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Opinions of Thursday, 27 July 2017

Columnist: John Afoun

The demise of civility at the Electoral Commission

Electoral Commission Chair, Charlotte Osei Electoral Commission Chair, Charlotte Osei

The infighting within the top management at the Electoral Commission and the petition to impeach and remove the chairperson, Mrs. Osei from office is very sad and unfortunate. It appears there is a culture of distrust, disrespect and disregard for authority.

Could it be that the deputy commissioners had a free ride, did their own thing and were not held accountable under the previous chairperson? Could it be that Mrs. Charlotte Osei is trying to clean house and ensure accountability? And by so doing have upset her deputies? Could it also be that Mrs. Osei’s management style is autocratic, iron – lady approach?

In any event, how did things get this way? What can be done to promote a more civil and respectful workplace culture at the electoral commission? Removing Mrs. Osei is not the answer in my opinion. We should not forget how this woman and her team work hard to ensure a successful and peaceful election last year.

Everyone at the commission including the Chairperson, Mrs. Osei must realize that words and actions have meaning and impact on others. All the commissioners have the responsibility to be aware that some behaviors are totally appropriate at work, while others may not be ok and in some cases may even be illegal and they should know this, since most of them are lawyers by profession.

At this point, it is not only the reputation of the commission which is stake here, but the reputation of the country.

Civility is not hard to define-it is quite simply “respective behaviors that demonstrate care for other’s feelings”. To be civil means that one must always be concerned about how one’s behaviors and comments will impact others.

The electoral commissioners should remember the age old advice; “If you can’t say anything nice, then don’t say anything at all” The word “respectful” could be inserted into that rule “If you can’t say something in a respectful way, then don’t say it at all.” Even in stressful situations, even when dealing with differences of opinion, all actions should be taken in a respectful and calm manner.

It is difficult to have an engaged workplace that is not civil. Lack of civility lowers morale and encourages the sort of behavior we are seeing at the commission. The commissioners should model their behavior and be an advocate for others who may be targeted or hurt by lack of civility from others.

Mrs. Osei as the chairperson should enforce culture of respectful behavior and to lead by example. An increase of civility leads to deeper team bonding and to an increase in productivity and more engaging workplace. Engaged employees are those who are willing to go above and beyond and expend discretionary effort to do a great job. Creating engaged employees is not just about money.

Employees want to know that their employer care about them, that they are willing to invest in their careers, that they encourage innovation, and support new ideas.

It is important that the issue is not politicize. The allegations and counter-allegations must be thoroughly investigated by an independent body with transparency and fairness. We must prove to the world that black Africa is capable of managing its own affairs effectively and efficiently. Komla.