I’ve been in Ghana for just over a year now and have thankfully got myself a great job in marketing. In true Purple style, I’ve made a few observations and just have to share it!
Now, everywhere you go there will be office politics, but during my time here I have realised that Ghanaian office politics is slightly different.
Eyeing the competition
Being new in any organisation is tough, there is so much to learn and new working styles to adapt to. Adding personalities to the mix, makes this process so much more challenging. In Ghana there is a culture of who you know, not where I currently work, but it exists nonetheless. This advantage often overrides the skills needed to do the job, so you can find yourself in a situation where you are competing on personal grounds (likeability, image, monetary status, who has most curves, who is friends with who etc) and not on professional grounds.
A word of advice: If you get a job because you know the boss (or in a worst case scenarios have slept with the boss!), then that’s exactly what you need to maintain to keep your job, and your confidence levels will always be affected because the work will always demand results that cannot be given by the one who employed you, it comes from you, solely!
Coming from an extremely professional industry, I simply cannot accept anything less. In Ghana it is quite normal for your boss to summons you into his office and request for you to prepare him tea or to remove a dish he has used from his desk. Can you believe this has happened to me?! I got a call on my extension, so I go to my manager’s office for what I thought was an update or about a work related issue only to be asked if I could get him a glass of water. Well, that was met with a moment of silence – hold on a minute, did you just ask me to get you a glass of water?! – wow, this was different to what I’ve ever experienced before.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind getting a glass of water for someone (if I’m heading that way!), but to be called specifically for this, is something that was beyond my understanding. Like I said, Ghana is a different place to work than in the UK, where managers get up and make their own tea, fetch their own water and go and pick up their own lunch. Howwwever, in Ghana, this practice is completely normal and in fact can be seen as a form of trust, not everyone can fetch you water just in case they try to poison you! LOL. Being a British professional, I still cannot get my head around this and it’s extremely uncomfortable. I had to sneak in a polite word. Just saying. Oh, British me.
Butler at work??
Coming from a culture where we treat everyone with the same respect, regardless of position, it was so strange for me to have a member of staff specifically hired to go and get me lunch, get me snacks when I’m peckish, wash my plates and do general errands.
In London, we wash our own dishes, no matter who you are! So I felt awful to leave things in the sink – how ruuuude! Oh and to send him to get me lunch was awful. For the first few weeks, I would rather trek (in the blazing heat) and get my own lunch but I later found out that this was his profession and he could save me a lot of money on lunch because he knew where to go (with his bike). Ok, Ok, I surrender. However, I treat him with respect and do what I can because I simply cannot get used to the idea.
Don’t speak, do as you’re told.
Now in the UK, if you’re not happy about something, you say it – it’s your freedom of choice. If there is an aspect of your work you don’t agree with, even if it is the manager, you say it in a professional manner. Our insights are often to better the job. However, in Ghana I struggle with the fact that giving opinions on what you feel is a better way of doing it (based on experience) can be seen as a personal attack or a dig at how the person does his/her job. I have been careful to put things in ways that is understood because I often get the feeling that being British may come off as being a ‘Know all’. Will I stop giving my opinion on what I believe is best practice? No way.
Note to self: This is my career and every day of my working life is an investment in my career. In five years’ time, will the results I achieved be something that excelled me or brought me down? It’s my call.
Lastly, loooong hours
The norm of working 9-5 is of a distant memory to me. I start work at 8.30am and finish at 5.30pm – cor blimey! Funny, I am used to it now. If I leave at 5pm, it feels as if I am leaving work early and if I get in to work at 9am, I’m soooo late! LOL.
In saying all of this, it has been a great experience. The weather, the friendly people, the different experiences are all great. There are things about working in London that are not so great whereas in Ghana it is better. But with anywhere you go there will be things are not your NORM and it takes some adjusting, surely you are where you are for a reason even if it is only to pocket some cash at the end of the month.
How to survive wherever you are or wherever your office is located.
Different cultures, bring different challenges. Different countries have different ways of doing things. In order to not only survive but to excel, you must keep the vision you have, your ethics, your zeal, passion and a spirit of excellence. Because when all is said and done, your nightmare of an office is not shown on your CV or in your professional development BUT what you achieved and what you did will always be a reference to your growth. So wherever we are let’s not forget this and strive to excel regardless.