The average Nigerian and most in the labor force dream of working in an office. There is a sort of dignity that comes with dressing up in shirt and tie; or pencil skirt and high heels every morning and setting off to do a day’s job. But then, while it looks like the coolest thing for an adult to do; it is nothing like what is seen on TV. It is not glorious in any way. Besides, the workplace politics there are other things that are bound to stress you out.
First thing, Nigerians generally love the idea of “seniority” and that is taken to their offices. Agreed, every office operates on a system of hierarchies. However, in Nigerian offices, it is taken to another level and the levels of hierarchy is often more laborious. You must ensure you greet all your senior colleagues before you settle in.
If you have booked a room for a meeting and somehow your senior colleague decides to have an impromptu meeting; at the time in the same room, you will have to cancel your own meeting. If there has been an office party, you must make sure your senior colleagues are fed before you help yourself to the bounty. And if things are being shared, the older ones will pick first.
One would think that in a corporate environment, every staff would plan and budget for their meals per day; and in the case where they are not equipped for lunch time; they are able to remain professional about their appetite… But No! Not in a Nigerian office.
It is amazing how humble colleagues in a Nigerian office can become when they accost you for “just a spoon of rice” or a sip of coke. You literally cannot eat your food in peace, unless you leave the office for a restaurant. From the moment you place your lunch box in the office fridge to the time you microwave it and eat; there is bound to be someone looking to have a taste; looking to get a plate next time or just asking for the recipe.
And if you are not careful too, your food can be stolen. Petty Theft is normal. From as simple as losing your food or drink; (carefully placed in the office refrigerator) to the “real owners”; and having your personal belongings including phones and even your money nicked; petty theft is not an issue taken too seriously around a Nigerian office.
Even the security cameras installed in most offices are not enough to deter culprits. One working in a Nigerian office would benefit from being observant and cautious. This is as opposed to complaining and kicking up a fuss over a missing item.
Again, it is the norm to spend extra hours working in a Nigerian office without extra/overtime pay; no matter what your contract states. Basically, having a strict 9-5 work schedule is more of a myth. Your line manager most times will assign tasks a few minutes to the end of the day; with a deadline that ensures you put in extra hours after the stipulated work hours.
And while your co-workers; who you are forced to spend more time with than your family and friends; may seem nice and friendly, they secretly believe they are in competition with you and as such; they closely observe you to gain any ammunition they can use against you, should the need arise. Office politics is a key aspect of your relationship with your colleagues and no matter what you do; you know, without a doubt, that you cannot really trust anyone.
Perhaps, the straw that breaks the camel’s back is that with all these hassles, the money is never enough! Have you ever noticed how almost every Nigerian office worker has a side hustle; or is on the search for a second source of income?
This is because they are never paid enough to meet up with the basic lifestyle of a civil servant. Again, discriminatory pay practices are the norm. As such, people are milked to the barest minimum and are hardly paid based on a general salary schedule.
Even more, bonuses and raises also do not come easily to everyone. The few offices that try to extend benefits to all their staff regulate it. Thereafter, they make it a form of competition for the entire staff.
Worse is, donating money and signing cards becomes part of your job. In Nigerian offices, the welfare department (where there is one) is just for show. The staff is still expected to chip in to support colleagues who have either lost a parent or spouse; whose wife just gave birth; are getting married, recovering from an illness or leaving the company (send-forth).
There is always something to donate money to and even sign a card for; so much that you find you have to make a monthly budget for it.
Bottom line, the stress of working in a Nigerian office is something almost every Nigerian would attest to…But then, what are the alternatives for a majority of the population who cannot afford to start their own businesses?