A detox to the workplace: The case of Uzima Enterprises, Nairobi

One last word on toxic family relationships!
11th September 2015
Damn… this is why I had to let you go: A tribute to my once toxic friendship.
25th September 2015

A detox to the workplace: The case of Uzima Enterprises, Nairobi

This past Saturday, I had the privilege of spending an afternoon with some  employees of Uzima Enterprises in Nairobi as they shared to me how they were able to detox their workplace over five years ago. You might know that Uzima Enterprises have for three consecutive years been voted, ‘ the best fictitious company to work for in  Kenya’, an accolade that the members of staff conveyed to me yesterday they plan to hold forever. Hope you the reader of ‘Wacha niKwambie Uzima’will enjoy this narrative.
“Things were not always as good as they are,”, quipped Mr. Reformer Boss, the current Talent and Organizational Development Manager of Uzima Enterprises.” When I took up my current position in this organization, I  found myself in one of the most toxic work places to work in Kenya”. “There was total lack of communication. Policies and procedures were never followed leading to a workplace of total anarchy. The managers across all ranks were narcissists and tyrannical to put it mildly. Leaders charged with motivating their team members could only think of themselves, some even took all the credit for projects their team members had toiled over.” “Kwambie, corridor talk here was full of sarcasm, disgruntlement and cynicism. Colleagues could not trust each other.” “ The tell tale  signs of a toxic work environment were written on the wall. Many a time as I made my way to the water dispenser, colleagues who had congregated there would scurry off as soon as they saw me.” “As the new senior manager in human resources , I knew something had to be done fast.”
“Every end month our health insurance providers would bill us with a health insurance bill that was way to high for the number of staff and dependents that we had to cater for. To be honest, things reached tipping point  when

the Wellness Manager of our health insurance providers intimated to me that of all the companies in their portfolio, ours tipped the scales in cases of lifestyle diseases like hypertension and many displayed symptoms of depression, stress and anxiety. That could not be further away from the truth as Matatizo Enterprises as we were known then also had the highest cases of absenteeism that I had ever witnessed in my career.”

“It was crazy,” adds  Mary the company receptionist.”Though I am not a HR professional something in my gut instinct told me that things were not right.”
“ hough I gave a lot to the company, I felt that I had little to show for it. Year in year out, I never could meet the high and unrealistic targets set by my boss. Sometimes,I suspect set deliberately to frustrate me. Work life balance became a myth and my persona;l relationships began suffering. Sadly for me, I had a nervous breakdown and was admitted in a psychiatric facility in the city by the time Mr. Reformer Boss came to save the day. What was meant to earn me my daily bread, wrecked my personal life and almost sapped away my life,” as she asks for some tissue to wipe away the tears as she remembers that low moment in her life.
“Only when I learnt that I was working with some of the most toxic people in the planet, situation exacerbated by a tyrannical boss did I then realize the source of my woes,” Mary closes.
“Wow, this is awesome and validates what we have learned  from Wacha niKwambie Uzima this past week on toxic work place environments,”I mention.
“Toxic work places generally have a bad reputation, employees are disloyal, the organizations generally exhibit poor performance, they have high turn over of staff, many of their employees suffer from stress induced conditions, talented people never stay for too long.”
Mr Reformer Boss then adds, “ I took it upon myself to spearhead detoxing initiatives in the workplace which have since borne great fruit.”
“We quickly converged  senior management meeting, where with one spirit decided that something had to be done in our organization to set things right.”
“Top management then got their team members into weekly sessions where we brainstormed on what made our workplace stink and what we needed to do to change the environment. Personally, I distanced myself from toxic colleagues who were passing on negative vibes to me,” says Douglas, who was a marketing management trainee during the turbulent times but has since climbed up the ranks to be the company’s Head of Marketing and Corporate Communications.” I purged the following toxic colleagues from my radar;  The Big Mouth – better known as the Office Gossip, The Bad Influencer – who never took their work seriously, The Betrayer – also known as The Office Chameleon, The Chronic Downer – who never had anything positive to say about others, The Critic – who never saw anything good about our company. The Flake – who slacked on the  job and always relegated their duty to others, The Narcissist – who never asked about how you are doing and only thought of themselves.”
“We had to let some of our people go after giving them ample warning and them still not towing the line. We realized that change begun from the top and cascaded to the rest of the organization. Managers  who were Toxic Bosses were also purged off the organization. This included incompetent bosses, bullies, those who suppressed their team members’ efforts, the micro managers, the  insecure who suppressed career growth for others in a n effort to guard their jobs and personal interests, the robots who only saw our people as numbers and not as people with lives who contributed with passion to the bottom line of our company,” adds Mr. Reformer Boss.

“We also had to each take a close examination of ourselves and see whether as employees of the organization we were the source of misery in our organization. Were we each sending negative vibes in the organization by slacking in the job, being absent from work, the source of negative rumours in the workplac. Tough questions that we had to ask ourselveswer,  e we disorganized? Were we work place bullies, for example?”

“Kwambie, remember that Rome was not built in a  day, and this changes occurred over a period of time. As a matter of  fact we are work still in progress because there is always room for improvement.”
In parting if you find yourself in a toxic work environment be positive and use it as a learning experience to enhance your job search, better equipping you with the qualities of a  good workplace. Do not let people with prejudiced
and negative perceptions of you in the workplace put you down. Put up a brave show until you find an alternative. Take care of yourself spiritually, emotionally and physically. Enhance positive vibes and relationships outside the work environment that affirm you  and that will keep you going through the tempests in the work place.

Remember like all toxic relationships that we have discussed before,“Hurting people, hurt others”.
Do not fall victim for toxic people, keep at it with your head up high.

See you all week next  when we bring to a close the month of focus on #SayNoToToxic Relationships! When we detox ourselves off toxic friends.

To the toxic impasse in the education sector in my beloved country, may what is the best for our children prevail.

Have  a blessed Sunday! from ‘manzi wa Nai’ (Translation: Nairobi Girl)

© Kwambie Nyambane,
September 2015
Disclaimer:Uzima Enterprises is a figment of my imagination and any likeness to an existing entity is purely coicidental.

References

5 Types of Toxic Employees and How to Deal with Them [Infographic]


http://www.quintcareers.com/resigning_job.html
http://www.forbes.com/forbes/welcome/
http://www.forbes.com/sites/meghancasserly/2011/09/09/toxic-colleagues-nine-coworkers-to-watch-out-for/
http://www.innermedpublishing.com/toxic%20workplace.html

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