Thursday, May 26, 2011

This is Oyibo land - Where Time is Money

Jobs in Oyiboland may be salaried i.e. you are paid a fixed sum weekly/fortnightly/monthly or you are paid by the hour.
Both have their advantages and disadvantages.

Getting paid by the hour is mainly for unspecialised jobs i.e marketing, sales. (medical professionals get paid by the hour though).
It also means that you are more expendable to the company than someone that receives a salary.
The job is pretty flexible – you may choose what time you start, how much you get paid (work more hours, more pay; less hours, less pay).

On the other hand, salaried positions are usually for corporate employees. You are guaranteed that you'll make XYZ amount each fortnight or each month and you have that cushion to fall back on. But it also means, you are often called upon to work extra hours for which there is no compensation.

Many of us are used to touting the phrase – my time is money. Well, I finally grasped the true meaning during the Easter vacation when I did a job which paid by the hour.
You see, I have worked for the ‘best’ Employer in Nigeria - the banking industry - where your employment status is determined by the whims and caprices of your branch manager. My job offer read ‘work hours: 7.30-5.30. that’s a fourteen hour work day (2hrs more than in the UK) but on starting, I found out that 
1. Staff loyalty and dedication was measured by your attendance of communal office prayers which starts at 7.00am. 
2. Being a marketer (aka sales advisor) networking is expected to go-on round the clock. At weddings, parties,'s a 24/7 job.
3. Closing time isn't 5.30pm. If a high net worth customer of the bank decides to stroll into the premises with a bag full of cash at 5.35pm and tedious shipping forms to fill, YOU DO NOT TURN HIM BACK. You welcome him prettily and all hands will be on deck to give him a 5* hospitality. It comes short of giving him a massage...with a happy ending.
Furthermore, it is the norm to leave the office after your boss. The rationale being - if your boss still has so much to do, how come you have so little? Sadly, your boss may just be waiting for the traffic to ease up before he starts his long drive home, or he doesn’t like his home and finds the office soothing. Needless to say, we underlings all sit back and keep him company till he decides to go.
4. You are expected to use your own resources when the office doesn't provide.
5. You will do your own job, and that of every other incompetent* team member if that is what is required to get a job done (*incompetent staff hired not for their gray matter but because they are related to Chief XYZ). 
No excuses. No reprimands, no overtime. Just do it.

So I took this extremely stressful outlook to the UK job. 
Well, they do things differently it seemed. I got a package containing everything I could ever need for the job including pencil, eraser. 
There were instructions for every situation I could meet on the job. Health and safety manuals. Trainings.
The job was flexible. I could pick my hours but I had 15 hrs per week to accomplish –as much as I could – a set task. 
This was were I experienced a work culture mismatch.
I understood ‘as much as I could’ in the Nigerian way. JUST DO IT. 15 hrs became 20 hrs as I tried to be an over-achiever. I knew the extra hrs weren’t going to be paid for but I was eager to make my mark.
Well, I had a lesson to learn in the last week of the job when I had a Brit as a partner. She worked by her elegant Timex watch which was pretty disconcerting for me. We had made a plan of how many hours to do per day. Cool. ‘I was already doing’ that. The difference was, she followed it with military precision.
E.g. Our first day...
Hi Ginger, it is now 3.30pm. I reckon we are leaving here at 7.30pm. That’s the 4 hours agreed for today right?
At 7.00pm, I looked at the list and thought...if we finish with these 5 households in this district, we could move on to a new set of clients tomorrow. It would just take 30 more minutes. 
Brittany tugged at my shirt, “Hey, it’s time up”. We said 4 hours didn’t we? I can’t do more than that today”.
Note that for Brittany, part of her 15 hrs per week includes:
1)     -  One hour of commuting for each day she works (30mins to and fro).
2)     -  15-20 minutes allocated to form filling for each day she works.
 So assuming she worked 4 days in a week, she had actually done the actual work for less than 10 hrs whereas for me, the 20 hrs I mentioned above did not include the 1.5 hrs I spent commuting each day I worked. Or time allocated to filling forms when I get home.

In our last 3 days of employment, our boss Peter offloaded a whole a new list of household questionnaires to get filled. A work-schedule that normally would have taken 20 hrs to go through. Meanwhile we owed him only 5 more hours of work.
If I had been on my own, I would have gone the ‘EXTRA’ mile to complete that 20 hr task without thinking to ask for recompense. But my dear Brittany after 5 hours of dedicated work, called our boss. ‘Pete, we have completed 5 hrs worth of work. But the task isn’t done. Should I return the remaining forms to you like that or are you willing to pay for the extra time needed to finish it?

He was.

Did I learn a lesson? You bet ya – My Time is Money.

Do you have any job culture shock to share?


  1. When I just arrived here, I tried to be a good-goody at work and I went in when I was feeling ill with flu.
    My manager told me coldly 'You shouldnt have come in today. You only come in if you are ready to give 100%!'
    So, lesson learnt: If I feel I'm coming down with something, I call in sick.
    Yes, time is money in the UK and one SHOULD NOT expect sympathy at work. Indeed, making real friends at work is a rarity.

  2. Waoh...I like this Brittany...I would say I'm in between - a blend of your approach and hers. And yes I agree, here in the UK, time really is money, especially if you are paid by the hour/day.

  3. I'm a juvie so i dnt have any work culture shock to share. Ok except that i always had the impression that the boss was some mean evil demigod, but when i worked briefly as an intern, my lawyer boss was the sweetest grey-haired man ever :)
    LOL i luv brittany, she know's whats up! :P

  4. I read that " you bet ya" in a very White American accent. LOL

  5. I probably wouldn't have asked for the extra pay. I would have just finished the job

  6. Makes me recall my first job in 'oyibo land', it was a pay-by-the-hour gig, and i did my time and anyone's i could get,i was even glad when folks called in sick because i went in and did their shifts as well.time na money oooh, time na money.

  7. Time is really money o. I can relate with you on your experience when you worked in Nigeria because I have been there. I worked in the bank too and they made sure you had no life but the one you had in the bank. I work by the hour now and I get paid depending on the number of hours I put in.

  8. LOL, great experience there, always a pleasure reading your blog and catching up.

    Yes I wrote about one experience but more about the customers. It is wierd as the rest of my blog, so I apologise in advance,

  9. Haha!! This is a good one to remember! Time is money- literally

    Keep these coming babe :D


  10. My advice to newbies - works smart, not hard.

    Last year, before I got my managerial position, I was doing all the leg work and stuff. Now I am being paid more to do less and delegate, delegate, delegate. Lesson learned.

    My goal: be a CEO who makes seven figures and hangs out in country clubs and accumulates stock options. Hire others to do the leg work.

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