Let's overhaul our work ethics to hasten progress

Devidends of time well spent at the workplace cannot be gainsaid. [iStockphoto]

Employment as introduced back in colonial days in most of Africa was oftentimes regarded more as an extension of bondage or conscription to servitude and far from an honourable or dignifying engagement. 

That should explain why, to this day, the mentality of ‘stealing mzungu’s time’ persists even when the dividends of time well spent at the workplace cannot be gainsaid.

A general description maintains that a work ethic is primarily about an attitude or determination and dedication towards a task assigned to an individual. There are scores of employees who care less about what and how their input at the individual level contributes to the overall output of an organisation.

Driven by investor demand for a decent bottom-line, however, private entities have a way of policing their workforce for results failing which deadwoods are promptly shown the door. The focus in this case is mainly profit and in most cases the desired results that manifest in monetary gain.

Essentially, the government is not a money-minting machine and therefore its bottom-line is markedly different in the sense what amounts to the greater good for all citizens defines its solemn obligation. Calibrating ‘greater good’ outside bottom-line strictures of the private sector kind has its own challenges because that arena largely belongs to a moral-ethical value system, not of profit margin ideals. 

That notwithstanding, the value heralded by diligence and willingness to go the extra mile at the public work-desk ought to be celebrated as a key enabler of good tidings that should end up benefitting both public and private sectors. Why? Precisely because a responsible government exists fundamentally to create a conducive environment for all citizens to prosper regardless of their sectors. But a government is only as responsible as those it has entrusted the work of rendering its services – public servants.

The notion that the government is slow to dismiss errant workers fuels an attitude that in turn makes hundreds of employees to give the most minimum of their time and effort at work. It is by avoiding malingering and nonchalance in serving the public that public servants drape nationhood with dignity.

The day it becomes an obligation upheld by all public servants to render services buoyed by the worth of the privilege to serve is when our public work ethic will assume a new and desired turn. As things stand, the disgraceful insouciance displayed by some government officials is outright immoral.

In fact, when one does not give a public sector job his or her all - with regards to best practice in governance - should be regarded, not as an integrity issue but also an act of sabotage. Better yet, if there ever was a way to show patriotism and positive public-spiritedness, then it is through putting one’s best foot forward for the greater good of one’s motherland.

Wasting precious time as an employee of government is indeed not any different from looting public coffers. As the President reads the riot act to characters with a penchant for putting their fingers in the cookie jar, he should also treat timewasters as criminal offenders.

Granted, there is the performance contracting in government that commits government employees to performance controls but that alone is not enough. Time for individual Kenyans to ask what each of us can do for our country, has come.

-The writer chairman, human resource committee of the Board at the Rural Electrification and Renewable Energy Corporation (REREC).