Inside Politics

Pato fails staff at their time of greatest need

Saturday, October 16th, 2021 06:00 |
Workplace. Photo/Courtesy

After a long frantic search for a driver from one of the marginalised counties, Pato finally employed Enos Tomoke.

He was a Form Four school leaver with a valid driving licence and three years of driving experience.

He previously worked in the chaotic matatu industry where he used to break all traffic rules in legal documents.

During orientation, Pato told Enos: “Do not bring the unruly drivers’ behaviour in the matatu industry into our logistics business.

Here, first and foremost, we believe that our clients are always right. It is later on that we handle employee grievances.” Enos promised to abide by the company rules and regulations.

On his first luggage collection and delivery assignment, Enos was accompanied by Marion Menda, one of the veteran drivers.

She told Enos: “This is Nairobi. Your village driving skills are going to be put to the test. If you fail, expect to take the next bus to your backward county.”

Speed loading luggage

Enos did not like the remarks but he held his cool. At one of the warehouses, Marion complained that Enos’s speed of loading luggage was like that of a tortoise unable to climb a small anthill.

Once again, Enos ignored the insult and continued loading heavy luggage into the delivery van.

When the two arrived at a client’s premises, Marion introduced Enos: “He comes from one of those counties where they wait for manna to fall from heaven. He is lucky to find himself in Nairobi.”

The client sympathised with Enos and pulled Marion aside. He told her: “Regardless of where this new driver hails from, he is a fellow Kenyan.

He deserves employment in any part of the country.” On returning to Trulogic Plaza, Enos told Pato how Marion had mistreated him. Pato promised to look into the matter, which he never revisited.

Main staff cafeteria

Enos picked up his lunch at the Main Staff Cafeteria and shared a table with Leonard Rocheto, a millennial driver.

Leonard asked Enos: “Is it true that in your village you roast and eat grasshoppers with ‘ugali’ drowning it down with sour milk fermented using urine from a young calf?”

Out of courtesy, Enos explained that such meals are no longer on the family menu in his county.

Drivers at the nearby table who were eavesdropping on the conversation broke into uncontrollable laughter.

They began tarnishing Enos’s community saying: “They still live in the stone age and will not catch up with the pace of the 21st century.” To add insult to demeaning Enos, the drivers referred to him by the name of his community.

He faced a difficult time trying to mingle with other drivers who regarded him as an unteachable novice in the logistics business. He complained to Pato who did not bother to follow up the issue.

Trulogic had become an equal opportunities employer that opened its doors to people with disabilities (PWDs).

Pato had hired Jane Tugubi for the position of Administrative Assistant to begin working in a month’s time.

Jane, who was physically challenged, travelled on a motorised wheelchair. Unfortunately, Trulogic had not constructed a ramp for an employee on a wheelchair to access its building.

Its corridors were too narrow to accommodate a wheelchair. Neither were washrooms accessible to someone on a wheelchair.

It was going to be a struggle for Jane to report to work until necessary architectural changes were made.

At the eleventh hour, Pato sent Jane a letter cancelling her appointment until further notice.

Offer cancellation letter

Some employees were up in arms demanding Pato to withdraw the offer cancellation letter.

A few of them volunteered to be carrying Jane on a stretcher from her wheelchair parking space to the office and back.

The transport union wanted to join the fray but argued that Jane was not yet its member.

Employees with unconscious biases against PWDs, supported Pato’s move.

One of the veteran drivers said: “Trulogic is not ready to bring PWDs on board. Pato was putting the cart before the horse to please CEO Ben.”

It is a pity that the workplace has mirrored its society which is riddled with negative myths and stereotypes about PWDs.

For instance, some employees ignorantly assume that PWDs are “not good at anything.” Yet there are many examples of PWDs who have excelled in their vocations.

Unlike in her early days as a supervisor, Mercy Laito, the Senior Transport Officer, began reporting late to work for undisclosed reasons. She isolated herself and rarely joined other supervisors at the Main Cafeteria.

Mercy did not actively participate in supervisors’ meetings where she used to be vocal. Some fellow supervisors speculated in low voices that her marriage was on the rocks.

Others said: “She has lost steam after reaching her ceiling on promotions. Let’s wait and watch her next move.”

Lillian Kurai, the Learning and Development Manager, a distant relative of Mercy, tried to find out her problem.

She did not open up. Instead, she would avoid her company at all times. Pato failed miserably when he attempted to get her out of the silent cocoon.

Finally, Phyllice Nsao, the HR Manager, suggested that Mercy’s mental health required urgent attention.

Mental health issues

Employees at workplaces have little or no information on identifying and addressing personal mental health issues.

Neither have many organisations put in place policies and structures for helping employees with mental problems.

Instead of showing empathy to an employee undergoing mental illness, other employees talk behind his or her back.

They coin and call them derogatory names while avoiding their presence.

After hue and cry from employees on various forms of discrimination bedevilling Trulogic, Ben included the item on the agenda of a next management retreat. - The writer is HRD Consultant and Author of Transition into Retirement,  [email protected]

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