My best friend P. She is the sweetest person I know. Very goofy, the kind of person that would go to a 99p store and still ask the price of the goods there. However, at work she is no nonsense, straight down the line, she knows how to do the “damsel” thing when she needs to, if she needs some furniture moved or something like that (why break a nail)ever so polite to people, and when she needs something she will ask nicely, but take the piss and she will tell it to you straight. I remember one day, I was just feeling so bored (there’s only so much pleasure one can gain out of administrative work), and kind of wandered into her office. She was very busy and well she kicked me out. After work, my friend came back. That’s just how life is, we are what we are but there is a certain personna you portray in the office that is different from the way you would act in the comfort of your own home. Something that a lot of people here in my new home just don’t get.
I was trying to explain this theory to quite a few people at work, but it sometimes doesn’t sink in and I have to admit I rub some people the wrong way. It’s not about compromising who you are, but sometimes you will bring out a side of yourself that is different from your everyday person to get the job done. Most of the time, I am very calm, I can go the whole day without saying more than good morning and good night, especially when I have a report to do, I don’t need any interruptions so I will not put myself in a situation whereby I will distract myself and end up leaving the office late because I have a deadline to meet. Unnecessary commentary, emails, discussions are a bore and if it doesn’t add any value to my day, I will tell you as much and/or ignore you. Call me a bitch, but that’s my time your infringing on and I can’t get that back. The people in my office think I am having “an episode” as one girl described it. Call it what you want but do not disturb.
Secondly, and also linked to my first point. I get irritated by activities that add no value. I also hate repeating myself. If you are not intelligent to pick what I said the first time around, your never going to get it. I didn’t swallow a dictionary, my english is pretty basic enough for a 5 year old to comprehend. It also make a conscious effort to chose my words as I work with a lot of people who French is their first or even second language, I would expect that even with my “British slangs” that so called university educated Ghanaians will understand what I’m saying. If you don’t understand because it is a genuine case I will try to explain myself. But if it is because you are too lazy to comprehend and you want me to spell it out for you, well my friend think again. A lady that I have recently started working with is the perfect example. Although she is about 3 offices away from mine she insists on sending emails. We were having a battle of mails today over a simple decision she has to make. The factory in Dubai have a quality issue with one of our products so can only ship out a certain amount now and the rest later. I’ve given this girl all the info tell me which countries should get their stuff first and we have been going back and forth for a week. I ended up ignoring her and taken the decision myself. I’d rather take the hit from the boss then have the delay blamed on me forgetting the email back and forth.
My last pet peeve is if I ask for information, give me a clear answer. I hate it when I ask for something and either the answer is a political answer that says nothing or silence. If you don’t know, say you don’t know but you will find out or give me the truth so I know how to deal with it. What I find with Africans on the west coast and central africa that is (because that’s who I mainly deal with) when there is a problem, they will try to play smart and tell you very little as if that will some how exonerate them or detach themselves from the part they played. You end up having to ask question upon question and then they go silent. I am not the kind of person to put the whole world on copy to an email but if it gets to a point whereby I have to keep digging to find the answer I will drag everyone else into helping me out. There was an incident a few years ago, we were producing a product in Ivory Coast for Ghana. This product I soon found out had a curse attached to it. We moved production to Ghana and still encountered problems. We have ended up killing it, but like a vampire it refuses to die, but still insists on giving us problems. Anyway while it was in CI, there was a delay in getting the product into Ghana, it was for a number of reasons but nobody wanted to tell me why. I call one person he says it wasn’t his fault it was the factory, I call the factory they say it is planning, planning blame quality. That’s when I went into bitch mode, wrote a very strong email to the boss with his bosses on copy. It ended up with the guy telling me if I like, I should come and produce myself. A couple of weeks later I was in CI. Ok so I didn’t physically go and produce myself, but did find out the problem and worked with them to get a solution. We are all good friends now and I can actually laugh about it now, but it was a crazy time.
Working in the regional office, the countries think that we sit down drinking tea and sending emails but they don’t know that every month we are accountable for their cock-ups and we report directly to the head of region who wants answers so if they don’t give it to us, we have to jump on that plane and find out.
But I’m not 100% bitch. Anyone who really knows me, knows that I am 99% nice and only 1% bitch, it doesn’t actually come out that often, those that have seen it though know how harsh it can be but it really does take a lot to trigger that part of me.
What I usually try to do is work with a person’s personality. If they are a lost hope then well trigger, but if you see me in the office, I am usually the one with the big smile who is always laughing. If I like you, you get the genuine laugh, but I have the fake work laugh for those that my spirit doesn’t really take to but I deal with them for the sakes of the job. My sister likens it to the episode in Friends where Chandler had the fake work laugh (we watch a lot of TV in my family especially Friends re-runs). I find with the ex-pats they just want a solution to the problem. Even if you don’t have it but you say you will do A,B and C to try and get it they are satisfied (providing they see light at the end of that tunnel). Today my Chilean boss came back from holiday and I told him that this was there was an issue with one of our products and I was going to speak to the factory manager to see how we will fix the problem. He didn’t go crazy, just told me to keep him posted.
On the other hand, I am backing up for the French lady (still!). Her boss the Lebanese guy comes across as the type of person that gets high on the fact that he can intimidate the sub-saharan Africans. Any time there is an issue, they start shaking and panicking running after their tails so they seem to be doing a lot of fire fighting instead of dealing with the most important issues, sorting it out and then making steps to ensure it doesn’t happen again. He’s a bit of an arse and he’s I’ve seen a bit of the venom he’s spat out but I try to show him that I am not intimidated by him without antagonising him. Yesterday we got some breaking news where he emailed me and told me “this is unacceptable”, as if I personally went and put the spanner in the works. I went and got the answer and replied back to him. Today I spoke to him on the way home and made a joke that he shouldn’t shoot the messenger and assured him that I will get it solved (I now have to find a way to keep him at bay until French lady comes back in 2 weeks). he didn’t show his vampire teeth or drain me of my blood, he just told me his frustrations and I said I will see how a solution can be made and went on my way home.
People don’t really understand how I can get on with the seemingly most difficult person in the company, maybe it’s because I’m difficult myself. The way I see it though it’s all a game. I’m not saying it’s easy. You have read my frustrations on my blog, but you just have to play the game. When it’s time to be tough, then be tough, when it’s time to be a bit flirty, it’s not like you’re jumping into bed with the person. Once in a while you may forgo an evening in front of the TV and go to the pub, it will not take your Christianity away from you, but man’s got to eat and if a glass of coke with the boss will make for a less tense tomorrow, why not. You just do what you have to do to get the job done. For this reason I get on with almost all nationalities except my own. The work does speak for itself, but sometimes you have to show that you have a few more layers to cut it in the world beyond these African shores.
People see that I go to the pub with the expats and I must be a “bad” girl, but that’s the place when you get to really profile yourself. The same when I write a “harsh” mail, sometimes there is no such time for sentiment. As my former boss would say “don’t take it personal, it’s business”.
Anyway ECG have gone and done it again, another hot night with no lights so must save my battery. Until the next time…