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Osisiye Tafa: How to Build a Happy Workplace



Osisiye Tafa at work

Recently, I left my cool job in a tech company where we had a minibar and no dress code and moved to…a bank?!

It’s been hard man; late hours, wear a tie, wear a jacket but worse of all, folks are stiff!

It’s 2:33 p.m. and I am having a conversation with my Group Head and the issue is not my appraisal, it’s not my career growth, it’s…my hair!

Somehow, my hair is worth a 30-minute meeting and we are talking about how my hair needs to be combed more frequently, how we can prevent tufts of it from standing off at awkward angles and how we can make my hair ‘inspire trust in our customers’.

After this meeting, I was certain about one thing, these folks had to lighten up.

I considered different ways to achieve this:

  1. Have dancers show up at the office and wriggle on the aisles skimpily clad
  2. Play some music from the ceiling speakers, something real preppy like ‘Shakiti Bobo’

But these were not cutting it; it had to be something subtle, something they were unconscious of yet with the power to influence.

On my drive home, it occurred to me; alcohol. Somehow, I had to give my dear, beautiful banker colleagues alcohol in a way that was deliberate yet unknown, in copious amounts yet odourless and consistently without the need to request.

A few options were readily available:

  1. Powdered alcohol: cyclodextrins, a synthetic carbohydrate derivative.
  2. Alcohol Pills: encapsulated cyclodextrins

Any of these could be placed in the area between the can and nozzle of the general office dispenser.

Next part that bothered me was this, having people consume water laced with alcohol for just 3 work days means the average staff would be consuming about 60% of their own weight in alcohol. I feared they would unknowingly get dependent on the lightness this would bring, miss that feeling during the weekend, probably look for alcohol during the weekend and become alcoholics without meaning to. I want my colleagues to be happy, not alcoholics, not that I have anything against alcoholics, I just think dependence of any type should be a conscious decision.

And then I got some insight. If I step out today and I get hit by a car and I break my hip, I’ll be taken to hospital and I’ll be given loads of diamorphine. Diamorphine is heroin. And I’ll be given it for quite a long period of time. And if what we believe about addiction is right –I should become an addict after my hip heals, right? Well, that doesn’t happen. The reason being that people do not get addicted to stuff when they have connected and balanced lives.

The rest was easy. I came in on a Saturday, placed the pills (4 of them) at the point where you lift the water can off a water dispenser. I placed them in the dark sides so if anyone had to change the water can, they would notice nothing. Actually, nobody looks that closely when changing a water dispenser’s can.

On Monday, I resumed late. I had a book reading the day before and these events drain you. I came in and my Group Head was at the printer. I was surprised; normally his secretary handled tasks like this. I ran to him and offered to help with his printing but he rubbed my hair (just as you would that of your favourite shaggy dog) and told me it was fine, that he wanted to do this. As an afterthought, he looked at me and said, ‘Nice hair texture’.

After that, things have greatly improved. My Line Manager recently called me and said he felt my constant lateness was fine. In his words ‘From a matter of aesthetics, 8:45 really looks good on the attendance register considering the curves and slants rather than 8:00 with the double, boring zeros’. My colleague had an idea the other day that helped us increase our bottom line by 25%. Management just congratulated everyone on my floor for our innovative ideas. Maybe it is not right the way my female colleague sometimes starts dancing midway typing a memo. Maybe it’s all in my head but Ope suddenly drinks more water than I remember, is there a chance she can tell the water is “different”? Maybe my Line Manager laughs too often but we are all happy and productive, isn’t that all that matters?

Note: Johann Harri’s TED Talk, ‘Everything You Know About Addiction is Wrong’ and Bruce Alexander’s ‘Rat Park Experiment’ was drawn on for this story. Original article available here.

Note: Osisiye writes creative non-fiction. This means this story is a mix of real life and fiction, to be specific, 60% real life and 40% fiction.

Photo Credit: Dreamstime | Gstockstudio1

Osisiye Tafa is a banker by day, and writer by night. He has been published on The Guardian, Kalahari Review, The Culture Trip, Arts & Africa, BusinessDay, Y-Naija among others. He writes faction - fictionalized telling of actual events - which he shares on his TinyLetter journal. His debut book, ‘Sixty Percent of a True Story’ is available on Amazon and Roving Heights


  1. jcole

    September 10, 2015 at 12:01 pm

    This nicca works in my bank, rough n haggard-looking all the time

    • unrashon

      September 10, 2015 at 12:15 pm

      hahaha, true that.


      September 11, 2015 at 9:17 am

      You are a terrible person , after reading the write up all you have to say is what has nothing to do with what you read #youareapatheticperson# . If you care to know Tafa is an intelligent person so who cares .

  2. Joy

    September 10, 2015 at 12:09 pm

    Yeah!!!! i work in a bank too and i know how straight jacketed we can be … infact if u borrow me some of the pills i ll be sure to arrange with the fresh fruit guy that supplies us daily to fix in their drinks… besides my department is supposed to be an ideas hub so it wont hurt a bit to indulge them mehn!!!

    Nice write up.. thumbs up

  3. TA

    September 10, 2015 at 12:11 pm

    This is so hilarious!

  4. mz_daniels

    September 10, 2015 at 1:14 pm

    I hope this don’t affect your career negatively. When in Rome, act like the Romans but don’t loose you acting like the Romans


    September 10, 2015 at 1:15 pm

    walahi i fell off my chair laughing so hard, i need to compose myself before my colleagues think i am high on cheap weeds.

  6. Ola Amosu

    September 10, 2015 at 1:31 pm

    Nice write up bruv!… so funny

  7. Toyin O

    September 10, 2015 at 2:43 pm


  8. ona

    September 10, 2015 at 3:08 pm

    I just love the write up.

  9. Tosin

    September 10, 2015 at 3:35 pm

    i considered working in a bank. after how many hours in the building the interview day i felt like jumping out of the xyz’th floor window.
    woah, there are all kinds of crazy mennn, bank crazy will never be my crazy.

  10. Tunmi

    September 10, 2015 at 4:22 pm

    I enjoyed this

  11. missdodo

    September 10, 2015 at 4:40 pm

    Very interesting read! Perhaps you may want to put some of that capsule in the dispenser at my office. lol.

  12. Gaia

    September 10, 2015 at 7:11 pm

    I can just imagine how everyone on your floor go dey useside eye look you after this…

  13. winneR

    September 14, 2015 at 8:10 pm

    This was not funny to me…..fizzled out just as it was gaining momentum.

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