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Labour Law Doesn’t Make You a Corporate Star


"Are you part of the delusional 50% that often seem to make up the ranks of junior management?" asks Mosima Selekisho, a director at Talent Africa.

If you are happy to have one foot on the executive ladder and believe you now have it made, you’re in danger of falling into this category. Being comfortable in the early career comfort zone is understandable, but it won’t get you the next big promotion and early identification as one of tomorrow’s corporate leaders.

The other 50% – the ones destined for career success – look obsessive-compulsive by comparison. They are driven to out-perform, even though there is no obvious need to push the envelope. Herein lies the problem. BEE and labour law have helped to create a situation where doing just enough sometimes appears to be sufficient for job security and the perception of career progress.

South African Labour law makes it extremely difficult to fire someone for sub-par performance. Dismissal processes can be time-consuming and expensive. Often, it is less hassle for a corporate to live with the consequences of a hire that adds little value, let the individual carry out some routine duties and move him or her sideways.

These individuals know they are "fire proof" and may be content to go nowhere – at least, for now. For some, complacency is reinforced by a rather short-sighted reading of BEE policy. If you are smug and historically disadvantaged, you probably feel empowerment dynamics are working in your favour anyway, so there’s no need to try too hard.

Labour law may provide job security, but it won’t make them a top earner and an industry mover and shaker. You have to do that for yourself.

The upwardly mobile 50% retain this on-the-job focus even when they take on further studies. They hit the books at night, on weekends and during holidays without making this an excuse for non-attendance at key meetings and non-performance during the working week. Many major corporates expect a lot of sweat and the ability to deliver in two separate areas at once – without being stressed about it.

For years, smug insiders had assumed they were on the talent conveyor belt. They now have two, three, even five years of practical experience. They feel they are ready for the next step up. Unfortunately, that view is not shared by their superiors.

Now what do they do?

They can become embittered, stay on the job, do what they’ve always done and wait for their "talent" to be recognised. They can quit and take a new job – at much the same level and repeat the process all over again. Or they can wake up and cease being a corporate also-ran. By joining the 50% who over-achieve, they not only position themselves for promotion, they create huge long-term opportunities for themselves.

Stand out as a go-getter and you not only have a chance of a top job locally, you are well placed for international success.

L Abour Law

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Labour Law, Corporate Star

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