Is Upbringing a major letdown for SMEs?

The typical Ugandan family has always held the belief that Children need to be protected from any engagement or activity likely to divert their attention from the formal school studies as a way of guaranteeing them a bright future. While growing up, having lived in the Naguru area which was regarded as the sporting zone of Kampala, I loved watching the various sports activities taking place like Boxing, Cricket, Lawn Tennis, Table Tennis, Rugby, Handball and swimming.

I once approached my father and requested him for some money to buy a table tennis bat so I could play the game. His response was so negative that I never wasted my breath again asking for sports facilitation. However, I got to see many excel in sports having been given a chance by their parents among whom include Julius Omoding in Table Tennis who is now the CEO of Bank, Godfrey Nyakaana in boxing and currently a leading politician in Kampala City, Cedric Babu in Lawn Tennis and is the CEO of Kinetic Management Group, to mention but a few.

I have seen parents refuse to allow their children handle money or even try out some basic work for financial gain while still studying claiming that the money earned will spoil them. They prefer to provide 100% for the needs of their children and only when they reach University are they given some leeway to handle finances. Others aren’t even given an opportunity to carry out basic tasks in the home like compound slashing, cooking, cleaning up the house, feeding the backyard chicken, weeding the flowerbed or home garden with the expectation that their time is best spent revising school work and watching TV. This attitude crops out of the misguided concept that the children will graduate with honors from a leading University, acquire white collar jobs that will allow them to earn enough to pay for domestic workers among other things.

A young child being taught how to weed rice

A child being taught how to weed rice at the Doho Rice Scheme, Butaleja, Uganda.

While I can’t fully discount their fears, I must add that their perspective is skewed. You can’t complain of money spoiling a child when you have avoided the task of teaching that child financial management, however basic. Preventing a child from engaging in household chores is denying them opportunities of learning responsibility, leadership, planning and often times crisis management.

Fast forward to the corporate world. These children will eventually be spewed off the academic conveyor belt into the working environment and after landing that first job with very brilliant paperwork (first class degrees and the like), the employer gets disappointed in the fact that apart from appearing to have all the theory right, the recruit is nothing better than a paper tiger. Imagine a team leader who falls short in communication skills, financial planning or crisis management.

A good number of employees have some or all of the following attributes which can be traced to their upbringing;

  • Laziness: This is the tendency of wanting to do as little as possible despite having a strong desire for the money that is being paid. Employees that are lazy tend to avoid tasks they consider challenging and want to dwell on the ‘easy to do‘ work. Whenever a situation arises that demands them to unilaterally do work that is perceived as hard, they will be seen complaining even before making an attempt.

  • Lack Proactivity: The ability to take initiative is usually lacking among some employees. They are the type who will always wait for instructions even when they could figure out for themselves what to do next. Each time they are asked why they hadn’t taken action over a certain matter, the response will be, “I wasn’t told to do that.” Chances are, such a person was raised in a manner where they only did what their parents instructed them and the rest was done for them. They also tend to have the desire to always ‘play it safe‘ fearing to make mistakes lest they fall out of favour.

  • Grumpiness: For anyone who has run a start-up on a shoe strings budget, am sure you’ve noticed this. A delay in salaries by a few days leads such employees into creating a storm in a tea cup. Call them to work on a weekend in order to meet a client’s deadline and matters become even worse. Fail to provide them with lunch or transport allowance and they will sing tales of how other employers are better. However, you’ll be left wondering why they can’t go to those ‘better’ employers.

  • Lack Flexibility: Life is about constant change. This is one of the reasons the human race has been able to exist to-date. The work environment requires this attribute due to the ever changing nature of business and the circumstances under which it operates. Some employees are just not tuned for a flexible work environment and whenever the need for change occurs abruptly, they will be seen facing a hard time making adjustments. You might be a Sales or Marketing agent for that company but a time comes when you have to double up as a Client Relations officer due to some restructuring. One of the leading local TV stations underwent a restructuring process that saw people merge their roles. Those who were accustomed to only searching for news from the field were now faced with the task of editing that news and ensuring that it is ready for broadcast. Trust me, the complaints were many.

  • Honesty: A much needed trait in any employee, it is becoming a rare one lately. Many having grown up not knowing how money is made and only being on the receiving end of the finances didn’t have a chance to appreciate that those large figures of money they regularly received from their parents took time to earn. Others have grown up in homes where financial impropriety is idolised. Yes, I have heard some people brag before their very children that anyone who has a job and gets a chance to lay their hands on company money shouldn’t be a fool not to steal. Such employees are easily noticeable if one keeps a keen eye on the staff and closely monitors the processes in place to handle finances especially. Often times, due to the breadth of work available in the organisation, such people thrive illicitly and it takes a major incident for them to be uncovered.

  • Self Entitlement: These are the type that feel they are doing the company a favour to be employed by it. They believe they deserve more. They always want to see the company fall over itself to please them even when the circumstances don’t demand so. This is one of the most poisonous trait for any employee to have and as a business owner, if you ever identified this and the culprit isn’t willing to change, part ways immediately. Such tend to come from families where they have been excessively idolised due to one reason or another.

As a small business starting up or already operational, you need to watch out for some of these traits and much more to ensure that you can maintain a proper balance between your resource potential and business growth. The last thing you need is a culture that breeds negativity, it eats everyone around you right from the marrow and can lead to total business failure.

One response to “Is Upbringing a major letdown for SMEs?

  1. Great. Well put.
    It is still unfortunate that parents of the very young generation were also brought up this way!


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