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Beyond official bounds


SUCCEEDING at work derives from a combination of factors. Apart from possessing the requisite job fit, being a team player, goal-focused and result-oriented, the veritable worker, above all else, must prove him or herself worthy enough to enjoy the confidence of his or her bosses. And by all means, the icing on the cake is getting regular commendation on the job. Indeed, nothing bolsters the spirit of any worker, motivating him or her to surpass personal and institutional expectations, more than the foregoing.

   Yet, others ‘succeed’ in the workplace by subterfuge. Indeed, that is the norm and hardly the exception, in most organisations, today. This is why promotion continues to come to the undeserving. From those who understand what has come to be known as ‘office politics’, by being compulsive bootlickers and ‘yes men’ to those who get employed – not because of any known intelligence or job fit – but on the prompting and influence of one powerful godfather or ‘note from above’, this hue of workers achieve  ‘success’ in different ways. This, in my view, is hardly surprising. It is a clear reflection of how we have come to this sorry bind as a nation. Is it then any wonder that, for as long as we persist in elevating mediocrity above substance and merit, we will continue to chase shadows, by building very weak and inefficient institutions?

   But, my heart will always be with those who truly merit their success at work-even if they are in the minority – as our culture of celebrating underachievement has made them. It is even more gratifying, if in a team of mostly men, a woman is holding her own and proving that success has no gender. If such a woman — who has emerged as a pearl — in her work is married, her husband shares the accompanying glory. Or what do you think?

   Of course, it is indisputable that when a woman (especially one who is married) succeeds in any endeavour, the ripple effect is undeniable .Not only will her children be proud of her. So will her husband. And why not?

   It goes without saying, therefore, that most men — except for those who are insecure —will, naturally, feel proud when their wives do well at work. You can imagine the joy of a husband, who attends an award-giving ceremony organised by the wife’s company. In fact, nobody has the right to blame the lucky man, if he is floating in the air, when the wife’s name is announced as one of the awardees. I mean, what will you have the proud husband do, when his wife’s colleagues walk up to him, pumping his hands and saying: “Your wife is such a brilliant and hard-working woman. She deserves the award. Congratulations, sir!” I don’t know about you, but for me, it feels so good, there’s nothing like it.

   What the success of any married woman, in her place of work, implies is that her husband is not only supportive but also encouraging. Just as some women are known to be pillars of support to their successful husbands. For these women, it would seem their husbands are saying: “You go girl! Soar all you want like an Eagle. I am behind you all the way.”

    You need to know how I get swamped, with goose bumps, each time I hear women dedicate any award to their husbands, for being their fulcrum of support in their careers.

Now, what can give these supportive men sleepless nights and perhaps turn the taste of their wives’ success at work into vinegar in their mouths? There are a few uncomfortable scenarios to ponder.

   Why must a woman’s brilliance and proficiency at her job turn her to a favourite of her male superior, in an uncomfortable and frightening way? True, a man’s wife may have become something of a ‘whiz kid’ in the office, such that her boss, who happens to be a man, sees her as an indispensable ‘Lady Fix-it’. Yet, will this explain why he wants her to go on a business trip with him abroad or why he invites her to dinner each time she hit the bull’s eye, at a business pitch? Or why does this male boss give another man’s wife very expensive and suggestive gifts on her birthday? Why?

   Really, there is a very fine line between rewarding a productive staff and stepping beyond official bounds, especially if the staff in question is married. Truth is, no man — knowing that his wife’s male superior is getting too close to his significant other — will find it exactly a good idea of fun.

   Let us even grant that this male boss has no hidden agenda. The truth of the matter is, he is a man with blood flowing in his veins. For how long can such a man sit on his superior high horse, staving off temptation? If, according to Yoruba elders: “A horse does not feast on the grass beneath it,” how many men can we trust to be so disciplined and self-respecting? I have no answer to that puzzle.

   I hope we are also not forgetting that women are wired to be very emotional and tender. They are moved by what they hear and see. So, how long can a woman’s defence withstand the robust gratification she gets from her ‘caring, kind and appreciative’ boss? Is it not possible that the woman is only offered a Greek gift or golden handcuff?

   In my view, any official commendation or gratification, for whatever it is worth, must be given with palpable transparency, leaving no room whatsoever for any suspicion. Women too ought to be upfront about this all the time. My dear Madam, keep your husband in the loop, whatever happens. What you consider a harmless gesture may turn out otherwise. Only men can understand the ways and wiles of men. When you assume that there are no strings attached, woman, trust your husband to have a better judgment. Although, I have seen some women who are, strictly, professional in the way they conduct themselves, at the work place or out of it. With this kind of women, it is needless for the men to look over their shoulders.

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