Comfort & Discomfort zones!

Very many thanks to my friend Amasi for inviting me to blog on this platform. This is part 1 of two blogs where I share some of the personal lessons I have learnt during my 25 years of working in both the public and private sectors across 5 continents.

Learn the Art of Letting Go of the “Comfort zones” and “Discomfort zones”. By Khundah Khatwishi Khalabah

In my past life, I worked with two of my elderly Colleagues who had religiously worked for this Institution for 35 and 36 years respectively. I’m not sure how many times they may have been awarded gifts and “long service” awards and bonuses. They had worked under 7 CEOs/MDs and they would vividly and passionately recall the good characters and personalities of each of them whilst reading three bulky newspapers from first page up to last page which were normally sports page. Whilst we were busy logging in our laptops and review early e-mail assignments from our line directors, the two comrades would articles in newspapers loud and making unpleasant running comments almost on each and every page. From 8.00am, the two comrades would be buried in newspaper stories analyzing each and every topic ranging from politics, sports, local court stories, business and everything in between up to 10.00am. They would move to the kitchen and make themselves a cup of tea or coffee. They would come back with those cups of tea complaining why the milk was powdered and instead of fresh milk. They would sip their cups of tea whilst attempting to log on their big screen computers only to realize they had forgotten their log in passwords. They would call IT Help desk to reset the passwords or decide to walk downstairs to summon one of the younger Turks to “make the computer work”. By the time they log in, it was lunch break. Instead of taking 1 hour, they would disappear for 2 hours only to reappear at 3.00pm and discover they had emails in their inbox inviting them for the 8.30am meeting in the Boardroom. Their Line Director has asked for a report which was needed by noon and the fellows had not delivered. Surely that type of conduct is career limiting. We all must know that certain things, reports and board papers cant just wait until you finishing drinking your tea.

For one reason or another, the mere thought of working in one institution for more than 10 years has always scared me. I may be naïve or it could be that rolling stones gather no moss, but even these two gentlemen had gathered none at all except rust. I could be wrong, but my view is there is another life outside your known “comfortable zone” and corporate circles. There are only a few ways out. If you overstay in one working place or environment, I have this gut feeling you may become part of the ancient pedantic culture and old furniture. If you work in a Financial Institution for example, you could have been availed at preferential staff rate a car loan, a house loan, furniture loan, educational loan, wedding loan, cash advance, personal to holder, leased vehicle etc. These types of “so-called incentives” indirectly binds you to an institution and limits your ability, flexibility and capacity to maneuver and look out for higher positions and higher package incentives internally and externally – within or outside opportunities with different institutions.

The undeniable fact is that some prospective employers, no matter what your 35 years of experience and qualifications you may show them will not move them and may not be so willing and ready to take on your personal liabilities. The challenge which may turn into real fear is that once you resign, your former employers reserves the right to call for their money with immediate effect and or they will transfer your loan from Staff to “general customer” portfolio and commercial interest rates kicks in immediately. In some Sub-Saharan African Countries where I have been privileged to serve, inflationary and interest rates on commercial loans can be that high. Inevitably, one thinks twice and tends to hang around – stay for some time longer in one position.
Once entangled in such web of personal debts and contractual obligations, chances are that your promotion is most likely going to be painfully gradual, very slow or none existent.

Some institutions may take advantage and may stop considering you for any departmental transfer, internal promotions, salary increase or zero annual bonus knowing fully well that the probabilities or chances of you initiating a self induced resignation is almost none or close to zero. You are trapped in debt and indirectly bonded by the loan contractual obligations you appended your signature on. This could explain why certain brilliant individuals may not seem willing to change industries and try Oil and Gas, Power & Energy Sector, Transport & Telecommunications, IT and other Parastal Companies which may be equally well paying jobs. Such type of members of staff may not resign easily and they may continue to grudgingly report for work. Surely their poor performance is guaranteed to be noticed by all. After all their friends and colleagues are noticing how they cannot manage to browse a newspaper and get to work, but want to read and analyse each and every article in three National papers using company time, company chair, company phone, company desk whilst sipping a cup of tea provided by company resources.

Employers may be also hesitant to ask you to leave since once they initiate, the labour laws may demand that they compensate you for such a separation. Your labour value now becomes a diminishing return. The company can’t sponsor you for further training as that is considered throwing good money after bad investments. Your promotion prospects become next to zero. So is your personal net income growth. Eventually no one invites you for any Company strategic meetings. No one notices whether you have dodged or concerned about your whereabouts. Like a zombie, your overstaying in one position creates perception that you have stopped adding value to the company and your existence on a payroll becomes just another statistics. Any dynamic company would love to move on.

The company will continue to bring in younger Turks half size your age, more qualified as your bosses and they will pay them three times your current salary. You wonder whether it is nepotism, tribalism, regionalism, racism or Management is just being unfairly discriminatory. You have missed the writings on the wall. Once you notice that the Human Resource team has placed an advert internally and externally in the media inviting applications from interested parties for positions within your department with similarities in your Job description and job role, be wise and start to introspect and deeply pray and reflect on what may befall before your own eyes. You end up engaging in a “Complaints and Corridor Gossip Mode” criticizing every decision Management implements whilst being nostalgic about the working environment 35 years ago when no one used computers, internet, wifi, smart phones, whatsapp, face book, Twitter, Kiwi or Instagram, appstore, e-bay or Amazon, alibaba.

Eventually, what was once a comfortable retreat becomes a prison. If you continue to deny and avoid the opportunities to move forward, you will eventually find the situation so intolerable. I would advise that it will be better not to consult Sangomas, but you’ll do well within what is in your powers and a short prayer to your creator….do whatever is necessary to get yourself out of that institution which may have become Toxic for your own safety and health considerations. Unfortunately, by the time that happens you will have lost many of your best options.
I strongly believe in the concept that as human being, you must be your greatest asset. Put your time, effort and money into training, grooming, and encouraging your greatest asset – you yourself. Allow your abilities to blossom somewhere else. Progress is made by those who have the courage to be wrong and the persistence to find how to get it right. Great achievements are crafted into existence by those who, when they begin, are not sure exactly how they’ll do it.

Don’t wait until you know how to do everything before you have the confidence to do anything. Find confidence in the authenticity of your desire and the goodness of your purpose. Just remember God is still in Control and on the throne up in the Heavens. You don’t have to already be an expert to gain expertise. You just have to get busy. If you should stumble a lot at first, get back up each time and apply what you’ve just learned. Even when you stumble going forward, you’re still moving ahead. Don’t wait for confidence to somehow come to you. Get out there and create it for yourself. Console yourself that you are worthy and able to reach the goals that truly meant something for you. Get going, and enjoy the experience of allowing your capabilities and abilities to blossom, somewhere else. “In the long run, we shape our lives, and we shape ourselves. The process never ends until we die. And the choices we make are ultimately our responsibility” Eleanor Roosevelt. Move one. Come out of that “discomfort zone”. It does not matter at that point whether you are staggering, crawling, moving sideways or forward, but certainly, the moving should not be going backwards.

Until the next blog, God bless you all

Published by Kunda Kalaba

Financial Crime Compliance (FCC) professional. Passionate about AML/CTF, Sanctions, ABC, KYC, CDD. Member - World Advisory Council Association of Certified Fraud Examiners-ACFE. Member of the African Task Force Committee - ACAMS. Presenter at International Conferences-ACAMS&ACFE. Certified Fraud Examiner-CFE. ACFE & ACAMS Singapore Chapters Member. Certified Anti-Money Laundering Specialist-CAMS. Certified Anti-Bribery and Corruption-ABC. Chairperson, ABC Working Group. Founder - Institute of Directors (IoD) Zambia Chapter. Founder - Managerial Accountability & Transparency. Two-term of two years Chairperson of the Bankers Association of Zambia Fraud Prevention and Security Committee. Zambian Government to SADC and COMESA Consultant on Crime & Corruption Prevention & management Strategies. Sound & vast experience in FCC Compliance, Deterrence, Prevention, Detection, Investigations, Security and Prosecutions. 25 years extensive experience in FCC, ABC, AML, CTF, Fraud & Operational risk assessment & Investigations. STA in Financial Crime Compliance & Risk management in London, Coventry & Southampton in the UK. Area Head of FCC for Southern & East Africa responsible for Risk Assessments & Investigations, AML/CTF, Sanctions. Central Bank regulatory and AML Directives appointed as Country Money Laundering Prevention/Reporting Officer-CMLPO. Professionally trained “trainer of trainers” & core facilitator. Proficient with proven track record of exceptional abilities in management and leadership for performance. Corporate Governance, capacity building, Institutional & Organizational development, business process re-engineering. Technical expertise is coupled with excellent interpersonal, team building, communication and presentation skills.

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