
Nigeria’s Twitter space was agog with an investigative report from TechCabal this week – it was an expose into the startup culture of Bento Africa. This story stirred up an explosive conversation on Twitter about toxic workplaces in Nigeria with the hashtag #horriblebosses in which there were mentions of numerous companies.
Working retail has now become a horrible introduction to the workplace – a taxing feat with numerous responsibilities, low pay, and insensitive bosses – that everyone must endure at one point or the other in their career journeys. Employer’s priorities must shift from focusing solely on the profits at the expense of workers to treating employees with decency and respect. Things like how an employer reacts to time-off requests, especially when concerning health and family emergencies, matter.
According to 1.3 million Glassdoor reviews from U.S employees of Culture 500 companies collated by MIT researchers this year; these attributes – disrespect, non-inclusive environment, unethical behavior, cutthroat competition and abuse topped the list of 5 biggest signs of toxicity discovered in most workplaces. Other flaws mentioned by employees included excess bureaucracy, insularity, risk aversion, and an impersonal feel, just to mention a few. The organizational cost of toxic culture is not flowery – asides from an obvious increase in employee attrition, a poor employer brand makes it harder to attract talent. From the research, employees however prized the following attributes – putting people first, helping workers find and pursue their passions, bringing people together on a personal level, creating a space where people can be themselves, and empowering people to own their work.
Every leader needs to worry about toxic culture – and begin to look at ways to improve. Build atmospheres where your employees feel respected. Ensure your C-suite is comprised of supportive leaders and weed out unethical behavior(s) immediately you learn of them. Share challenges and successes with your staff, hold open forums, have open door policies, and embrace honesty (even when it is hard). It is never enough for your company to be awarded a ‘Best Place to Work’ for PR purposes. Put in the work and earn that award on merit. No doubt, the Best Places to Work awards are a thing of pride, celebrated by the press, respected by investors, and pushed on social media, but what story do these rankings tell you? Is it the whole story? Just because a workplace has good PR or is deemed a ‘Best Place to Work’, should recruits all jump on the celebration wagon? The patterns with these workplaces (most of them big brand names) whose awards come on merit is that they lead with purpose, offer opportunity and growth, behave with transparency, listen, and adapt. Now, which of these does your company abide by? It is important to point out that what puts these companies on these award lists is much more than perks and benefits. Perks and benefits can only get you so far. They have to tie back to employees – their purpose, their goals, what helps them grow.
I urge all employees to continually stand up for themselves and realize when they are unfairly treated. To employers, I encourage you to treat your employees as you would like to be treated.