I am sure most Liberians have heard the saying ‘not my pa farm’ when it comes to people’s attitude towards work. “Not my pa’s farm” would in essence mean ‘ I am not going to go above and beyond what I am being paid to do” or “ try to get away with doing the bare minimum of tasks I am expected to perform since I have no stake in this organization”.
How often have you entered a place of business and the person at the front desk has this laid back, sluggish attitude or gives short, unhelpful answers and just stares at you with the “stop-wasting-my-time” look?
The sad thing is that this attitude cuts across both the public and private sectors in our country.
You are ill and go to a hospital for treatment and the health care “professionals” either yell at you or are so abrasive and dismissive in their attitude that you either just want to walk away or give a retort that would get you “blacklisted”. As a matter of fact, you are almost expected to be subservient in your attitude if you want good service in most places of business in Liberia. A sad truth. There are times in an organization you would find an employee who is actually dedicated, hardworking and efficient and the non-performing employees would taunt that staff by making comments like “you do well, da your pa farm?”
A few months back, I went to a bank to conduct the very simple transaction of picking up a check book I had requested two months previously. The customer service attendant at the desk had this very busy look on her face and wouldn’t give me her attention. After several minutes of standing in front of her, she glanced up with this irritated look on her face. I told her I had come to inquire if the checkbook was ready for pick up. She went back to her computer without saying a word. I decided to take a peep at her computer to see if perhaps she was searching the system to determine if the checkbook had been printed, but to my outmost surprise, I saw that the lady was playing a computer game. Not her father’s farm, I guess.
It has been nine years since “The War” ended and one would think that after this period of time, we as a people would start to adjust our mentalities and see the benefits of changing our attitudes to help raise our country from that of an underdeveloped to a developing nation. I continue to wonder if this attitude was prevalent before the 1989 civil war and if the war just exacerbated it.
Attitude towards work and service is one significant feature that distinguishes a developed country from an underdeveloped one. In developed countries, good work ethics and attitude is expected at all levels. Our current work attitude, as Liberians, creates a negative impression not only to residents but also for visitors who may be considering the country for possible investment. We need to re-examine our lackadaisical attitude towards work in order to help lift the nation’s economy to greater heights. We need to respect our work, and to take it with seriousness.
Liberian employers could play an important role in helping to change Liberian employees’ attitudes towards work by periodic trainings, reinforcing the importance of work ethics, dedication, responsiveness and most importantly, leading by example. This would mean as a manager, you can’t stroll into work at 11:00 and expect employees to be behind their desks at 8:00.
Employers could also consider openly recognizing and awarding employees who exhibit good attitudes, whose quality of work is admirable, and show passion for their jobs. Employers should hold employees accountable for their work and create incentives that tie employees’ performance and professionalism to their growth in the organization. Employers need to emphasize to employees that their attitude towards their work affects the organization’s productivity, image and profitability. Additionally, continuous indoctrination through policies and protocols, staff meetings and yearly orientation are also useful tools for employers.
One thing to keep in mind is that with such long history of our general attitude “not my father’s farm”, this has become unfortunately ingrained in our Liberian culture and work ethics. Thus, change is hard for many. It would require commitment from the employer and organization and consistency. At times, this may also require some hard core decision making and reorganization.
It’s a big task but hopefully, with a renewed dedication by employers to changing attitudes in the work place, we can all leave behind the attitude and mantra of “not my father’s farm”.
originally published on FrontPageAfrica on September 11, 2012