We, Sri Lankans, are a capable, talented and hard-working lot.
Yes, we are, in selective
Let me explain. Whenever we are employed outside the country, in Europe, the US, Australia or the Middle East, we are the model employees; hard working, capable and reliable – of course there are exceptions but I speak for the majority – we can climb the ladder of success easily. Whether it is entrepreneurship, professional service or a career path, Sri Lankans working abroad excel at what they do.
Yet, the same set on the home turf does a different take. Of course, there are those of us who can work hard no matter where they are, whether in Sri Lanka or overseas. They are the ones who have been exposed to different working environments and have been able to develop for themselves a strong sense of work ethic. They are possibly the exception.
For the majority however, something seems to turn off the efficiency clock when they are at home. Is it the constant holidays or the island mentality as they call it? We are a fertile country naturally blessed with resources that enable everyone to eat something. Even in the far-flung rural communities where people may struggle with hardships, there is always something to eat, maybe not much but something to get by. As Robert Knox put it succinctly centuries ago, the islanders are not always fond of work and will hold out as long as they can manage without it.
What makes us able to perform the same functions and the same set of duties brilliantly well outside of Sri Lanka while back home, it takes effort to get the same done? Is it that our mentality here tends to be less focused or more in the box, so to speak? If we can perform well outside, then the same level of performance can also be provided here as well. It is not a question of capability or talent, perhaps more a question of motivation and drive.
Of course, in a global setting, talent is often recognized easily and hard work is rewarded. It is a cycle that can have an impact on the output and efficiency levels, no doubt. Yet, in today’s context, with so many possibilities and opportunities not just locally but on the global market place as well, cultivating a personal sense of accountability in work is vital if we are to succeed as a nation.
A lack of motivation and drive is visible in most sectors – from the lowest rungs in the construction sector upwards, lethargy and work-shy trends seem to have set in. Often enough, business owners talk about employees who take French leave without adequate reason. As one put it, it was a case of one relative after another passing away, for which requirement leave was
We all lament about such things but what are we doing to change or transform these set maladies? Aren’t some of us also guilty of looking forward to the numerous long weekends? What messages are we giving the next generation about becoming an efficient and a productive nation? Are we so laid back that hard work and efficiency are norms that we have trouble embracing as a nation? These are thoughts to ponder on as we sail on amidst tough competition from neighbours who are not afraid or shy of hard work.
We all know that globally, the game changers are already here. The next set of world leaders in business, arts, sciences and economy are from Asia. Jack Ma is the Steve Jobs of the moment. Savitri Jindal of the OP Jindal Group and the Mittals hold formidable positions on Forbes 2017 billionaire list. In fact, there are 101 Indians on that list. Asian talent is thriving globally – Asian students are scoring higher marks and seeking better positions while the rest of the politically correct world is stuck on arguments about bathroom identities and finding out about the third gender as young as five.
The opportunities to join those ranks are wide and available – we have already seen Sri Lankan visionaries such as Chamath Palihapitiya and Shehan Dissanayake join the ranks of Silicon Valley billionaires.
Let the next set of Sri Lankans to join those ranks understand and comprehend the values of hard work, efficiency and accountability early on.
(Nayomini Weerasooriya, a senior journalist, writer and a PR professional, can be contacted at email@example.com)