The coronavirus pandemic has come with lockdowns and quarantines. These measures are perfect for reducing the spread of the virus, but with the sad effect of also being perfect for killing businesses, especially startups. The good news is, like all pandemics, COVID19 won't be here forever. Predominantly, we have another virus which has been existing long before COVID19, which has killed so many businesses over the years. It is like a canker worm eating through African businesses. The very nature of this extremely dangerous virus is so prevalent that we don't know if we'll ever be able to conquer it. With COVID19, staying apart and social distancing seems to stop the spread of it. With this other virus, coming together is what is needed to stop it's deadly nature. Unfortunately, this not-so-new virus has proven time and again, that coming together is far more difficult than staying apart. This virus is called tribalism.
To ease understanding, I'll define tribalism here as:
“a feeling of identity and loyalty to one's tribe.”
While tribalism has a noble birth, its usage in recent years has been for more negative aspects. In this article, we'll focus more on how tribalism has negatively affected the growth of so many businesses over the years.
Growing up in African communities, it's not uncommon for parents to indoctrinate their children with phrases like “you can only marry from so and so village, people from this village are like this, etc” This kind of training has shown to have adverse effects especially with how these children regard people from the said and different tribes as adults. This is even more prevalent in businesses as most business owners mostly employ their relatives and people from their tribes.
It's not uncommon that a person from a particular village will have 90% of his/her workers coming from that village regardless of if they are even qualified for that position or not.
I once asked asked a businesses owner why most of his staff were from his tribe, he replied explaining that it gave him a good eye in the village. He went further to explain that employing workers from his village was his own way of helping to develop his tribal community as the more people got employed, the more community projects could be executed. He also said it was difficult for someone you know or a relative to steal from you than a complete stranger you don't know. This particular kind of reasoning is what accounts for 99% of the reasons why most businesses fail after their owners pass away.
Below are some of the negative consequences of tribalism in the workplace;
Tribalism limits business output. When all your workers are from the same tribe, you will most likely have a very limited approach to solving problems. Most task and problem solving solutions will be greatly influenced by the culture of this tribe and how they generally approach a problem. Having workers from diverse tribes means you have employees from different cultural backgrounds, different lifestyles, different ways of reasoning...this is diversity and every business needs it. This will ensure you have diverse ideas on how to execute a task and you can now select the best approach after comparing with all the others. Limiting your workers to a particular tribe kills variety.
Tribalism creates a negative ecosystem in your business. Have you been in a class where 90% of the students are from a particular tribe? This leads to isolation and separation as that 90% of students will most likely stick together, which means always discussing in their mother tongue and sharing ideas only between themselves. The rest of the students feel left out and isolated and may even become marginalized as they are the minority. This also happens in businesses. When 90% of your workers are from a particular tribe, the remaining workers become isolated and this is very bad for businesses especially as businesses thrive more on group efforts and working together.
Tribalism limits market exposure. This is self explanatory. When your business lacks diversity in employees, you are almost limited just to that particular tribe you hired. You lose out on the enormous market size you could have access to. This becomes a general problem now as how successful your business is depends on the size of your tribe. If your competitor is someone from a larger tribe than yours, you can already see how much loss you ma be acquiring. If you decided to diversify your staff and hire from his tribe and other tribes, you are also opening your services to all those different tribes as the friends of your staff and their families will mostly likely come to where they work, and if you offer a good enough service, then you may also start attracting more customers.
Tribalism kills effectiveness. Take for example our transport industry. It's very common for workers of transport agencies to be relatives of the owner and people from his tribe. These travel agencies are so rooted with traditional methods of pen and paper because most of their employees are not tech inclined. This now limits the business from improving its workflow by using recent technology because new technology means you need workers who can effectively use said technology but you can't because you are limited to unqualified staff. Employing more qualified staff means less time, less resources and less money spent in executing task leading to an overall increase in your business value.
The most best way to eliminate these problems that limit and possibly kill the growth of businesses is to have a fair hiring process. Tribalism begins when hiring. If you hire based on qualifications and experience you'll most likely have a good variety of highly qualified staff working for you. Saying you employ from your tribe because you want to help develop your village is like saying it's better to build more prisons than schools. 😂Actually I don't even know how those two statements relate but my point is if you hire a few people from your village, you aren't helping the community..you are just helping those particular families. The community impact is very minute. Now on the other hand, if you employ highly qualified staff, not only will you use less resources to achieve greater progress, you will also make far more money which may be enough to truly create a developmental impact in your community. Don't employ unqualified staff simply because they are from your tribe, you are running a business, not a charity.
A lot of people have lost job opportunities today because of tribalism. Help share this article so we can educate a lot more people. Who knows, it may just reach your potential employer.
Muluh MG Godson
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