Why is it so hard for Ghanaians to be promoted in multinationals?

I have become an Multinational Manufacturing firm Ashawo. I am onto my third now. I realised corporate was not for me long ago, but then I have been too long out of the game to get back into somewhere like the British High Commission. My quest to marry a rich man and be a housewife has also hit a slight snag (i.e. I haven’t found a rich man). So I am left with old faithful. At least my opinion will not be seen as undermining the boss, and their are processes so as long as I follow it, I cannot go wrong (she prays).

Yesterday we had a departmental training. Some big bald white man in head office via web cam telling we the poor Ghanaian folk how to manage our careers and giving us false hope that one day it could be one of us at the head of company. I would be very surprised if they will make it to head of region let alone the world, but let’s wait and see.

Where I am now, when it comes to processes, hands down they are on point. But I am not sure how much attention they pay to people. Even that it seems to be a process thing, you complete the form, line manager comments, it goes to HR, then it pisses in the wind. I have to admit, hands down, my previous employers (I don’t count Olam as an employer) they really made sure that HR did their jobs effectively. Like they know clearly that they are getting a cheap force, so they did their best to do activities that would compensate.
Where I am now, it is like the guy who treats you badly but then tells you that you should be grateful because he is the best that you will get. The people process is just something they have to do to conform with multinational policies, so they do the barest minimum and make you know that there are 100 people clamoring for your job if you don’t want it. Even though you are probably the most qualified, but that is just by the way. I think it is a British thing.

After the training we were asked our thoughts. I have decided to keep quiet for the next two months. I don’t want to spark controversy amongst my peers or give the wrong impression. Especially when their main gripe was that people from outside” were coming in and taking our jobs” (like that doesn’t sound racist at all).
So they asked the HR person, why is it that when they complete their personal development profiles and discuss with it their line manager, after that, nothing is done about it. The HR person said “on paper, we have a list of who is next in line for promotion, but the reality is something different”. So another person asks for more transparency as to who line is or what your next step is. The HR person, clearly trying to get out of trouble says “ask your line managers”. Then there was a question about HR tracking the line manager’s actions.
This question comes up a lot. My previous employers actually handled it perfectly. We were told that nobody is going to take charge of your career except you. Even your manager is looking for his next career step so if you don’t take charge, who is going to do it. At the time I was thinking, charming. But really, it is true. If you can’t take charge of your own career, how will you manage to manage a team, it is simple mathematics.
But that’s the reality. In a place like this there are processes. The average Ghanaian does it very well, I cannot fault them. Ghanaians when working for obroni works like a frigging dog and never complain about the crumbs they get for a salary. However if you are a whizz behind the computer but can’t even talk to your boss, how can you talk to a team of directors. If you can make sure your files are up to date but any time there is a decision to be made you wait for your boss to make it, how can you be expected to be a leader? A lot of people say “I am doing my boss’ job, but are they really. Do they get the heat from his boss’ when there is an issue? Does he make the decision or does he call his boss for the decision?

Your boss in turn, when he makes that recommendation that you take over, his reputation is on that line so he isn’t willing to take that risk for fear of that being his last promotion.

It’s a mindset thing, especially in this kind of company. If you don’t have the correct mindset, the one who looks to answer as opposed to looking for an answer, then you are an asset. If you are a sheep who only moves once he is tasked to do so by his shepherd, you will always be left in the field to graze.
Another thing is, in the west, let’s face it, promotions are born mainly from the pub. Your boss see’s you in a more rounded light after a couple of beers and a chat. In Ghana, everybody is in a hurry to go home after work, and even if they are sociable. It is that whole Master/Servant attitude especially when the boss is a foreigner.

If you really want that promotion, this is the formula I suggest:

• When you are invited to lunch/dinner/social event by your boss, attend. Seeing you in a social setting actually does more help to your career than harm. The head of region at my former place loved rugby, you can imagine how many Ghana boys loved rugby when they heard. They were at every game he was at. Did you even know there are rugby games played here. There you go.

• Speak to your line manager. They are always going to busy but it is their job to ensure you have a proper progression plan. Ask your boss where you need to improve an make sure you fill the gaps, then you are being more proactive as opposed to reactive.

• When an issue comes up at work, suggest a solution as opposed to asking your boss for one, the worst that can happen is that he will say, no, do it this way. But it will show that you are working outside of the box

• Get yourself involved in projects where other decision makers can see your light. When I went from Supply Chain to the Brand, if it was up to my boss I would have not left my seat. It was my head of region that saw the work I did on a project who gave me the green light. Even if you don’t get on with your boss, somebody will see you and recommend you.

• If you need to, suggest experience in another country. It is easier to justify in Ghana, but make sure you justify it properly, at the end of the day you are going for learning and not a jolly.

• Succession Planning 1 – Have a plan and tell your boss what your next move should be and not wait for him/her to tell you. There is a list and your name will be on it, but then unless you push for what you want, your success will be in someone else’s hand and who knows when they may think that is.

• Succession Planning 2 – if you are in the same seat for 10 years and you know you are worth more than you are getting. Time to get stepping. I am not recommending you take my route, but if you are not getting what you want from where you are, find someone who will. Just make sure you do you due diligence of the companies first.

That’s my two penneth anyway, I wish you all the best of luck

For me, I am putting my head down and keeping my mouth shut while I figure it out. I have learnt from my mistakes and hope to stick around for a while.

But you know I will have something to complain about, so I am sure that have lots to share with you guys out there.

Until the next time

About efiasworld

A British Born Ghanaian navigating her way through life.
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