Our Thoughts

Promoted to nothing

Posted by David Manyanza on Jul 18 2012

I have heard it many times during my sessions of working with employees in public organizations. They cynically say that they also want to be promoted so that they can do nothing but earn more money. They contend that their bosses get them to do everything while they sit down and read newspapers. To them, to become a “boss” which means manager or supervisor is to do nothing and get paid more. Such argument sometimes implies that anybody can be a “boss” because a “boss” simply “delegates” everything to their juniors so that they can chat with visitors, friends, make telephone calls and attend meetings. Of course everybody knows that this should not, theoretically, be true but how does this contention come about? Are the junior employees trying to say something but no one is listening? How could such a situation have developed?

On the surface this looks like a ridiculous argument because, after all, every one has a job description. To argue that someone could be doing nothing while everyone has a job description seems to be far fetched. However, a closer examination of the work environment suggests that the statement from junior employees could bear some truth. Experience shows that in many cases job descriptions are so brief and broad that it requires highly experienced people to translate them into actionable duties and tasks. Less experienced employees are likely to do their jobs less satisfactorily because they do not have a full grasp of the job description. More detailed or comprehensive job descriptions are more useful as they enable each employee to see clearly what they are required to do including what they are required to produce, to whom and when. Having comprehensive job descriptions definitely helps.

Owing to the clarity of duties and tasks to be carried out, comprehensive job descriptions enable jobholders to assess themselves whether or not they possess the skills required to effectively implement their duties and tasks. This enables jobholders to identify any training needs before hand instead of waiting until such needs are discovered through inability to perform certain tasks. However, having comprehensive job descriptions is in itself not enough to ensure managers and supervisors do their jobs effectively. In addition to comprehensive job descriptions, it is important to have results based management and accountability systems. These are particularly important as they not only ensure that managers and supervisors remain focused on achieving results but they also ensure that managers and supervisors provide necessary support to the employees they lead. Such support includes coaching, on the job training and providing an overall conducive environment for everybody in the team to perform to their best.

An example of results based management and accountability systems is the performance appraisal system for managers and supervisors. A performance appraisal system for managers and supervisors should, among other things, assess them for the achievement of their teams and the assessment on this particular area should carry the greatest weight. This contributes to ensuring that managers and supervisors pay greater attention to developing and leading their teams effectively. However, most of the staff performance appraisal systems I have come across, in public organizations, do not make this distinction; quite often one performance appraisal tool is used across the board. Moreover, results based management and accountability systems are still new in many public organizations in Tanzania and their practice is still weak.

The consequences of operating for many years without proper results based management and accountability systems including results based pay system may have worked to demoralize managers and supervisors from striving for top team performance. They become less inclined to develop and lead their teams effectively. Managers and supervisors, who cannot play this important role, effectively leave supervisees on their own leading to the perception that managers and supervisors have nothing to do in spite of their big pay. Lack of results based accountability also has the consequences of employees not becoming sufficiently proficient in their jobs and therefore becoming less marketable. Although employees may have many years in employment their real experience remains feeble and in most cases not proportional to the duration of their service.

Employees who grow up under such poor working environment become poor leaders and the vicious circle continues with the net effect being poor organizational performance. Those who rise to leadership positions under such circumstances tend to become bosses rather than leaders and employee developers. They become more preoccupied with their job status and privileges than their ability to serve. Well implemented results based management systems including leadership development improves the situation.

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