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Rooting Out Tribalism At Workplace

Fa calendar 16 grey May 30, 2016   
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Almost ten years on the 2007 post election violence, we still look first at the name of the applicant, not their capability or qualification for office.

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The 2007 post election violence was evidence of the tribal split of the country, separating neighbours, tenants and landlords. Almost ten years on and especially in politics, we still look first at the name of the applicant, not their capability or qualification for office. To a large extent, this national context affects the mentality of job seekers.

It seems this problem of tribalism has been there for generations and will continue to be there without any real effort or hope that it can be corrected, as the tribalism monster has become too big to be fixed even by policymakers. Right so, the current government revised the 2007 Employment act to bring in into line with current issues facing the employed and those seeking jobs.

But a policy will not work by itself if we as individuals do not change our mindset on how we look at each other. If our first thought on seeing a stranger is to identify them by tribe, then how can we expect our practices to be unbiased in terms of race.

Most job seekers tend to favour companies or organisations that are run by majority of their ethnic community. This is not because they want to actually work in that company or organisation, but a feeling that they have a better chance of gaining employment where the employer comes from your tribe/community.

It is a sad situation that is exemplified by the political appointments, in university lecturers’ appointments, and the private sector to name a few. I think it will be nice for employers if the private and public sector also had an ethic code, obligating them not to discriminate on tribal lines.

Rooting Out The Problem

Employers who are serious about rooting out this problem could prompt a practice of applicants only listing their first and often English names, in their CVs, any test papers and job applications, thus removing the need for them to give tribe identifying information at least on documents which are used to determine scores or suitability for employment. This should not be difficult for the employer as all this information can be collected at a later time.

The prospective employee also has a duty to alter their perspectives on tribalism. While you are waiting for that job, learn about different tribes from real experiences and interactions with people of that tribe. Seek internships or join in community projects that will expose you to a wide range of people from different ethnic and social cultural backgrounds. In this way, you can start to value others for their innate and individual qualities.

The public service commission released a report in 2015, showcasing how public sector employment is done. It revealed that out on 42 tribes, only 4 were not represented in any post in civil services. These were the Garra, Galjeel, the Konso, and Leysan. In comparison to other tribes, these tribes are exceptionally small but also disadvantaged towards holding employment in other ways. Commenting on this report, Margaret Kobia, the chairperson of the public service commission, acknowledged that tribalism played a major factor in the imbalance of representation in civil service. She also highlighted that ‘education was one factor that continues to lock out minorities from civil jobs.

This report is a start towards acknowledging tribalism in employment. Removing tribalism out of employment might level the ground for applicants; however it still leaves the deeper issue of growing unemployment all over Kenya.

Author: Enock Kiprono

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