Ask Watt is a safe space to anonymously ask any question you might have about work life

We aim for Ask Watt to be a place that enables all in the sector to find support and an understanding that there are others who are facing the same challenges as you, you are not alone. We hope this emboldens more of us to seek support but also drive changes both big and small in our organisations through starting to establish sector norms. We are supported by Convergent Consulting to ensure a focus on inclusivity as we answer each question.

 

Questions that have reached us:

Is it appropriate for managers to get into bed with the junior staff (mostly field) by making false promotional promises, salary increment and not firing the staff for poor performance?

Thanks for having the courage to send us this question. Firstly, we would like to make absolutely clear that this behaviour is not appropriate and in no circumstances can be considered so. We also want to make clear that any actions taken, as a person affected, must prioritise your own safety and remember: you are not alone in facing this.

We may have seen this type of behaviour condoned by politicians and others in authority as it is discussed and spread  in the press or social media. However we must be clear, this behaviour is an abuse of power, whether it is consensual or not, and is sexual harrasment.  In the case you have described, this/these manager(s)  are using the power of their positions to gain sexual favours. There may also be other cases where someone uses less formal power or privilege, such as having been employed at the company longer, to gain the same. 

There can, and will be, consensual relationships between colleagues, however workplaces must ensure that these are being flagged to prevent a conflict of interest.  In the case of manager/junior staff there must be no management connection that could cause an influence in how the staff member is treated – such as being able to give promotions or lack of accountability for poor performance that you describe. However no one, whether in direct management or indirect, should be offering these to gain any favour with junior staff.

For the scenario you describe, the course of action depends on if you are observing or if this is happening to you – with both,  we advocate zero judgement and should always ensure the person who is directly affected is and feels safe.

If this is happening to you: 

The behaviour described is clear sexual harrassment and is against the employment act (in this case we are referencing Ugandan Law  but it is similar across East Africa- see Kenya example in the references below). The Ugandan Employment Act States:

“(1) An employee shall be sexually harassed in that employee’s employment if that employee’s employer, or a representative of that employer— (a) directly or indirectly makes a request of that employee for sexual intercourse, sexual contact or any other form of sexual activity that contains— (i) an implied or express promise of preferential treatment in employment; (ii) an implied or express threat of detrimental treatment in employment ; (iii) an implied or express threat about the present or future employment status of the employee; 

(2) If an employee is sexually harassed in any way described in subsection(1) by the employer or employer’s representative, the employee is entitled to lodge a complaint with a labour officer and the labour officer shall have the powers to make all of the orders he or she could have made if the complaint was a complaint about unjustified disciplinary penalty or unjustified dismissal.”

Your company policies should also have clear guidelines  on the action to take in line with the Employment Act. This should be to set up a meeting with HR to talk through what is happening, remember you can take a representative with you to this meeting, you do not need to go alone. If you feel uncomfortable taking this to HR is there a manager you feel safe to take this to? Or a grievance email you can use for the first step?

If you are a bystander:

As you have read above, this behaviour, as also stated in the employment act, is sexual harrassment. Depending on your relationship with the person this is happening to, it might impact what action you take. If you know them well and feel that you can be someone they can talk to with a sense of safety, then are you able to bring up this subject with them? Listen to them about what is happening and together with them look at opportunities for them to get support and report it to HR or the Labour Office, remember they need to spend some time processing the situation and understanding that an abuse of power is happening, stay connected to them and don’t judge them. If you are not close to them, this type of behaviour should be reported within your organisation however you feel safe to do so, as it is not a grievance against you the most applicable route might be using your whistleblowing policy.

We hope you are ok and safe, remember you are not alone in facing this behaviour, and that by reporting it and highlighting it we are able to support each other in reducing its occurrences. This behaviour should never be considered appropriate.

Resources:

Ugandan Employment Act

EMPLOYMENT ACT– 2007 (Kenya)

THE KENYAN WORKER AND THE LAW

How to Heal From Sexual Harassment in the Workplace (verywellmind.com)

Uganda Lagging on Protecting Women Workers | Human Rights Watch

How can we get more people to care about gender/race??

I think  many of us are grappling with this question. We ourselves are struggling to get people to commit time to support safe energy spaces, an initiative we see as crucial for building healthy workplaces. So in this answer we are learning together  🙂  

I think  many of us are grappling with this question. We ourselves are struggling to get people to commit time to support safe energy spaces, an initiative we see as crucial for building healthy workplaces. So in this answer we are learning together  🙂  

From our experience there’s usually 2 groups:

1. The “overwhelmed by society’s issues” -In a world with so many things to care about, all the time,it’s hard to get people focused. We know there are huge overwhelming challenges for humanity like climate change, growth of tech giants  or major political fallout leading to war and mass displacements . These things feel huge and they can cloud out room for other issues. These people are in some ways the easiest and hardest to convince. They already care about social issues so you may not need to convince them of the problem. However they are probably already giving so much of their time, money and attention to social issues it’s hard to justify including one more. We think that the best way to get engagement here would be to formulate concrete action that you want them to take, give them the one useful thing they could do and make it SMART 🙂 specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time bound. They will appreciate removing the extra thought work and being able to do something tangible.

2. The “ post equity/post race” thinkers: Some people just don’t see any issues of gender / race.  Have you heard this one before? “women are already equal..what more do you want”, “ we are post racial..i don’t understand why you keep banging on about it”. Many people do not  understand the race/ gender dynamics that persist. We aren’t saying that no progress has been made..of course we have made huge progress, and we should remember and celebrate what we have accomplished, but the work isn’t over. For example UN women estimates that “Over 2 billion women don’t have the same employment options as men. At the current rate, it will take about a century to close the global pay gap.” and “According to 2016 research from the Pew Research Center, Only 36% of White Americans identified racial discrimination as a major limiting factor in Black lives. Further, many White Americans believe discrimination against Whites is at least as prevalent as discrimination against Blacks.” we’d be curious to see Africa specific data ( we couldn’t find any) but suspect it would be too different. 

With this second  group perhaps the best approach is one of information and education, whilst also being willing to listen to why they think there is no longer a problem and understand where they are coming from to be able to guide them. One thing that can help is to be clear on why race and gender issues (still) matter. That way you are in a position to influence conversation and perhaps change some minds. Here are a few reasons to care about gender and race in the workplace and at the end of the page are some resources we hope can be helpful to help and guide others. Let start with race, not caring about of addressing issues of race and racism at work can 

  • Stifle creativity- diverse teams have been proven to be more creative as they are comfortable to bring more ideas to the table to create a sustainable business.
  • Negatively affect all employee’s morale, mental and physical health leading to absenteeism, high turnover etc. a toxic work culture is bad for everyone, not just those directly affected.
  • Is bad for business- a toxic work culture will get talked about and that can only be bad for the business’s image, customer and stakeholder relationships, attracting employees and future work.

How about gender

  • Once again creativity and productivity can be stifled by lack of gender diversity, which still persists in workspaces
  • Creating a wider talent pool whilst increasing reputation easing recruitment and retention
  • enhancing collaboration- team with women have been shown to be more collaborative
  • Higher profits- According to McKinsey, the most gender-diverse companies are 21% more likely to experience above-average profitability.

We also want to recognise the “detractors”. Those who know the need for and benefits of race and gender equity but view this progress as detrimental to their personal ambition achieved through how the world and workplace has advantaged them to date. They do not have the long term view to understand that improving everyone’s condition improves theirs and their organizations. We prefer not to focus on this group, we believe there is  little to be gained here and hope they are a minority. Instead we focus our energy on those who we can help to create the changes they want to and influence those we can to understand better the change needed.

Remember progress on race and gender equity has and will  take time. People need to move away from the two extremes mentioned above,  we can also encourage others and ourselves to start with one small step. For example This article shares some helpful tips on how to start the work of gender equity at home. It’s not easy to get people to care, we hope by starting with demonstrating positive impacts of addressing gender and race you can influence others.

Resources:

What should we do if systems and their checks are biased in favour of those who created them? How are leaders kept self aware of the impact of their bias such as creating demotivated employees with low productivity?

What a question! We have to admit, this question is a tough one – most articles and advice out there is designed to tell leaders as management how to be unbiased and more self aware and requires that management lead in this aspect. However in the words of Benjamin Zander, “you can lead from any chair” and so we shall respond in this approach and with a mindset of possibility! What this question clearly highlights is that no one is free of bias, it is inherent in us all and unchecked can become inherent in the systems we create and companies we build. 

If you can see issues with  systems and their checks, then step one is to find a way to express the issue – what is the impact and consequence of it? As you noted in your question, the bias within the system is impacting employees and creating a feeling of demotivation, which in turn seems to be creating low productivity. This is then  likely to have negative  consequences for the company. Getting clear on your understanding of the issue and framing it within behaviour/issue, impact and consequence enables you to have a clear story to bring to management. An example of framing behaviour, impact, consequence is: by not requiring gender balance of candidates at interview stage, you are hiring from an unbalanced pool that enables unconscious bias and will be unlikely to change the gender balance in the company.

As well as looking at the issue at hand, be clear about  what you are aiming at. Reflecting on these questions might help: 

  • What is your goal in trying to change the process or system? 
  • What does the ideal organisational culture look like for you (and why)?
  • How could this be reflected in its systems?

Once you have clearly understood the direction you think the organisation should be going in and why, and how the systems are preventing it – your issue, impact, consequence story – you have two initial routes to take: 

1) ensuring you implement within yourself and your team – where you have that level of influence,
2) and attempt to influence management. 

Starting with oneself

Are you ensuring your own self awareness? Maybe set time aside every week to look at what you wrote down as your ideal organisation and write down actions you have taken that align and those that don’t so you know how you want to change yourself and ensure that you are leading by example. 

An example of this might be how you enter meetings – do you always greet everyone the same? Can you reflect on the week past to ensure you did?  

Beyond your own self awareness

If you are managing a team, how can you create awareness with them? This could be through creating a team meeting (in small focus groups if you have a large team), asking for their feedback and ensuring you are listening to their issues. Are there systems you can redesign together with your own team to address their issues, or utilise this input to address the issue with management? Can you set this as a monthly session with your team so you can stay aware and they have a space to safely discuss issues and solutions? 

A simple example of this could be if the same person in your team is always taking minutes in meetings, if the team member brings this up or you become aware of it, can you change how you hold team meetings so that there is a rota of who takes minutes? Can you then initiate this change at organisational level?

Influencing management

This will depend on your role and how your organisation is structured to receive feedback. If you are within management, can you ask to set a time aside in a management meeting to bring up your issue/impact/consequence story and also bring up your clear vision of where systemic change could take the organisation, can you ask that this be a regular part of the agenda? 

If you are not in management, is there someone within management that you are comfortable talking to where you can bring up issues candidly, and show you are keen to be part of the solution through reviewing and redesigning systems. If you bring it up with someone in management, note down to yourself when and how you brought it up and if it is a meeting, ensure you end it with a set time to discuss again and clear next steps on both sides. 

If you are unable to directly bring it up with management can you bring feedback through another channel – HR? Feedback survey? Feedback box? 

Remember, change doesn’t happen by a one off meeting or action. To enable change in the workspace you will have to be consistent: both in checking in with your actions and those of others, and in implementing solutions with yourself, your team and management. 

Keep going and don’t lose heart, but remain conscious of what is inside and outside of your influence. If after trying you feel you are unable to influence management and that the organisation is not aligned with your values, maybe it’s time to invest your energy in finding an organisation that is.

10 Ways to Mitigate Bias in Your Company’s Decision Making (hbr.org)

5 ways to reduce unconscious bias in the workplace (iii.ie)

Working with People Who Aren’t Self-Aware (hbr.org)

Are there any articles, books or publications that discuss or address specifically cross generational conflict at work which you can recommend?

Thanks for sending in this question, this is very applicable in the workspace today and I am sure something we all face as different generations bring together different values, communication styles and management styles. In the future we hope to have an active database of resources available for you with one click, Ask Watt is just the start to enabling that, here are some suggestions that we have for you at the moment:

Books:

Manage the Gap: Achieving success with intergenerational teams, Steve Butler

Articles:

Six guidelines for resolving intergenerational conflict at work – TechRepublic

ClearPath Benefit Advisors | Employee Benefits Columbus Ohio | How to Manage Intergenerational Conflict in the Workplace (clearpathbenefits.com)

How to Manage a Multi-Generational Team

“How do I ask or push for what I deserve at work?”

This is a great question. Sometimes we can feel like we aren’t getting what we would like out of our jobs. Perhaps you think you deserve a raise, or more free time perhaps you want a bit more responsibility or recognition for the great work you have been doing. It can be hard to just come out and say these things particularly if you aren’t in the most supportive work space.

The most important thing is to do all your homework before you start the process.  The first thing to get clear is what do you feel you deserve? Write down your 2-3 big “asks” making them very clear to yourself and try to justify to yourself why you feel you deserve them and why are they important to you? This will help you start to make a case. Next, sound them out with a colleague, peer or mentor, sometimes it helps to have a sounding board and it gives you another opinion to help build you up for the big “ask”. Next you need to think about which of your “asks” are deal breakers and which you are willing to negotiate on. Perhaps you are willing to take more time off in lieu of higher wages? Knowing what you are willing to live with or without will really help you when negotiating.

Once you have done all this prep, be brave and ask! Start with your direct supervisor, perhaps in a joint meeting with someone from HR. Do your biggest and most important ask first and definitely the deal breaker too, make sure you put all your asks on the table at that meeting. If you keep adding “one more thing after the fact” you may look undecided. Remember if you don’t get an outright ‘Yes’ at the time you can ask if you still have options, find out what it would take to get what you want? If they say not now, ask when you can revisit the conversation.

Some resources to help
How to Ask Your Boss for Anything (+ the Templates You’ll Need to Ask)
How to Ask for What You Want at Work — And Actually Get It

How can I tell if someone’s behavior is inappropriate? Could it just be their personality, are they joking? What should I do?”

If you are questioning someone’s behaviour then first check in with yourself – does the behaviour make you feel uncomfortable? If so, then how? Is this person in a position of power/authority? Has this happened before or is this the first time?

As you check in with yourself, you could take a note of the situation, this can help you gain clarity and have a record of what happened. Ensuring you track date, situation/environment, what happened and how it made you feel – your feelings are legitimate. 

It might help you to define the behaviour, does your company have an employee handbook or HR policies that you can refer to to understand where this behaviour fits? If not you could also read this resource to help you look to define the behaviour. Please note this link is UK based and has been used due to its clear definitions, for all legal aspects you shall have to refer to your countries employment act.

Following checking in with yourself and defining the behaviour, you have a few options:

  1. If you feel safe and comfortable to do so, can you bring up the behaviour with the individual? You can ask them what they meant by the behaviour (was it a joke?) and give them the opportunity to correct it. Clarify how it made you feel and your boundary/limit(that this is inappropriate to you). We understand this action may be more unlikely if it is your own manager or someone else that is in power. 
  2. If they are, are you able to talk to your manager about it or a peer? They can then give you the support to take the next step to approach your manager or HR feeling less alone. If you just talk to your peer without taking action there is unlikely to be a shift in the situation, so use this as a way to gain confidence and support in taking action. And if possible talk to HR or a Manager who you feel safe approaching if you do not have an HR. Or is there another route that you can submit employee issues – maybe there is a grievance channel? If the incident is a grievance (as per the policies you looked up above) remember you are allowed to take a companion to all meetings so that you are not alone.

Ensure whenever you bring it up it is in a professional setting, if possible a quiet meeting room. However, if you are a one room office maybe there is a space just outside it that you are able to have a quiet conversation still seen as an “office” location? 

And as you go through this remember: your feelings are legitimate and protecting yourself is your first priority.

Additional Resources:
About The Framework — Just Work (justworktogether.com)
Stop Making Excuses for Toxic Bosses (hbr.org)
When and How to Respond to Microaggressions (hbr.org)

“My job pays the white people in my office more than they pay us even though it feels like we are doing the same job. No one wants to address this openly but my colleagues talk about it alot outside work. Should we approach HR?”

This is a difficult place to be because the issues of race and justice are very hard for many people to speak about (in any sector) and pay is always a sensitive subject too. Firstly are you able to gather any information that can help to either prove your suspicion or not? Ask yourself, how can you know if this is a real situation, how can i know for sure? Could you perhaps talk to your colleagues? Do they have any concrete information? Is there an ally who would approach HR with you to get some clarity?

We would advise that you approach the topic as a discussion on equal pay and resist the urge for confrontation. Go to your direct manager (if you can) to talk about how you are feeling and any information you might have. Then make suggestions to avoid these issues in the future. You could  suggest pay transparency through them being published openly or other ideas that would make you feel more comfortable with the situation/address the problem. Remember this is not only good for you..pay equity has been shown to be good for business too. The resource at the end can give you more information and help you to think about potential solutions.

If your manager is unwilling to help then  take this to HR or a senior manager you feel you can speak to. There is  information coming out about lack of racial justice in energy access,so  it’s possible there is a problem and that you aren’t the only person affected by it. Whilst we acknowledge this is not an easy conversation to have, we encourage you to engage openly with your employer, bring facts and data where you can and work with them to find a solution you are satisfied with.

Additional Resources:
What Is Pay Equity?
How to Identify — and Fix — Pay Inequality at Your Company
How to Promote Racial Equity in the Workplace

 

We need your input

This is a start, but we want and need to do more.

We want to create safe work spaces for everyone. We know that we need to work together to create better Inclusivity in energy access, across organisations, institutions and all stakeholders within the ecosystem.

To do this we need your input, we need your help to understand what makes you feel safe at work. To kick off we have a survey click here.

We wait for your questions

If you are interested in talking to us on this and other initiatives, we would love to hear from you. Let’s discuss how we can work together and how we can support your initiatives or share your experiences, please reach out. You can also reach us
by email: safeenergyspaces@gmail.com
by whatsapp at +254 798 824402

We can’t wait to hear your ideas, questions and any programmes or initiatives you are working on. 

Responsible for the content of this page: safeenergyspaces@gmail.com