“When I had a regular job as an employee, I found it fairly easy to have a good work-life balance. I made it clear that my family was my priority, and after I left the office, I rarely checked e-mail or worked evenings or weekends, and never travelled. When I left the office, the work stayed there, and I didn’t think much about it. But starting my own business changed that, and from what I’ve heard and read, most business owners constantly think about work. Apparently, it’s a common affliction of the self-employed or entrepreneur or business owner. When I left my salaried job, I became completely responsible for my economic livelihood, and could no longer rely on a paycheck that I received regardless of how hard I decided to work. Now, if I don’t do the work, I don’t get paid.”
The above is typical of most self employed people, entrepreneurs or business owners. Apart from the fact that if such a person doesn’t work, he doesn’t earn money; there is also the aspect of not wanting what you built usually from scratch to go to waste or die. Where such a person has others working for him or her, there is also the added responsibility of thinking of how to pay their salaries at month end.
It is therefore usually amazing when you see people working for others engaging in behaviour that will lose that business money or customers or working lackadaisically. The average typical Nigerian employee doesn’t value his or her work no matter how well paid. If it was possible not to work, to party and play all day and get paid for partying and playing; they had gladly do so. When it comes to work, especially working for others, there is a typical Nigerian saying that ‘whether the boss sells or makes a profit or not, the labourer’s wages must be complete.’
The thinking behind work in Nigeria is that it is hard and exploitative. Like a mentor of mine said, ‘the word hardwork is an oxymoron. Work by its very nature is supposed to be hard. If it is not hard then it is not work.’ The prayer, aim and focus of everyone should be to reach that stage or level where one’s work becomes so much fun that you forget sometimes that you are actually working. To reach that stage requires developing passion for that work. Developing passion for your work requires every individual doing what they love doing – a question of the right peg being in the right hole. However, we find people in Nigeria doing jobs they hate simply because they have to work and earn money. Were you forced to take the job in the first instance?
Like the opening quote above shows, if every employee puts himself or herself in the shoes of the business owner and thought of the job as his or her own, things will be remarkably different. A job however for most people is just a way of earning money and putting food on the table. No passion, no motivation, no excellence, everything is just done mechanically like robots. Everyone is looking forward to closing time; to get up in the morning is a problem because you are not looking forward to the work. There is no excellence in getting the job done; everything is done shoddily and hurriedly.
Even the Bible says ‘see a man diligent in his work, he will stand before kings and not before mere men’ (Proverbs 22:29). Love work for the sake of knowledge and building yourself up; love work for the sake of acquiring experience; love work for the sake of better interpersonal, communication and life skills. Be a professional at what you do. Be diligent. Be competent. Know your onions.
Listen, you can have a fancy education, a wall full of certificates and 23,000 Twitter followers and 5000 Facebook friends but if you don’t handle yourself professionally, you’ll never see the true potential that your work and career could enjoy. No one prays to work for someone else for the rest of their lives or remain in the same position for ever. The same way you conduct another person’s business will go a long way in determining how you and others will conduct your own business. Even if you are not interested in or cut out for setting up your own business; knowing and doing your work well now stands you out from the crowd and improves your overall career success.
Ask yourself, do I follow through on my promises, do I meet deadlines, do I show up when I say I will, do I handle all my communications the way a real professional would, do I go the extra mile or do I say ‘that is not in my job description?
Work on improving your work ethics; your career and your bank account will thank you.