Paternalism & Maternalism ‘Directors’; Is This What Makes You Wake Up Early To A Workplace?

Tom Kamaliki | 27th July 2020

Paternalism & Maternalism ‘Directors’; Is This What Makes You Wake Up Early To A Workplace?

Paternalism & Maternalism ‘Directors’; Is This What Makes You Wake Up Early To A Workplace?

Tom Kamaliki | 27th July 2020


Paternalism or maternalism, whichever that you are as you read this article, is a practice on the part of people in authority, of restricting the freedom and responsibilities of those subordinates to, or otherwise depend on them in their supposed interest. In other words, it is playing ‘workplace favorite boy or favorite girl’. In most cases, it takes the path of racism, tribalism, or nepotism. Imagine that is the queen or king that you and I are, at our respective workplaces- with all these MBAs and even Ph.D.’s.  Shame on us!


I vividly recall one driver at one of the organizations that I worked for, who was ‘a favorite boy’ and very powerful such that Heads of Department had to go by his word if their projects had to run well, especially matters logistics. I rubbished it because it was big nonsense to me. I remember one day a Director’s program was canceled because he never included this driver in the one-week project outside Nairobi, just because of Daily Subsistence Allowance. It was not until the Director, a whole head of department, dropped one driver in favor of this ‘favorite boy’ that the project kicked off. I am underlining ‘Favorite Boy’ because such people are very dangerous at workplaces. This ‘favorite boy’ always played the role of ‘American  CIA’, or the ‘Israel Mossad’ such that any time he could come where you are story-telling, you had to change the topic, otherwise the story will reach the boss within the shortest time possible, and of course with exaggeration because he had to gain mileage out of it. Just to be seen he is perfectly doing his work. My fellow HR profs, HOD’s and CEOs reading this article, why do we behave in a manner suggesting that our parents wasted their time and finances investing in our upbringing and education only to be a total disgrace? This reminds me of one Dr. Sigmund Freud, an Austrian Neurologist born to Jewish parents living in Austria (1856-1939) and his Psychoanalysis theory which I learned in the unit of Psychology at my undergraduate. The theory states that the human mind is in three parts: the id (most uncivilized part), the ego, and the super-ego. The Id is when the child’s brain has not developed, and hence the child can act unconsciously. The ego is the child stage in human development while the super-ego is the adult stage in human development. Thanks to the development of HR which later picked up Sigmund Freud’s theory and related it to the behavior of managers at the workplace. That there are managers who operate in the Id stage such that they do not care about their actions and the decisions they make is no impossibility. They are psychopathic in the real sense of life because according to Sigmund Freud, a psychopath gets pleasure in doing uncivilized things like goes somewhere and smiles at what they have done. Just like the Al-Shabaab and Al-Qaeda leaders when they happily announce being responsible for a certain bombing, there are also those of us managers who operate in the Child-Ego.   The behavior of a child in this Sigmund Freud’s theory is that children feel insecure and curious and would always want to:


  1. Report other children to their parents or
  2. Want to find out what the other children say about them


Allow me not to explain the Adult Ego because it is obvious.  This is where true leaders fall- people who make sense out of nonsense.  Not people who make nonsense out of sense.


So according to Sigmund Freud, as we grow up, we tend to carry with us the traits and behavior from our early stages in life as children. Some people outgrow these traits along the way as they mature to the Adult Ego while others never. They carry the child’s traits into their adult lives where they keep on behaving like children. So this driver and this boss are still operating in Child Ego; the driver is still reporting his colleagues to the boss, just the way children report their fellow siblings to their parents, and when they do report them, they expect the parents to punish their siblings! This is their joy. On the other side, the boss is still operating in the child's ego in that he feels insecure and that is why he has planted this driver to feed him with information on what people say about him. Of course, the driver has benefited a lot from this ‘Noble’ assignment. I wish not to delve deeper into this.


I know you are operating in the Id and Child Ego stages at the workplace. You have made people shed tears in their lives. You have made people’s lives uncomfortable at the workplace for too long. My simple advice is, just retreat to a solitary place, reflect on the pain you have caused your colleagues, ask God for forgiveness, and transform yourself. If possible, reach out to this brother/sister with a call, a modest ‘I’m sorry ’perhaps. We all wake up to hustle with the morning traffic jam for the sake of our families. Yours is in no way more superior than mine.


The writer is an HR Generalist at Director Level with Consulting skills having over 10 years in Senior Management.

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