Sunday, May 18, 2014

How about a meritocracy?

So, Wednesday night I published an expletive laden rant regarding Omanisation as it stands here in the Sultanate. If you have not read it yet, feel free to go over here and give it a quick scan. I'll wait.

Done? Great. It's Saturday afternoon now, I have filed the points down off my claws, wiped the spittle off my laptop screen and settled in with a pint of Ghettoblaster.  (Best name for a beer, Ever!) I'm still going to swear, but instead of just heaving stones at all and sundry, I'm going to bore you all to death with a series of posts on how to make Omanisation a reality, and a successful one at that.

And just who the fuck are you to tell us how to achieve Omanisation, Suburban? 

Y'all, I'm Nobody. And it's not like anybody else, anywhere else, has figured this shit out perfectly either. So take it with a grain of salt. Tomorrow I'll link to data sources and studies regarding the nationalisation of workforces and demographic / economic data. You should read them so that you can make your own informed opinions, which may well be different from mine. 

The first thing I would like to talk about is changing the work environment in the public sector to something that resembles a meritocracy . The weird thing about this is that is doesn't really involve or relate to Expats. They are completely irrelevant, for today! This is one of the only issues where we cannot blame expats, expel them, imprison them, or make excuses for needing them. This one is entirely on us, guys.

Meritocracy: 
noun.
1.
an elite group of people whose progress is based on ability and talent rather than on class privilege or wealth.
2.
a system in which such persons are rewarded and advanced: The dean believes the educational system should be a meritocracy.
3.
leadership by able and talented persons.

Ouch. That cuts a little close to the bone. 


Of the three definitions above, the one I am most concerned with at the moment is #2. Promotion, payscale, and benefits based on a system of MERIT, would be a great place to start. E.g. If you are a hard worker with great ideas and great results, you get promoted and get more money. If you are mediocre, you stay where you are. If you really suck, your shit gets fired, asshole. Nobody owes you anything.

And there is no better place to start introducing the concept of Meritocracy, than within the ministries themselves.

If you work for a ministry, your payscale promotions are generally not based on merit, but on how long you have been working there. You can bust ass all you want, and you will still receive promotions and pay raises at the same rate as your useless colleagues. In fact, if you are really and truly an awful employee, you will often be selected to go on lengthy overseas training courses, or reassigned to "watch the beach" just to get you out of the office. I don't need to tell you that this does not encourage the others to work hard. Indeed, it is a real demotivator for the many talented and hard working ministry employees who would like to get shit done, and view their jobs to be an opportunity to improve and serve their country. Can you imagine how much it must suck to be a highly motivated ministry employee?

Interestingly, if you work in a ministry, it is literally impossible to get fired. Really. Two  personal examples (although I have many more):

1) I was sexually assaulted by a no-wasta underling in the ministry of REDACTED. Dude grabbed my head and my tits, shoved his tongue in my mouth, pinned me up against a wall, and grabbed my tits and crotch. He did this in front of my boss, two undersecretaries, and six other employees. (And No, I am not making this up). My boss raised holy hell, as did I, The minister himself was livid, the witnesses spoke up, and.... The guy got a promotion. He still works at that ministry, and is one level below undersecretary these days.

2) In another ministry, I was assigned to work closely with a specific undersecretary. The only thing he had to do was co-sign the cheques we were writing against the budget, and show up for a bi-weeky meeting. The guy would go on drunken benders for weeks at a time, making our payroll late, our payments to overseas vendors late, and ultimately costing us thousands of rials in additional expenses and bridging loans. He would show up to press conferences and events wasted and angry, screaming obscenities and kicking over tables. He brought the project, and the ministry itself into disrepute. His reward? Not Rehab, not counseling, not AA meetings, not termination, but eventually being "retired" to the Diwan, with a pay raise.


These guys are not representative of the majority, but they are in no way a statistical anomaly, and we should not allow our government to subsidise, coddle, insulate, and promote incompetency. We should all be considered lucky to work for a ministry! We should be honored to be serving our country.  A ministry should be able (and encouraged) to fire an underperforming employee like they are blowing their nose. Are you useless? then GTFO.  Nobody should be entitled to have, or to keep, a ministry job if they are not giving 100%.

If you work in a ministry, your hours are predictable, and super short. Ministry employees have more vacation, fewer working hours, better benefits, and  absolute job security. Landing a ministry job, with it's cushy hours, benefits, perks, wasta and guaranteed payscale promotion is pretty awesome, makes a job in the private sector seem unattractive by comparison. Indeed, ministries are such a desirable place to work, that many private sector businesses have a hard time recruiting Omani's.

And that, guys, is a perverse incentive. We are creating more cushy, accountability-free jobs in the government, thinking it's a good thing, while in fact those policies are crippling true Omanisation.

Why? Because The government is unintentionally competing with, and  defeating the very Omanisation initiatives they promote, by turning the ministries into what amounts to glorified adult daycare facilities. The private sector, where there is a real bottom line, and where our much trumpeted SME's exist, simply cannot compete with that.

And that's pretty fucked.

Great, Suburban, and really sorry you got your junk fondled, but how does all of this go towards actually fixing the Omanisation  issue?

Good question. Let me ask you a question in return?  What if the ministries were actually creating good, clever, inspired employees? What if they were instead the training grounds for outstanding people? What if the first place you looked to poach an Omani employee was a ministry? What if working for, and successfully staying employed by a ministry actually looked great on your C.V.?

The unpopular thing that has to happen is to make the ministries hire, fire, and promote based on MERIT. Let's start firing people who suck. Let's lengthen the working hours of the ministries to match what would be expected in the private sector.  Let's start making people apply for promotion, and EARN it. Let's invest our training dollars in the people who deserve more training. And lets pay and reward the truly outstanding employees for being truly outstanding. They deserve nothing less.

I understand that this will be extremely unpopular, and perhaps the merit system would be best rolled over / applied to people who have joined ministries in the last 5 years or are just joining now. It's going to suck a little, but I promise it will be worth it.

But, this is totally impossible! How will we create the systems to handle a meritocracy in a country such as Oman! OMG, what you are suggesting is insane! The Omanis will never stand for it!

It's not totally impossible. The highly (indeed almost totally) Omanised  ROP and MOD (the branches of the government that actually matter) already promote on merit, most of the time. If you want or are due for a promotion, you interview and justify it. While I am not sure they actually fire anybody, you can become pretty motivated if the alternative is guarding some communications shack on the Saudi border, or directing traffic full time.

Promotion, hiring and firing based on merit can be done in Oman. We should demand, and expect nothing less of our public servants.

14 comments:

Fling flang flung said...

Unfortunately that would mean most of the Ministers, many of whom have no experience in the scope of operation of the Ministry they 'run', would be getting their marching orders.
There was a window of opportunity about a decade ago when there was a bit of a lull and a good clean-out could have been made and the younger generation, the ones that studied hard in the UK, US or wherever, could have been given more influence, even in an advisory role, and started a transition from the old way of thinking that blights the economy and growth. Unfortunately the wastafarians, the old-boy network and the uneducated knew it would be the beginning of the end for their comfortable lifestyles and power.
The end result was the rioting and striking we saw where change still hasn't come and it would not be too much of a surprise if we were to see a few more little uprisings in the not too distant future.

Terry said...

Just not going to happen. Not in this century anyway. Unless there is a major (miraculous) shift in attitude towards working, this is quite impossible.

There's a lot of comments about how there are Omanis willing to work and are being hindered jobs by expats. New Flash: These Omanis are few and far between and are not being hindered by expats, they're being hindered by their own country men! All this, because the generalization is that Omanis are a liability.

Omanisation has surely helped achieve one thing. Some sort of weird hatred toward expats, mostly white and brown expats for different reasons. One can only wonder what this ticking time bomb (the monarchy) holds in store for expats in this country. Could be plunged into the depths of darkness.

ynotoman said...

Hmmmmm
Im surprised your admirer had any nuts left & number 2 is pissing the staff off where he was put.

Anonymous said...

Ministry of Defence people still get automatic time promotion for all ranks

Anonymous said...

Omanisation is a red herring.

The truth is that neither the government nor the Omani people want all the jobs in the country. Just the high paying ones where they can be "the man".

And the lofty goal of Omanisation is also being used to bully the unskilled expats from "negative nations" - which is simply racist.

Suburban said...

though I understand your sentiments, I Disagree that omanisation is a red herring. It's an imperative. Our current levels of expat labor are unsustainable, both now, and looking to the future.

Changes will be wildly unpopular, and there will be a lot of pushback from expats and Omanis. But we can either go through a manageable amount of pain now, or walk through hell in 20-40 years.

Maintaining the status quo, The future doesn't just look unsettling, it looks outright terrifying. I do not think I am being dramatic when I say that without a quantum shift in mindset and national human resource policies Oman could easily be a failed state in 40 years time.

Everybody's efforts, for nothing.

Anonymous said...

Hey Suburban - Hi,Ok I am sad this sort of Violation at a Personal level came to you at Work. However, i am not shocked either. This being Oman and considering the fact that you would have reminded this guy his Maid/s at home (Perhaps a young or even old indonesian.Black head gear, pink top with faded daisies print). Chances of things like these happen to the women and the softer men folk is very likely.
With a chunk of the population growing out of theirs teens. They do have their needs that this Govt will need to address.... These guys are not even looking for a cheap fuck... they want a free fuck.... in a country where Women (Good looking one that can be approached) itself is extinct and some men who had no choice but to turn towards men and tranny... there's very little to work with aint....
While you boys and Girls and the Govt are busy discussing how to get them into Jobs.... You are ignoring their need for a Blowjob in the first place .... Not many can afford a trip to Bangkok ... Dubai is anyways getting a lot more difficult for Omani when it comes to scoring women ... thanks to the pseudo Shiekhs who go on dubai holiday to the Dragon Mall.... Jeeez .. I v seen more Omani there than Al hail....
Teach these guys first about life and how it is to live in a developed society.
All you expat folks there debating on Omanisation - Especially the ones who are employees themselves.... Please continue delivering the excellent results and commitment to work you guys are doing a great job .... Yes I mean it !! You and i know that an Omani whoever he maybe and whatever Business Degrees he carries - Makes no sense to something called "Productivity" that they are totally oblivious to.... After all..... this Omanization business by itself is a mistake.... (UNDERLINED) We (Business Owners) do have our own ways of getting things done to run our Businesses....We choose who to keep and who not to and who to reward and give credit ....when the govt intervenes in our business... we dont simply agree to their demands... we the business owner community are not a group that exists in Oman alone. We are all over the world.... When forced we have other ways of balancing.... Never forget - For us Logic and Productivity carries more priority than the so called Social responsibility defined by a Govt that has no clue on what global standards are and where this Non renewable Natural Resource dependant world is headin to..... The Govt can go on making laws and flooding print media with announcements targeting soft targets (expats).... Don't fret... We still call the shots ! I dont know for how long..... but we still do and for us.... You People there .... who contribute in many ways matter more than people who "can maybe" trained to contribute some time in the future ....... A bunch of camel jocks who have no sense of things at a large cannot command us how to run the show... If you dont belive me ... Go ahead and look for responses to these laws and moves from Business Owners... Very rare you would find a comment. Sit back and think why it is so .....

Anonymous said...

Continued.........By now - If you are wondering who I am.... Well....An arrogant boss...Me and my partner a guy who hates Oman and prefers to remain back home in UTAH and prefers to communicate with me over the internet ..... run a business here in MCT... I work with the Govt on a classified project and my Company is 94 Percent Expat..... yes that is the exact figure.... the only Omanis I have are people of non omani origin but have Omani Nationality ..... In my business (Which is of very critical genre) we cannot find Omanis to fit into the roles within us.... Yes.. It is much easier to find a Nuclear Scientist specialized in Weapons grade usage and has a zero security history/issue in the past, named Osama and has extensive experience in Cold War era USSR and Afghanistan ..... Long story short .....What we do affects everything and everyone of you in this country so we v been given our share of generous space to operate..... I dont see a time in the forseeable future - An Omanization plan working !!! Well .. if the govt decides to take a closer look and pay attention to Governance, Education, People Development and People Management (expats and locals alike) rather than Money and Petroleum Development Oman and this imaginary-Culture they claim "theirs" without acknowledging the expats and their contribution..... Perhaps it would but all this takes time in plenty..... Indirctly Forcing locals (Who are already shallow) to differentiate (Simply because you are worried that your Arab image fabric would soon shrink) would simply lead you all to disaster....... Tks..Arrogant American Boss from the West Coast

Omani Princess (not Omani...yet) said...

I WISH!!!!!

My work has started adapting some suggestions for productivity measurements connected to a reward/punishment system and doctors in general seem to support this, and a lot of nurses (though not all) so I hope someone in the Ministry of Manpower listens to us.... But when it comes to administrative stuff.... no one still wants to hire Omanis or change based on productivity measures....

It has to be done. Or in 50 years or less something bad could happen to the economy, and I'll be happy I bought farm land as a back up.... instead of investing in a big Omani villa in Muscat you know?

I know SOOOO many hard-working, well qualified Omanis. But they give up in the Ministries after 10-15 years of not being able to change ANYTHING. Your comment saying sucks to be one of these people: it really does, and my heart goes out to them and wish they don't give up.

Change has to come and one day they will be needed.

Ashraf Al Mazrooe said...

Merit System?! Excellent Idea

Omanisation is a great motive! But the government had no idea how to execute it... Wrong Strategy (Maybe No Strategy)

Miss guiding reports have been issued to conceal the incompetent implementer!

This brought us to this disastrous situation... Where we are just trying to cover up the numbers at any cost!

This will bring to a bigger fall in the near future!

I believe my country has NO Direction, NO Objective, NO KPIs, NO SLAs.

Since the country fails on the above⬆️ Nation Will Fail Generation after Generation!


We simply try to survive as we go!!!




Desert Destroyer said...

Meritocracy; interesting. Definitely requires a strong and decisive policy to apply it. Yet the possibilities behind it are endless, yet again it can cause it's own issues as well, however these can be mitigated from within the policy as well.

I'm interested enough to research about it to see how well it has got implemented. Though looking forward to the references you mentioned as well.

Sythe said...

I think that anonymous comment maker from Utah has been smoking something. Lunatic!

Suburban said...

Sythe- Agreed. And Slightly concerning that they claim to work on critical national security projects. That said, Best to keep in mind that On the internet, nobody knows you're a dog.

;-)

Anonymous said...

They keep increasing the carrot while they actually should be using the stick a bit more often.....