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Isio Knows Better: Professional Accountability

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I sincerely lay no claims to being more knowledgeable than anyone, but I do confess that I know better than I did yesterday, last year and a decade ago.

Isio Knows Better is an attempt to capture the shocking and highly entertaining conversation within myself. The conversations between my mind (the sharp witty one), my soul (the lover and the spiritual one) and my body (the playful one concerned with the more mundane things of life). She is the eternal referee between the caustic mind and the sensitive soul. This is Isio. So, here’s to making private conversations public.

****

Something happened yesterday, and after musing about it in private, I decided to share it with readers and get your contributions on what you think is just.

Okay, here’s a brief overview of what I do. I design, and the client approves the design. Then, I gather a team of “professionals” best suited to interpret the design with the allocated budget (retailers, suppliers, structural contractors, electricians, tillers, carpenters, artisans and so on). I manage the project. Work is done. Everyone is happy.

I had taken a client of mine to a supplier’s store. In the interest of full disclosure I have to say that this store is not Nigerian-owned and is run by a foreigner. In the past he had bid as a supplier for another project of mine, but he wasn’t chosen by client. His company didn’t show up at the allocated time and but chose to show up a week later on site on a Saturday morning. It was locked. The client would not be disturbed, of course. There was nothing I could do. They lost the bid.

This is not a big deal. It happens quite often. Designers, architects and contractors bid against each other for jobs. One person gets it. We are still cool. Usually we have a database and network of good suppliers and artisans we share amongst ourselves. It means that a certain supplier (In this instance, an art gallery) can have me as a client, and have ten other designers they supply to as clients. If I approach them to give a quote to supply art and the client feels that they can’t afford that, I simply get from a gallery that the client can afford. The next design project of mine might be different. The new client may want all high-end pieces- I simply go to the gallery and pick up those pieces. Like I said, it happens… it really isn’t a big deal. We all understand this, and there is this rapport between suppliers/artisans and designers.

Okay, so back to the koko of the gist. I took this client to this supplier’s store. I showed him around and went off to get the manager so we could talk about the client’s needs. I met him in a corner with two of his staff, and after greeting everyone, I re-introduced myself to him because he didn’t acknowledge my initial greeting (my thinking was that didn’t recognise me because I looked really different that day – hair change and all).

This is what he said to me, “Of course I remember you… you are the interior architect. The one who made me go on site and it was locked.”

Made you ke? See wahala o.

“But didn’t you call the client like I asked?”

“I did,” He snapped back at me “he told me he was sleeping.”

“My apologies for your inconvenience. You know that I am the designer for that project, not a staff. Only he could allow you access on a weekend morning.”

He mumbled something about being sure the client had already given someone else the job, and looked at me with such cold eyes then he just looked away.

I was shocked at his manner which was especially tasteless. The client was a friend of his, which was why the client asked me to use him for the job in the first place. Not to be deterred, I told him why I was there. I had brought another client of mine, a representative of one of the biggest multi-national corporations in the country. Perhaps he would like to have a talk with us, so we could talk him through what we needed from his company.

Once he heard the organisation my client represented, he was immediately different. Breezed over there like say na im sabi everything pass. He put on his best sales-man attitude, and he and his staff started fawning over my client. Watching people kiss-ass is always painful to watch. I just separated myself from the mix and browsed the store leisurely.

Now he began to grasp the scope of work. It is so huge that the contract for his department alone could easily bring his company tens of millions of naira. I noticed that he gave his contact to the client and tried dealing with him directly, but the client told him that he had to talk to me, as I was the designer, and that every aspect of production for the design had to pass through me. It was left to my judgement.

You know eh, as a young female business owner in this country, (and women please testify to this if you fall into this category), we see/ hear all kinds of things. It is not always palatable, yet we push, and work hard and strive. It is harder than it looks. I don’t want to bring race, age, physical appearance or marital status into this, but trust me… it is harder than it looks. The belief that “oh, you are a young attractive female, it should be easier for you than for young men…” is a big FAT LIE. It is harder. It gets harder when you are building something of yours from scratch. If you doubt me, please talk to any successful young career woman or female entrepreneur (especially those who have managed to thrive in Nigeria).

Even before I started this column, I have always wanted to write on the reality of this (especially for young girls who want to transform their dreams into a business, or for female 9-5ers’ who want to quit their jobs and plunge into entrepreneurship, or for returnees who have no contacts and just want to “come back and conquer Lagos”) Aunty and madams, don’t buy the hype. Pull your ear well-well and study this market and be very aware of the pros and cons.

So, anyway… back to the gist. He managed a stiff goodbye to me when we were leaving. Na wa o. I was sorely disappointed in his behaviour. Maybe because I wore my shaka-shaka natural hair there o, abi na because I no wear six-inch loubs go there o. The guy don take small-pikin eye look me sha. Just erase me like that.  Oga no vex. Na from site I dey come. Now I have to decide what to do. The client has asked if I would rather not work with him.

His was a very personal reaction to a professional problem. I am determined not to react in such a petty manner. Personally, I may not care much for one, but will continue to work with said one if they also put emotions in check and deliver to me the very best of their professional service. Yes, I am wired that way. Business is business. It is what it is. We don’t have to fraternize.

My gut tells me that the manager cannot detach himself long enough from his emotions to give me that. And that he would not be able to handle my authority. But, at the end of the day he is still just an employee. Is it just to hold his boss’ company accountable for his behaviour?

What would you do?

 

Isio De-laVega Wanogho is a Nigerian supermodel, a multi-award winning media personality and an interior architect who is a creative-expressionist at her core. She uses words, wit and her paintings to tell stories that entertain, yet convey a deeper meaning. Follow her on Instagram @isiodelavega and visit her website: http://www.idds.pro to see her professional body of work.

34 Comments

  1. Jane

    November 18, 2014 at 10:25 am

    It’s tough out there for a lady…

    nigerwifediary.blogspot.com

  2. beautifulonyinye

    November 18, 2014 at 10:35 am

    Please don’t use his company.He’s very unserious and childish.It wasn’t your fault in the first place that he wasn’t serious with the previous job.Ignore the little minded people and keep soaring jare.

    • Beegal

      November 18, 2014 at 1:29 pm

      If there’s is an alternative it’s better not to use him. Seems like someone that’d make you say “and I didn’t wanna use him o”

  3. fem

    November 18, 2014 at 10:45 am

    Very mature. Keep doing you Isio. Business must remain business.

  4. Personal Assistant

    November 18, 2014 at 10:45 am

    Isio I understand your plight. To start a business from the scratch is tough. When it comes to dealing with suppliers/merchants etc na to get back up/alternative oh. If You give me attitude, I give you worse. God has so positioned my big and full lips that it requires no effort from me before the lips go raise up. Dem no dey beg shit to smell. The only thing that almost has no alternative for now is DSTV. For every high end supplier of something in this town, there is a higher end supplier. My own opinion sha

  5. SIm

    November 18, 2014 at 10:59 am

    Oh Isio, I do love you. Happy (Belated) Birthday!!!

    I talk about the “sufferings” of being a young female professional so much, I probably shouldn’t go on here, I might not stop. It’s even worse in my industry, which is predominantly male.

    In your situation, I would not give the job to the guy, I’ve met a couple of people who are unnecessarily emotional when it comes to professional stuff like that, not a lot, but one does run into the occasional child, I think if you give the job to him, you will think back down the line and think “I knew I should not have given him the job!”, you already know authority will be a thing, so, why go through the stress? Dude is obviously very pett

  6. Que

    November 18, 2014 at 11:01 am

    HMM scorpio sister, tell me again about women in roles of authority…. abeg go on and toss the singleness into the issue….cos it’s as REAL as bloody daylight! It was very real for me last week….
    I have 2 full time male employees, female part time…directly reporting to me and taking briefs from me…. I believe in Systems thinking and studio cultures that encourage collaboration and knowledge transfer…. of course its one thing to have vision and ideas about your business, and another to get people on board with you…long story short….. its a peaceful atmosphere somedays, and on others its like their village witch doctor sent a memo! I have another male friend well versed in running his business and I take tips from him…. one of them days he calls to check up on me and we’ve just been through my staff acting out…..he offered many suggestions, which we both concluded I had done….at the end he blurted out…. Que the only thing I can see left is you’re a young single female in control of grown men who dont fully understand why! If u were married they would be more respectful cos it’s assumed you have someone to fight for you… he ended by suggesting employing another female and distancing myself a bit from the chain of direct command….

    Moral of the story is….Not everyone is logical when they feel threatened….. I honestly am not in a hurry to marry anybody to gain respect, and I frankly dont care if they have a problem with my singleness…. I believe when you walk into an organisation and proclaim staff status, it is no longer about YOU! It must be about what you are there for. Personal issues aside, my staff have good potential that when they focus on, is better for our economy as a whole….Also, I dont care what name you call me as long as business goals are on target and bills are paid….I remind them that their efforts affect the bottom line, and they are working for themselves, not for me….so the moment they leave the work and make me their focus and become unviable for the business, then they will have a REAL problem!

    In eseence, tolerance is a part of the game….what makes it all worth the trouble for me is the big picture…. in the scheme of my life, will one person’s refusal to greet or respond to me well stop me from forging ahead…Nope. So Isio, you got bigger fish to fry than this employee. The question to be answered is….
    .1) will that company give you the best result for your project, or is there an alternative? If they will, then you know the answer
    2.) Is he the only one in that company that must be attached to you or is he replaceable with another sales man in same company?
    3) If the company and the salesman is all the option you have, indulge him, smile, do your job, keep your happy client, and then send the sales man a ‘place putting’ email, recognising the good of the company and his mediocre professional manner which is attempting to tarnish the company’s image in the industry…… be sure to copy his boss!

    • Ephi

      November 18, 2014 at 12:17 pm

      Spot on Que. I am taking notes..
      Nigeria is a tough terrain, a lot of unprofessional behavior in the workplace. It really takes a gallon of patience not to get frustrated.

    • TA

      November 18, 2014 at 12:30 pm

      Insightful article Isio. The glass-ceiling must be shattered whether they like it or not. 🙂
      @ Que, you expressed my thoughts beautifully,nothing to add to the lovely comment you put up there.

    • Que

      November 18, 2014 at 3:51 pm

      Nne the ceiling no get choice!!! AMEN!

    • Easy n Gentle

      November 18, 2014 at 3:50 pm

      Some of my best and most efficient bosses have been women, and I really enjoyed being on their team. In retrospect, I think my happily married boss was loved and respected as compared to my single mum boss. I’m probably more feminist than most but I have no problem whatsoever with a lady boss, either younger or older, married or single. But there’s this lack of respect that oozes out from them sometimes that’s hard to deal with as a guy. No one is asking anyone to kneel down, but even a subordinate deserves respect in how you address them. If you’re going to give me a dressing down for something I did wrong, keep it work related, don’t be saying stuffs like “don’t you ever learn?” And letting it get out of that small circle that is work. It just spoils the team spirit and makes it harder to follow command. If i love/respect you, I’m more likely to give you my best than if I loathe/resent you

    • NIBU

      November 18, 2014 at 9:22 pm

      The question you really need to ask yourself is, “Would I have been offended if it was a man that said those things? I don’t know you but if I would guess: NO. I’ve worked with both male and female bosses in Nigeria and one thing remains clear: The misogyny prevalent in our culture often means that male bosses get away with doing things female bosses would never get away with. If there is one thing you must understand, its that feminism doesn’t mean liking women or having many female friends (most Nigerian males i’ve encountered seem to think this way), its knowing that both genders must be held to EQUAL levels of accountability, given EQUAL levels of responsibility and and afforded the SAME opportunity socially, politically and economically. Gender equality is not benevolence, it is a human right. Sorry to go on and on but I thought it was important for me to put this out there.

    • Easy n Gentle

      November 18, 2014 at 10:20 pm

      Fortunately I am not one to think feminism is about having female friends. I actually believe Women are stronger than men if only they could see it. I was raised by one of such women, my mother, and it opened my eyes. However we are social beings, and there is a social order that can not be over-emphasized enough. As much as a woman doesn’t want to be told she is ugly, even by a total stranger, I know a man wants to be respected. You tell a man he is ugly, he’s most likely going to laugh it off. A lady is yet to purge it out days later, 90percent of the time, It’s just a psyche thing. To now be disrespected by a lady, many men, especially the married ones wouldn’t take it well.

      I wouldn’t take as much offense if a guy said that, but she is not a guy, is she? (P.s. It was never said to me, I was a stellar employee). I felt really bad for my colleague and I was the only one he could voice to about how humiliating it feels. A women can not, and will not get the same oppurtunity socially because our social behaviour varies with our gender. Politically, economically, responsibility, I say Aye!

    • NIBU

      November 18, 2014 at 9:12 pm

      Thanks for this Que, taking notes!!!!!!

  7. bewildered in bonny

    November 18, 2014 at 11:29 am

    Which kain JAMB question be that? Of course not! He’s already shown poor professionalism, mobilizing to a site a week later than he was meant to, which means he would do it again and may even do worse this time around. Secondly, on meeting you again, he didn’t have the professional courtesy to address his grievance in a mature manner and or even apologize for his behavior. Thirdly, he tried to go behind you and snag your contract even after you brought him a client! What else do you need to know again?? Run for your life!

  8. miss max

    November 18, 2014 at 11:34 am

    I once had this experience and foolish me i still went ahead and used the woman, long story short, i regretted that decision. He has looked at you as one small girl wetin you know, that is how it will continue and both of you will have a terrible dramatic working relationship. I’d rather say my goodbyes and wish him well.

  9. Mz Socially Awkward...

    November 18, 2014 at 11:54 am

    In the first place, you already put that company forward for a job which they showed up late to so betwixt you and me, I consider them to be a completely unprofessional outfit (an hour of lateness may have been excusable with Lagos traffic, et al but showing up a week late … that’s a special situation) and don’t really know why they deserve another bite of the apple.

    Then factor in the gallery manager’s attitude and I’m done. You can’t brush it all under the covering of “but he’s an employee and shouldn’t cost the company business”. That’s the exact reason why we had that tirade regarding bad customer service a few weeks ago (actually, was it you who brought up the topic on a Tuesday?). He’s the face of the company that you’re dealing with and is capable of building or tarnishing the reputation of the company so feel free to put that responsibility of losing a good deal on him.

    And it’s not even a personal vendetta like that. Think of the difficulty of maintaining a working relationship with this person and how that can affect your overall service to your client. See, this is why companies have client relationship managers because business is not only about financially transactions. People do business with other people that they’re comfortable with (as well as keeping the quality of service/product in mind) and that’s how the world of commerce rotates. Individuals make or break business relationships because at the end of the day, we are human beings first of all.

    Finally, that niggling in your spirit about writing a few personal anecdotes about surviving the business world as a lady boss… sister, you are speaking my mind loudly and clearly. In fact, we need a BN special session on this one to compare notes, and Que please bring your own too and whoever else feels like unburdening in this particular area… a problem shared, and all that… 🙂

  10. amaa

    November 18, 2014 at 12:28 pm

    Have a talk with his boss I always say go straight up. Let him know what down at the shop floor. Let him also know that you have an option to work with someone else because the clients has giving you that authority to do so. Also have him know that if you where to pick them for the job there has to be a written commitment and a code of conduct signed by the petty attendant or else the deal is off. You need to start putting your foot down its better for people to underestimate you not to worry its a good thing because they do not see it coming.

  11. goldfinch

    November 18, 2014 at 12:30 pm

    “I noticed that he gave his contact to the client and tried dealing with him directly, but the client told him that he had to talk to me, as I was the designer, and that every aspect of production for the design had to pass through me. ”

    I really hate when businessmen try to stifle their middleman. If not for you will the said man have met the client? So why did he want to deal directly with your client in order to cut you out? I am so glad that your client was very professional, not every client is like that.
    Be very careful with that man Isio. If you must work with him, I advise that you make your conversations/decisions via email or in writing so that you can have proof in case of yawa and yes like @Que said, make sure you copy his boss!

  12. Tru

    November 18, 2014 at 3:06 pm

    Don’t use him. Biko. He won’t make your job easier for you, and he’ll stab you in the back the first chance he gets.
    And yes. It’s so hard being an attractive, single female in the corporate world. Folks won’t accord you the respect they would to a male colleague. you know what’s awful? You act nice, all the guys assume they can sleep with you. You act nasty, you’re automatically deigned a B—-. God help us to strike a balance.

  13. D

    November 18, 2014 at 3:16 pm

    Like Ms. SA said showing up late for a job is highly unprofessional so for me that is already a red flag and the fact that the said dude did not own up to it, I mean why bring it up like its your fault they did not show up for a job on time, for me that is another ding. I appreciate people owning up to their mistakes and that includes people that report to me. It tells me there is room for change as opposed to one that is not willing to admit the error of their way, That sort cannot improve/change since they don’t see a problem. Lastly, your gut, what does your gut tell you??? I mean you wrote this for a reason right? it shows you are not pleased like I tell people when the buck stops with you like this case you have to do what you feel is right. I understand not wanting to be a bad belle and all but if this guy cannot separate personal emotion from work then do you really want him??? and if he is not one to own up to his mistakes then I definitely would drop it like its hot. The buck stops with you, you have established expectations with your client; time wise, budget wise and product wise. and if you feel that this dude will in anyway affect the set expectation in any negative way it is time to let go. In any successful business is about the People first, so if you don’t have the right people working for you then it is only a matter of time…

  14. D

    November 18, 2014 at 3:23 pm

    ****BTW My last comment on the people is to the company that hired him if that is the attitude of the a manager then do you really want to be working with such a company*****

  15. Easy n Gentle

    November 18, 2014 at 3:56 pm

    I think Isio has decided on what to do, she’s however needing us to affirm that she’s making the right decision. I don’t think business should be mixed with emotion even though I agree that we are emotional beings and would do business with some we like over someone we don’t. Business is just that, business. We can hate each other after the job is done.

    I had difficult service providers too, but it’s about who ever gets the job done in good time with the best quality and a fair price. If I evaluate that his emotions might impede the quality of the job, then it’s time to move on to the next vendor. He might be the only one that has what she needs at the best price. But if he has a like for like alternative, it’s time to move on my dear.

  16. Segebee

    November 18, 2014 at 4:00 pm

    Talk to his boss…
    You run a company and would hire someone.
    A staff of yours could handle a client badly and lose you business.
    The boss could also refer clients to you.

  17. babygiwa

    November 18, 2014 at 5:47 pm

    Happy belated birthday Isio. I am of the opinion that you should speak with his boss, let him in on how badly behaved his employee is. Don’t brush off the company just like that cus as you said ‘business is business’.

  18. Ceemij

    November 18, 2014 at 8:02 pm

    Don’t think you will be able to work with such a person with such attitude on display. You are bringing business to him and he is ‘showing himself” ?thats enough to cut them off, why don’t you call his boss and let him know what is happening cos this is how they ruin business for people. I once went to Ikeja shopping mall to buy a microwave, the sales girls were nothing to write home about. I asked to see the manager to know if he had another brand or something. I actually needed to be convinced to take something of good quality. Can you believe that the manager barely raised his eyes up to see who was talking to him and all I could here is ‘whatever you see there is what we have’ . Of course, I left the shop and went to another more welcoming one. So in essence, if you can get his boss involved and let him know what you are facing, all well and good. But if not, my dear find someone willing to smile And do a good job while smiling again to the bank.

  19. duchess

    November 18, 2014 at 8:30 pm

    Like you said Isio, Business is Business…
    I have been in same situation and what i did was this: i called the very rude contractor and with a smile told him what was at stake i.e. his company loosing a hundreds of thousands in dollars, a run down reputation and bankruptcy as he will pay for damages and breach of contract…..then on a personal level, i told him if he did f* the job, i will ram a rod up his ass…..it was then his choice to tell me then if he was not going to be professional or personal…….By the time he considered what his bank balance will be if he executed the job well, his head got screwed on right

  20. cos I say so

    November 19, 2014 at 8:45 am

    The man is a two timing back stabbing lazy shoddy racist arrogant prick (excuse my french,couldnt be helped)but my dearest darlingest Isio if you feel that that shop is the best for the project you are about to embark on,then by all means work wit them but head over heart Isio… DO NOT work with that particular man
    Speak to the boss and find someone else to do the job,if he’s unfortunately the boss,then send him an email and let him know you won’t tolerate shoddiness on the job and that if he isn’t interested in working professionally,u would prefer to find someone else
    Do not be rude about it… just be firm!!! I sure say the guy head go correct when he sees he has more to lose
    And look at it this way babe,its a win-win situation… if he decides to back out after the mail… then you know that it would have been wrong to use him sef but if he decides to stay on,he’ll behave himself! you don’t need to be friends with him
    Lastly love u can just jejely take your business to your fellow naija man who will appreciate the business you bring to him,wont try to take your own customer in front of you and won’t look down on you because you are black or female!!!
    Good luck love… I gbadun you jare

  21. Firefly

    November 19, 2014 at 11:57 am

    This is very typical especially with foreigners or the so called expats. You don’t need to prove anything to him but you need to put him in his place. I think you should insist on working with him and showing him how it is done. No cutting corners,no showing up late to meetings, reply emails promptly. basically if he sees you are on top of your game and paying no mind to his petty behavior, he will attempt to keep up with you.

  22. Lady ID

    November 19, 2014 at 8:17 pm

    If you want to work with that particular company, you should ask for a different representative and possibly explain why you are making that request. This man is losing business for his employers and for reasons that are within his control.

    1. He showed up a week late for a project. Life happens but it sounds like he made no attempt to reschedule or keep you/your client in the loop. He also is not apologetic and willing to accept the responsibility.
    2. If he had an issue with you, the manner in which he approached you was unnecessary.
    3. He is trying to edge you out of your own project and has no qualms about doing so in your presence. Had your client been a different type of person, maybe this rep would have succeeded.

    Otherwise, you should explore the other companies in your network.

  23. Bobosteke & Lara Bian

    November 20, 2014 at 12:45 pm

    The cost of doing business sometimes requires we look beyond real or perceived personal slights. The business is bigger than us and should be the focus. You apparently have a grip on it but the other fella seems to have misplaced the memo. Thank God for clients who appreciate the finer etiquettes of doing business and did not join the employee in the “thou art the fawned” dance. Imagine if he had agreed to do business directly with the employee and left you standing there like one of the art works. I like the effort you are made by considering the history of your relationship with the owner of the business as well.

    The thing with slights as well is that they sometimes fester. Now combine that with a petty snide narcissist and you have major drama coming your way. How does this employee feature in the history of your relationship with his company? Remember. you have described a circle where people continually do business with each other, which means that people talk. You don’t know what he might have informed his boss on the previous issue and what may already be whispered on the present issue. Opinions are already being formed and would soon be touted as gospel. Don’t forget the client who may also be watching to see how you handle this. In as much as we say we don’t care what people say, your customers are your best billboard adverts: Larger than life and there for all to see.

    So, the question is what would you like people to see?

  24. Bobosteke & Lara Bian

    November 20, 2014 at 1:24 pm

    #you made in considering
    (apologies)

  25. G

    November 21, 2014 at 5:02 am

    Gut instinct are there for a reason….
    if you are certain it’s your instinct and not fear…
    I say listen to your GUT….

  26. itsjusme

    December 4, 2014 at 9:50 pm

    Business is definitely business but behavioural traits and business relationships are just as important…

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