When an Employee Kisses Us Final Goodbye; Even the Last Expense Cover Never Means Anything

Tom Kamaliki | 20th July 2020

When an Employee Kisses Us Final Goodbye; Even the Last Expense Cover Never Means Anything

When an Employee Kisses Us Final Goodbye; Even the Last Expense Cover Never Means Anything

Tom Kamaliki | 20th July 2020


I vividly recall one time when I was doing my A-Levels when we received the sad news of the demise of our teacher, one beautiful young lady in her late twenties who had just been posted from Kenyatta University six months down the line. The somber moods in the school compound were registered allover because this was one cheerful young teacher with great leadership skills that promised a great future. As a footballer in the first 11 of the school, I recall how she used to cheer our team and especially when we beat the then number 2 football giants in Kenya, Musingu High School during the district finals on the Chavakali High School grounds. I remember very well when I took my History assignment to the staff room only to see teachers not talking to each other - a sign of something amiss. I could not believe the sad Saturday of madam’s final journey when I was given the responsibility to lead students in a common sad hymn originally sang by Joseph P Webster in 1868,

In the sweet bye and bye……we shall meet on the beautiful shore…………’

My friends reading this article are probably wondering about the background of this. It is true. The HR leads need to seriously dig deeper into this because of the impact it has on staff. More often, I have just seen condolence books and photos of staff at the front desk when we happen to lose a colleague. This is not enough.


The much-needed program is organization-wide staff psycho-social support. It is traumatic especially when you witness a colleague being lowered in that permanent house and the presiding Bishop crowns it with the quotation from the book of Job 7:8 where Job said,

and behold, the eye that sees me now, will not see me anymore.


Maybe you have witnessed this and the trauma it comes along with.  I am saying this because, on Saturday 18th July 2020, Kenya woke up to sad news of the sudden demise of a popular and humorous comedian, Papa Shirandula (Charles Bukeko) of Citizen TV under Royal Media Services. Papa, despite being an international VIP ever since he advertised for Coca-Cola, merely took the role of a watchman in the Papa Shirandula comedy show though in his family ( still within the storyline)  and village in Mumias ( not his real home), he projected himself as the company’s IT Manager. When leaving the workplace in the evening, on a bicycle, he could disappear in a bush and change into a three-piece suit while going home. His sudden demise has touched everyone in my house because we love his humor. However, what touched me the most is the way his untimely demise has affected his fellow employees at Citizen TV and Royal Media Services at large. The footages at Karen hospital, where he was pronounced dead on arrival, showed devastating moods especially from those he closely acted with, Papa being the program lead and scriptwriter. I particularly felt for Njoro (Njoroge- not his real name) and Awinja (not her real name) who totally broke down. Not forgetting Wilbroder (not her real name) who for many years acted as Papa’s wife. 


It was no better for Jalango ( not his real name but he has adopted it), the radio presenter at Radio Africa, who was mentored by Papa in the comedy life during the early stages of the Papa Shirandula comedy. During the 9.00 pm news at Citizen TV on that very Saturday, I felt for Victoria Rubadiri, the news anchor, who broke down while flagging out various Papa’s past series. Victoria was wise enough to immediately switch to advertisements and marketing, just to re-compose herself. That is the reason why I am strongly recommending organization-wide staff psycho-social support in such sad times because of the trauma it is likely to cause to staff.


HR guys let us seriously think about this. In addition to this, it is important that we in HR keep in constant touch with the family of the departed employee for at least 4 months, just as a way of comforting them. And in case the employee had a child or a sibling who is qualified in some areas, this is where HR should go beyond interviews and show sympathy. Just to touch the hearts of the family members of the departed colleague.  It is not just a matter of the Last Expense insurance cover. At some point, we lost an employee in one of the organizations where I worked. It was devastating to all employees and especially when I was tasked with leading in a hymn during the last journey. I almost regretted why I chose ‘ I’m Pressing on the Upward Way which we sang in Kiswahili,  

‘Mbele Ninaendelea, Ninazidi kutembea …..’

By the time this hymn touches the chorus, it is a different story altogether,

‘…… Eee Bwana uniinue, kwa imani nisimame………..  ’.

For those who know how the song goes in Kiswahili, it is too emotional. All the employees were in tears while the son to the departed colleague, a third-year at the university by then, was staring in disbelief. As everything was going on, my thoughts were on this graduate in anticipation. I assured him of an internship, which we fulfilled and after he finished college, we absorbed him in some of the junior positions that were available, just as a humane gesture to the family so that the boy could support his widowed mother.


My fellow HR colleagues, at times we need to have informal policies where recruitment should go beyond the interview process for certain lower and entry cadres to accommodate such social issues. Yes, it is possible, and yes it is doable and that is how HR should strive to make a difference at the workplace.     


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

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