Tuesday, 2 April 2013

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I have never been lucky with bosses.   I have had two bosses, the first nearly drove me to an early grave, and the other almost made me resign. Sometimes I still hear the voice of my very first boss in my head .
job offer, jobs
Getting  a job offer in Africa, Nigeria can be very laudable  where the unemployment rate is very high. Every year about fifty thousand graduates leaving  the mandatory  one year youth paramilitary service after  the university have to contend to get  the less than ten thousand corporate jobs offers  available in the labour market.So it was a great privilege to have a job to call yours and my boss knew this  fact as well. My job search success   was further facilitated by the possession of a master’s degree in Petroleum Geology and a referral. It was really exhilarating when I finally picked up this job offer as a graduate in training at this company, an  Oil and Gas servicing company in Lagos, Nigeria, a privately owned company and that seemed to be the first problem,it was privately owned. Owned,  by my boss. 

 The company rendered both consultancy and technical off shore services to the oil companies. It took me over a month after i resumed to get my job offer letter drafted and to discover that my pay was about $300 a month. My job was to prepare tenders for the services we rendered for the oil companies and I, being a fast learner, learnt fast. 
 My first day at work was met with a warm welcome by my boss , a  tall skinny, dark complexioned man in his early fifties  and he quickly introduced me to everyone, who all didn’t seem  interested in meeting me but rather  had this questioning looks that seemed to ask  “What are you doing here?” I cared less about their reaction as I was happy to finally get a job offer related to my field of study. He then told me to get to work and left into his adjoining office.   I took a seat then watched as everyone seemed not to notice me; I decided to ask a few questions that were met with sharp answers from the lady who doubled as a receptionist and office secretary. 

Half an hour later,
 my boss stepped out of his office and looked at me and said the oddest words ever with a firm loud voice, "get to work: be a tool not a fool, that’s how we work here’’.  I had not been giving any assignment and I was actually trying to get someone to tell me what next to do. I then asked the secretary what he meant by that, then she smiled, welcome to the company, sit with someone in the other office and look into a monitor.  
My co-workers only smiled that day when their cheques were handed to them, I had resumed at the middle of a month and I could only help but wonder what month they were being paid for as salaries were to be paid on montly basis based on what was on the job offer leter. The comments they made were stunning and quite confusing but most of all, I was glad to have a job. Those were early signs I was blinded to. Signs that should have made me turn down the oral job offer in the very first instance.
Working conditions, especially staffing were abysmal, resources and equipments were not readily available and working in the most populated, traffic plagued city in Africa was also a minus. But all that were just a piece of cake compared to the real issue, my boss.
He was the owner of the company and seemed to have broken even on the business and was now diverting money into other businesses, leaving the office with little running cost. His extreme cost-cutting measure made all the seven staff double as something in a company getting jobs worth between $250,000 and $1,000,000:00 .The office was being run by the settlements of the oil companies we were rendering services to and so our salaries came from a  minute fraction of the company’s settlement, when the company was settled. Each Month's salary seemed to be tied to some settlements which due to client's  company   and bank protocols never seemed to fall at the time when our salaries were due. This was obviously never stated in the Job offer letter.  Worst of all, my boss had the slave- master mentality, asking for out -of -job favours which turned out to be instructions such as picking his kids from school, booking his wife with the spa , buying him lunch which were stylishly wrapped in submitting proposal and tenders on behalf of the company while still working as a  coporate pimp, arranging call-girls for him on  Friday nights which I soon later discovered was a big  part of  my  job description and then he was extremely difficult to satisfy, he would scream and yell at any slightest opportunity and then start a war .  “My office Air conditioner  is not working”, “you didn’t pick my kids from school”,” my office is too rowdy”,” your tenders are too sloppy”, “you are a jerk”, “don’t  act like a fool  be a tool “,”do you think this is how I ran the business for years till I broke even”?
‘’You are not working for the progress of the company”,” you are an enemy of the company”,” I’ll throw you back to the streets before you ruin my business “and he then threatens to hit an employee.
The real job was staying in that job and keeping a happy face and living on your stipend like this was the last because the date of the next one was not ascertained. But I did, I always made sure I had something to smile about and my smile was pretty soon contagious and the atmosphere at work changed. Sometimes people talk about suing the boss for delaying salaries but where would  the money to hire a lawyer  come from ?, plus employment laws were as lax as they get in that environmnet ,more so,  you always had the option of quitting.
My resolution was to leave the troubles of work at work,  learn something each day  while trying as much as possible to get out of the line of fire with the  boss. I also made every day a job search day , hoping to get a new job offer and after nine months on the job and two months unpaid salaries I  left  the job for another   where my knowledge of the oil and gas business and proposal writing gave me an edge.My resignation letter was in a text message. ”I’m out sir, thank you so much for everything”.


He was furious and told me about protocol. I also refered him to the Job offer letter that stated we were to be paid monthly not bi-monthly.
He taught me how not to ever expect the word “thank you” or” well done” and I made sure,  i would be missed because I was the only one who offered him a hand of friendship irrespective of his many flaws and overworked myself to please him sleeping in the office in a non paying job to prepare papers to be submitted the next day and yes he confessed it and offered me a raise if I came back but of course it was too late. 
In an environment like that,  where the jobs are scarce I am sure that getting people would not be a problem for him but it would be difficult to  find the ones that would put up with all his shenenigans .

The only thing my present boss does is come to work, take lunch breaks and go back home. I handle everything. He always says, “I know you know what to do” and yes he is right, I know what to do, apply for his position which I just did.

More stories in Job One: Experiences of New Professionals in Student Affairs (American College Personnel Association Series)