Sometimes I think to myself, why did I bother with all of this? Why did I bother to move to Ghana? I should just go back to London, from where I came from, forget about the problems with the light, water, crazy people. Then, one day I get an email from a friend, I have never met her before but a friend no doubt. She asked me to keep on blogging and I think to myself, I’ve made an impact, in my small way I have made an impact, somebody actually misses the fact that I haven’t written in a while and she is getting ready to also make the leap to this weird and wacky part of the world. That email perked me up, so I say thank you, you don’t know it, but you gave me the kick up the ass to keep on moving on.
So why am I so glum? I took a risk, one that I thought would change my life, and well, it did, unfortunately for the worst. I’ve gone and lost my job.
I am not surprised though, I actually saw it coming even before I joined. The day I accepted the job, I got into a car accident. I went and smashed into the back of a pick-up during a brief lapse in concentration. The other car, not a scratch, my whole front was almost a write-off. I wish it had of been, then at least the insurance would have covered the cost of a new one. Instead I was 900ghs down before I had even started (an additional 700ghs went shortly after when my A-C packed up, it never recovered).
On the first day I met the boss. Sharad was a skinny little man who suffered from a serious bout of paranoia. I understood from the interview that I was being employed on the basis that I would be running a supply chain function. That is, demand and Supply, Procurement, warehousing and logistics. When I get inside I realise there is already a manager for warehouse and logistics, procurement consists of buying stationary and toilet roll because they order the high level materials from India, so I had a desk and a chair and an office but what on earth I was doing I didn’t know. It became clear he didn’t know either. He was a skinny paranoid man with no vision and no direction so how on earth he was going to direct me, I wasn’t too clear. In the end the only place he was able to direct me was out the door and onto the streets.
He first sent me on an around the country trip to get a feel of the business. That’s when we had our first clash. I guess I had been spoilt in my previous jobs. If you go out into the field, there is a vehicle provided, in this company, you have a choice, tro-tro or your own car. So when the British guy offered me his car, for a few hours while I went to see the bakers in Accra. I didn’t see there was a problem until Sharad got to hear about it. A big argument ensued with him reminding me that he was my line manager and what he said stands. He was going to tell the British guy to take back the offer of loaning me his car. I’m like WTF, this guy is on one ego trip, but I let it go. Of course I did use the car, but I didn’t tell him though, but I have a feeling somebody else did, as 6 months later during another one of his verbal lashings, he bought it up again.
When I came back to the office 2 weeks later, Sharad asked me how it went. I told him my observations. His response was that there are people who are more qualified than me to tell me what is going on in the field, he wanted me to give him high level information. What I think he wanted me to do was gossip about my colleagues. I got to know later that he liked the kind of man (I say man because he is a blatant misogamist and makes no apologies for that) who gives him feedback on the performance of others or what people are saying about him. I don’t bow down to idle gossip, I didn’t employ anyone so whether they do their job or not is fine by me, as long as it doesn’t interfere in mine then I am ok.
From there, we butted heads, I couldn’t do anything right, and to top it off, I wasn’t doing anything related to what I was employed to do. Any suggestions I came up with to effectively do my job was classified as rubbish, nonsense or illogical. He ran the business like it was a corner shop. For him you were either the one who was at the till selling, or you were the one stacking the shelf. Anything else, well his mind just couldn’t comprehend. Not that anyone complained. They just took it that, that’s how he is.
So I spent most of my days helping out the Accra team, doing their planning and making sure that they got their sales in. For Sharad, I was just wasting my time. He then gave me a project, setting up a system for direct van sales. My first model he said was illogical. So I did it his way, it flopped I knew it was a flop, the commission he was giving to the sales person was peanuts, the promises he had made, he revoked and I had lost the battle before it even began. His method of leadership was divide and rule. So I was on my own, no resources, no team, just me and a very inexperienced sales person (as anyone with any sort of sales experience would not take such pittance for such a big job).
It went on like this, I would say my side, I should have been more bold and spoke up more, but the man was intimidating and he loved the sound of his own voice. Even if I had spoke up more, he wouldn’t even have heard me as he doesn’t listen. Total disregard for black people, he ran the place like a slave master. While he was staying in the executive suite of top hotels, the staff had to find a B&B for 70ghs and pay with their own money before claiming it back later. Even at that, half the time he refused some people on the grounds that they had overspent on their budget. The drivers were miserable, they had to wash the car with their own money and reclaim it, and meanwhile they were driving the likes of him around. No vehicle was provided for travelling, he claims that a ‘car loan’ was available so that when the staff left they could take the car with them. I tried to explain that I don’t need a car, but if I’m going to travel around Accra (and these bakers lived in lungu lungu areas, like really rough roads) and something happens to my car, the company would not pay. He didn’t hear me though obviously, because he was too much of a narcissist egomaniac to hear. This is a man that would tell a room full of professionals that they don’t have a head, and that they just run around like headless chickens. That he doesn’t know where your head is. Why would he listen to me.
Every month for 5 months there was one battle or another. He would insult me, insult my intelligence and put me down. Things came to a head when I tried to have a civilized conversation with him about where my career was heading because by that time I was bored. I had no job description, when I tried to design my job description it was rubbished so if he felt he knew better he should through a dog a bone. That’s when he shot me down with some very sharp metal bullets. He said that I was riding on the back of the British guy as if he is my father. That I was acting like a daddy’s girl and he knows that I have been using the car even though he FORBADE me to use it. I had also been riding on the back of Cephas. Cephas was the manager for Accra Region. I am not saying that he didn’t do a good job, but I played a very big role in that. I led his meetings, I did the planning, I followed up with sales. He was supposed to be manager for Accra and Tema, although I cannot take credit for Tema, I can say that he did not step foot in the area while I was there and sales had improved. However, human nature, my name was not on the door so I didn’t get the credit.
So after telling me that I was not fit for purpose and that I was using these two guys to get ahead, he then told me that the onus was on ME to find a job in the company and not for him to give me one. To this day I still don’t understand. If I am crap, I will hold my hand up as just that, but how do you measure me against that crap when you haven’t given me a job description. I went for an interview, with him, I was there for over an hour, if you thought I was as thick as two shits, it wasn’t by force, you just didn’t need to offer me the job.
There were rumours circulating that I wouldn’t be kept on past probation. I wasn’t surprised, I was also surprised that even though everyone was telling me how great I was that nobody actually looked out for me when the chips were down. Olam is a place where nobody has anybody’s back but loves a good gossip so nothing stay’s quiet for too long. To cut long story short it was true, it happened when the British guy was out of town, I think he did it that way because although Sharad puffed his chest out, he was intimidated by the guy. From the time he had to keep on reminding me that he Sharad was my line manager and not the British guy, he was obviously intimidated by him. Sharad told me that I was an experiment, that he thought I would be needed but the nature of the business doesn’t require me. He also said that I had been bad mouthing him behind his back. I’m thinking, all I have done is ask how I can actually be relevant where a man thinks I’m irrelevant but doesn’t have any desire to spend time giving me a job to do (his words). Many people talk about him behind his back. He’s the boss, that’s inevitable. He shows no actual leadership qualities but I can’t do anything about that because as he said, he’s the boss. I just wanted to be employed and stay employed but obviously one of his minions probably told Mr Gupta I was bad mouthing him. What can I say, he’s the boss, he never turned down the opportunity to tell me thankfully though, it was the last. I wasn’t shocked as this guy is a man who wakes up every morning with a different idea. Who can blame him, when you don’t know what you’re doing, then you just doing trial and error until you get it right. My only problem is that I wished he hadn’t used me as the guinea pig. I wasn’t unemployed at the time neither did I beg him for the opportunity. He approached me, he called me, he met me and he didn’t even think twice before offering me the job.
I will stop here now, I could keep going on, but that would take another 6 months. He wasn’t completely evil in any case. I was given 3 months ex-gratia and I learnt a very big lesson. He had first said 2, we negotiated on 3. The most annoying thing is that he had asked the HR manager what she thought, she said to meet me half way. As if I hadn’t been punched in the face enough she too dug her heel in. Would it have killed her to just say 3 months is reasonable. Thankfully he must have spoken to one person who thought that it would be fair to have the full 3 months as when I went to check my account it was the full whack. So I have paid up my mortgage until the end of August and the rest has been sent to London (at least if the Cedi depreciates I have more Cedis in my pocket).
In a way I am glad I was forced out. He was starting to make me doubt my intelligence and was becoming very frustrated and my colour was getting dark (as observed by smother). It sounds strange to say this in this day and age and in my own country, but I feel like a freed slave. Sharad the big plantation owner. Instead of a whip, he threatens to fire you. You work for a pittance but you’re supposed to be grateful for the scraps that are thrown at you. Even the food at the canteen was reduced from 4ghs per head to 3.50. They even have a patch on the grounds where he grows fresh fruit and vegetables, the blacks are not allowed, I don’t even think I ever saw a green on my plate at lunch. If you work on the field you are given that same 3.50 so you are limited to fried yam and a sausage and that’s only if you’re lucky enough to be in the cheaper parts of Accra. The people were drained, they tip-toed around for fear of being insulted and instead of working as a team to achieve target everyone was back-biting and in their individual corner so every month the same excuses would be given “low demand”, meanwhile the competitors don’t have any problem achieving their goal. At the monthly review instead of strategising on what can be done to increase sales, it was a tirade of abuse and told how useless you are. A company that has been in existence one year he wanted the same results as a 40 year old business yet did not want to pay for the resources to be able to do so. I can take a lot, but a man who has no vision, and he uses verbal abuse and put-downs to hide his incompetence, well, it is better I went now rather than later after he had stripped me of my dignity.
So I am unemployed, I don’t regret leaving the other place though. At the time I was in a very dark place, I had had a scare, two lumps in my breast one was abnormal. Thankfully it wasn’t the big C, I didn’t say anything at the time because, I just wanted to take everything all in. When the incident occurred, and then I realised it was a false alarm, it got me thinking, if I went out today, what legacy I would have left. When coincidently this job came up and with everything going on, it felt like everything had finally slotted into place. I think now though that this job was to open my eyes, I need to find my passion.
Since the age of 16 I have worked (14 if you count the two years working at smother’s salon, sweeping the floor for tips). I took a break in my final year of university to concentrate on those final years. I took a break just after my masters where I did some travelling and just relaxed while looking for the dreaded full-time career. However I have just worked. I can say that my happiest was when I was at the Revenue and Customs, it was just as the two departments merged, I had just been promoted after a year of starting and was working on big tax fraud cases. That time I was in my late 20s and although in a really crap relationship I got to travel to Manchester and Liverpool and stay in nice hotels and the cases even though it was to do with tax, were quite interesting.
Then I was moved to the policy division where my job was to read letters of request for mutual legal assistance. If I got to travel to the countries where we were requesting the assistance then I would have said great, but this was just reading letters and correcting spelling mistakes. The highlight of that job was to change “you’re” to “your” on a letter to the swiss consulate (you’d think a lawyer would use spell check and realise that the green line under a sentence means a grammatical error…lol).
Back to my point though, my whole life I have worked, and have always been in control of when I do and don’t work so it is a bit freaky now that the control element has completely thrown me. Secondly, I have worked without really knowing what I am good at, what my passion is. In 20 years I have worked in retail, retail banking, the government legal service, corporate – supply chain followed by sales and marketing. What do they say, ‘jack of all trades, master of none’, I have worked for 20 years with no speciality. So I just don’t know what to do, even if I were to start my own business, what would I do it in. That is freaking me out more than not being employed to be honest.
So, what do I do?
At one point I was going to pack up and go back to London but I would feel like I failed, so I am staying and I am thinking. I know I like writing, and I like helping people (funny enough, in Olam is while everybody was stabbing each other and finding ways of cheating the system. I was helping with pivot tables and designing templates). So the reason why I have been quiet is I am figuring out what to do in life, I have also been watching a lot of Come Dine with Me and Masterchef. I had wanted to go to London this month but it may have to be postponed for a month or two while I figure out a plan.
The silver lining around all this dark shade of grey cloud is that you can get to experience my second chapter, through me you will witness why it is so very, very important that you have a job here before you pack up and move to Ghana. However, if you do want to do as I did and come to Ghana for a few months/year to test the waters and look for a job, where to go and who to see. Job agencies who are worth registering with and those that you don’t need to waste your time on. At least I get to experience all this so you don’t have to.
Off to prepare a lunch worthy of Masterchef now, in between looking for jobs and watching cookery programmes I have been inspired to travel the world through my food. Not so good on the baking front, but it tastes good enough for me. I am hoping with practise I can start doing a “healthy alternative to..” catering service . This idea was inspired by a chef in New Zealand who goes around the country in a truck offering healthy alternatives to take away food. I have been trying out different food, some work, some have been donated to the stray dogs outside but I keep on practising.
Genius idea or am I watching too much TV. I don’t know, you decide…lol