The Nigerian Manager

Caleb Mbakwe
Dec 18, 2017 · 4 min read

I recently resumed as a Technical Success Manager at Andela, an international tech company. I’m relishing the opportunity to impact the lives of many developers. My first few days have been awesome, the work culture is amazing and I am having the time of my life.

When I think about my career thus far, all the people I have worked with, the people I have managed and the people that have been my managers, I know now why there is the popular saying:

People don’t leave bad companies, people leave bad managers.

I have been managing people for about 4 years now and have also been managed for longer.
This article is a plea to all managers and the plea is simple:

Do not be a Nigerian Manager

I don’t mean do not be a Nigerian. I definitely do not mean that you shouldn’t be a manager. Just leave your Nigerian mentality at home.

Here are a few things typical Nigerian managers do.

They demand respect

Do you deserve respect?

A Nigerian naturally believes respect is given based on age and position. In a modern and ideal workplace, that is not the case. Respect should be earned.

I once had a manager who told me to set up a server in a way that I believed was against the norm and when I asked why, he gave me a very scornful look. Eventually, he threatened to fire me if I didn’t “do as he said”. I didn’t wait for him to do so, I left.

They don’t really care

Life in Nigeria is hard. From the Lagos traffic to fuel scarcity… Nigerian Managers make life harder with their excessively demanding work culture such as tasks that require you to work while on vacation, work at home without regard to the power constraints in your neighbourhood,…

I understand that sometimes, staff could over stretch your lenience with flimsy excuses but it would be better for your team dynamics if you can show genuine care for your team members. It is also important that you are not too hasty to castigate people.

A friend of mine quit a job because his manager simply didn’t care. He would work in an offsite location all night, take a quick 3 hour nap and still need to get to work before 9am the next day. One day he got to the office by 10 am. Instead of his manager to ask him what happened, he sent an email, copying the C level executives of the company, calling out my good friend for lateness to work. The third time he did this, my friend quit.

They do not Listen

Some managers don’t listen to anybody else but themselves. They believe they already know everything and that your opinion is fruitless.
As a manager, I assure you that this is wrong. You cannot know everything. Even gods listen to prayer. Sometimes, if not most of the time, you would benefit more from keeping quiet and listening to people.
Ask for opinions and speak last. Doing so, you’ll learn a lot from others while empowering people as decision makers.
The feeling that you listened makes people you manage feel involved in decision making and this drives ownership.

I knew a lady who headed a marketing department but didn’t make decisions. She would rather wait for the CEO because history taught her that the CEO always had the answers and knows exactly what to do in every given situation. This made the decision making process in the department slow and affected results in marketing numbers.

They micro-manage

Employ smart people and get out of their way. If you don’t, they’ll gradually shift their focus from doing what’s best for the company to doing what works for you. If you like what works for you, then cheers but if you want to get the best out of people then STOP MICROMANAGING!!!

A manager once sent his team member a line of CSS to put into code. I don’t mean he asked him to improve the general User Experience nor did he ask him to improve the User Interface but I mean he actually gave him code to write in. That single action made him stop caring about what could be best for the solution but instead, what the manager would want. He didn’t innovate, heck, he didn’t give a pronged cutlery. Soon afterwards, he quit saying that he needed to explore his own creativity.

If you don’t want to lose good staff then trust them to do their jobs.

Always remember this:

Brilliance is evenly distributed. Opportunity is not.

If you ever have the opportunity to be a manager, please do not assume you are more brilliant than everybody else and make people feel less of themselves. Surround yourself with smart people. Empower them to do great things. Mentor them if you can but most importantly, get out of their way.

Thanks to Mohini Ufeli

Caleb Mbakwe

Written by

Impossible is nothing

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