Sunday, November 9, 2008

Yes, Sir; the Emperor's New Suit Looks Very Nice

There is one thing I certainly won't miss about Nigeria.  In fact, sometimes it makes me want to leave right now.  You cannot question your superiors.  And 'superior' doesn't just mean your boss at work.  It means anyone who is older than you, has more degrees than you, has more titles than you, or even just has more money than you.  (I think that last one is usually correlated to the first three.)  You must at all times show them absolute respect, and never ever even suggest to them that they are wrong.

Some Examples

Uncle said a few weeks ago that Obama wasn't born in the US.  Even if I didn't know where Obama was born, I at least know that you cannot be president unless you are born in United States territory.  But I know Obama was born in Hawaii.  I know Hawaii is part of the US, and it was when he was born.  But can I say this, or even go to the computer and pull up any of the millions of on-line sites that could verify this?  No.  Why?  Uncle is older; he's wealthy, and he has a master's degree.  He can't be wrong.

Same sort of stuff happens at work.  We have a new girl whose degree is in English Education.  The boss says that makes her the office expert in English, and we should all go to her for anything relating to English, proof-reading, etc.  Now, we all make mistakes when writing: typos, mind getting ahead of our fingers, spell-check fixing something to the wrong word, etc.  But, there's a difference between that and just plain old bad English.  This girl asked me to look over something that she had done.  The English was so bad, I could hardly understand what she was trying to say.  Tenses all over the place, wrong words, fragmented sentences, no organization of ideas.  It was a mess.  (And yes, I know my blogs often have run-ons and fragments.  This is usually done for a certain effect, a stylistic decision.  It's a blog, not a proposal for my supervisor.)

In both these cases, the stuff that was wrong was factual, something that could be checked with reference material, with dictionaries, encyclopedias or grammar books.  But that's not allowed.  You take the word of the 'expert'.  If it's this bad with things that are fact-based, imagine if you disagree with someone's opinion!

Respect my Authority

Now, I agree you should show your superiors respect.  I think you should show respect to every human being.  But if someone around you is wrong, or is going to do something that will reflect poorly on your organization, say something.  If the circumstances permit, do it discretely, make a suggestion, present your point of view with a few reasons or some sources to back up what you're saying.  But, I cannot understand how it is beneficial to insist that someone is right just because they're supposedly bigger and better than you.  It's obnoxious, and seems like a good way to produce a nation of idiots. 

In fact, the respect thing goes so far that not only do you have to show superiors respect, you can't show respect to people who aren't superior.  This really frustrates me.  I can't respect the maid because she's just a maid?  Yeah, that's what they say.  They tell me if I show her respect she won't know her place and will be out of control.  Now, I've had a lot of jobs in my life, at various positions on the ladder.  I may never have been on the top, but  from what I've seen, employees who feel respected by their boss give more, do better work, and generally are respectful in return.

Things weren't like this in Zambia, but then, I was living in a village, not in the center of a bureaucracy.  We respected  everyone.  If we were talking to or about an adult, we put the respect title "Ba" before their name.  If there was someone who was really high up in the village hierarchy, such as a chief or headman, we bowed a little lower when greeting them.  But, we did not stop showing others respect just to give the chief more respect.  That's ludicrous.


Emeka Amakeze said...

Goldenrail, things are not as bad as you think. Things are really changing and a lot of people are begining to realize that respect doesn't have much to do with age, wealth, title and the like. With the changing times, respect is for everybody irrespective of age and wealth and also, knowledge and wisdom are not exclusively reserved for the old and wealthy. Continue to hold your head high and respect anybody that deserves your respect; maid, barrow pusher, the guy next door. It would never make you a lesser person.

goldenrail said...

Hey Emeka, Thanks for visiting. I hope you're right. I've heard some people say that things aren't as bad in the private sector (I'm in the Fed Gov.), but I haven't seen it yet. It also seems that the films and pop culture tend to perpetuate the wealth = respect thing. I'll try to take a closer look on the street and see what's out there. And don't worry, I'll keep my head up. :)