Man about town

‘Scandalous dressing’ and open floor office: New job culture shock

I have to get used to this. FILE PHOTO | NMG
I have to get used to this. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

I am now one week old in my new company. It all seems so daunting. After a decade of working for a local company, I will now be working for a multinational and from the look of things, I have quite some learning to do.

The first thing that stunned me was the office set up- everything is open plan. In fact, my desk looks quite modest at the corner -nothing like my former office. The HR manager, a guy by the name George told me: “We are embracing the new working philosophy where people work openly and easily.” I did not know what to say since my mind was already processing the fact that I will no longer be able to make and receive calls regarding home matters. This will surely be an adjustment.

The second issue for me has been parking. Previously, I never had to worry about what time I come to the office since I had a designated parking space. Here, no one, except the CEO, has a designated parking spot- it is a first come, first served arrangement. Now this has been a bit problematic for me since by the time I arrive (after doing the school run) the ‘good’ slots are gone. Once again, I was told that this arrangement was meant to promote “equality and fairness”. I guess it is one of the things I will have to get used to.

Another is the reporting arrangement. From the look of things, I have two bosses who work here in Nairobi and one who is based in South Africa in what is called a “matrix arrangement.” I had to ask George: “How does one allocate their time and resources for two bosses?” He said, “both of them are equally important, but make sure that your local boss has nothing to escalate about you to the regional boss.”

This matrix arrangement has also meant that I will need to learn and use new technology. This office seems to do everything through telepresence and teleconferencing, which is different from my previous employer.


George gave me all manner of earphones and codes to help me make the relevant calls and attend the virtual meetings.

The other part of my induction has been very mundane - just the usual paperwork process. There was an interesting moment though when one of the ladies in HR asked me about my next of kin.

She asked me: “You seem to think highly of your mother?” I asked her, “Why?” She laughed and said: “You seem to give her a vast percentage of your benefits. Why is that?” I proceeded to tell her: “But you know my mother is everything.” She then proceeded to lecture me about the need to “carefully consider my choices.” Let’s just say by the time she was done, I realised that I needed to drop this fixation with my mother and instead include Shiro and maybe one of my brothers.”

I will also have to learn how to dress differently because here every day is dress down. I noticed that most of the men wear jeans while the women put on what my former colleagues would call scandalous.

I have to get used to this and also to not having a ‘tea girl.’ - I have to make it myself. Clearly, this is a new culture for me.