Re-imagining the workplace: A trumpet call for a change of attitude this year

File pic: Workplace

New beginnings are inspired by changes in seasons and times. We are encouraged when a year ends and a new one begins and we feel and think that if a fresh year can start, we too can start afresh.

A new year just begun and it is always inspirational for many when something like this happens and it is tempting for most of us to think that we can just rely on these seasonal changes without doing anything to participate in the change and use the inspiration by seasonal changes as a springboard for our own changes.

When we sit there and look to the seasons with a big ‘happy new year’ it is not enough. A lot of work needs to be done, especially in the Zimbabwean workplace and if we are just random and wishful about it, we are likely to continue to do the same thing but expect different results and we know exactly what that has been called; the highest level of foolishness. New beginnings need our conscious effort to participate actively in what we do, seek and get knowledge and act based on that knowledge.

One of my biggest concerns with our workplace is the absence of scientific enthusiasm with us pushing forward blindly and continuing to suffer a lot of damage.

There is a disturbing ‘cast the net method’ in most places and this comes with a lot of sweating because we try too hard under such circumstance and not work smart. Respect for science, which is to say empiricism, is important.

 It is not pedantic, bookish or theoretical as some would have us believe, but the very way we should work. This generation’s contribution to itself and posterity is knowledge-based actions right now so that we keep getting better and improving our own lives and those of the generations coming after us. We cannot afford as a people to continue to be known for opinion.

The gap between the workplace and academic or research institutions should be narrowed so that these two synergise and benefit from each other. Companies that make money in the workplace would do themselves a lot of service if their budgets included research.

They would assist if they sponsored serious researchers who are enthusiastic about matters that affect the workplace. There are researchers out there who are excited about the workplace but cannot gain access to academic institutions and if they do get it, they find it difficult to gain access to companies when they propose to use them as case studies. Research is not being taken seriously in our beautiful workplace and naturally we are moving forward with very little knowledge management, meaning we are not getting better. This is a big disservice to ourselves and to posterity.

We are bound to think that it is only the physical structures we build and the goods and services we make in the workplace that rarely get better or wane when we move forward without embracing empiricism. What is disheartening is the effect that this has on the human resource as the cog and the purpose of work. We work for humanity and life and if we think that it is weak structures and goods and services we are creating that are affected then we have not gone deep enough.

There is enough evidence in spaces that take research seriously that the quality of human life and gratification is seriously affected by the way they interact with work. It has been found by researchers that we are psychosomatic beings whose bodies react to all stimuli that come through the psyche. When things do not make sense and there is no clear purpose in our work, we punish human life because there is no gratification in no purpose. We just work because we have to survive but as we do so there is serious wear and tear happening to the human resource and the kind of wear and tear that should be avoided.

We cannot afford to be a generation of opinion when there is so much out there to learn and use in our operations. Shirzad Chamine, the author of the New York Times bestselling book Positive Intelligence has done a lot of research in the area of the relationship between productivity and happiness. Positive Intelligence (PQ) is a measure of Mental Fitness, indicating how quickly you recover from negative to positive responses to challenges.

To talk about happiness in the workplace in Zimbabwe might sound playful yet research has found that there is a big connection between happiness and productivity. One is bound to be read as not being serious if they went about creating that awareness and even training the workforce in happiness in order to improve productivity and promote qualitative lives for Zimbabwe and beyond. If we are not in the workplace to improve productivity so that the quality of our lives improves, then what are we there for?

Opinion is great as a starting point and as part of brainstorming but when it becomes the order of the day then we have a huge problem. We need science and scientific research for us to begin to see real change and transformation in the workplace and in the quality of the lives of the workers. What is happening in most workplaces where leaders are well trained in technical work with little training in people dynamics is a disaster and if we changed our attitude and began to realise that the human resource is a scientific being that requires learning, a lot of things would shift and we would begin to experience the workplace differently and of course life itself.

A brand-new year has just begun and it is important that brand new ideas begin to flow and we position ourselves for a better show this year. We need to understand the human resource to improve productivity. Stephen Covey in his book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People says there are some principles that are as unarguably there as the force of gravity. Continuing to work with the human resource in ignorance is tantamount to arguing against truth and thinking by not believing in the force of gravity for example, it would not affect us. We lose a lot of potential by working in ignorance regarding the dynamics of the human resource but we think we would lose a lot if we invested in improving our knowledge in that regard and improving the way we work with our people.

As this column has observed in many submissions, leadership is critical in changing this attitude. This is a huge leadership issue and if we are going to get better, we will need to start with leadership. As we play golf and get moments to relax, let’s talk about these things as leaders and if they make sense to you, let us find ways of making them reality in our workplaces, and I can bet with my last dollar, they do make sense.

  • Bhekilizwe Bernard Ndlovu’s training is in human resources training, development and transformation, behavioural change, applied drama, personal mastery and mental fitness. He works for a Zimbabwean company as Head of Human Capital, while also doing a PhD with Wits University where he looks at violent strikes in the South African workplace as a researcher. Ndlovu worked as a human resources manager for several blue-chip companies in Zimbabwe and still takes keen interest in the affairs of people and performance management. He can be contacted on [email protected]

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