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Opinion: Top employee’s defense of Swvl puts basic rights in jeopardy

The Egyptian social media circus is in full power since last week. It all started when few Swvl employees accused their employer of terminating their contracts in an unjust way.

The magnitude of these Facebook posts wasn’t small, but at the same time it wasn’t big enough to cause any huge embarrassment to Swvl. It was going to fade away in a matter of days.

In Egypt, it happens a lot when employees take it to social media to accuse their employers of unfair treatment or unlawful acts. It happens, but it fades away at the end. It is not a professional sign though, but it still happens by some employees.

It also –likely– affects the accuser negatively and makes other companies think twice before hiring them, fearing they might be attacked publicly too in case of any misunderstanding between the company and these employees.

The story

What is new this time is the aggressive response made by the digital marketing manager of Swvl. He took it upon himself to defend his company, took his phone and started a 20 minutes video rant.

Smearing the terminated employees and mocking their work ethics. Swvl didn’t respond –until now– to deny or confirm what was said in his video, which is a sign that it may be accepted from the company’s side.

After posting this video, the social media scene was raging, enormous volumes of posts were grilling, searing and steaming Swvl’s digital marketing manager and his employer.

Apparently, he removed the video but it resurfaced on a different Facebook group, someone saved it and posted it back after it was removed.

Swvl’s Digital Marketing Manager wrote another post after that trying to ease out the effect of his video. Yet, he did not apologize about it and continued to mock those against his narrative.

So what work ethics did he rant about in this video?

You might be expecting it was about bad performance or unethical ways in dealing with work-related matters. Well no, it was about coffee breaks, lunch time and working eight hours per day. Yes, from his point of view this is bad ethics that earned them contract termination.

He gave examples of other Swvl “good employees” who are workaholic, go to work with sleeping bags, and perform with very unrealistic deadlines, and budget.

He was ranting –or bullying– in a so self-righteous tone those who were fired. Which again, indicates that this is why they were fired in the first place. We were expecting a clear public official clarification from Swvl. But the silence from Swvl’s officials was deafening!

Why this is so alarming and why this gigantic movement against Swvl?

1- This is the first time a company prides itself by unrealistic deadlines and extreme working hours.

I would be lying if I said all companies work 9 to 5 all the time. Especially in the ICT sector. It is well known that employees can stay late in some cases and certain circumstances.

Companies are expected to ask their employees “gently” to stay after working hours if needed or to show respect for those staying more without asking.

Yes, I know this happens, but it is insane if a company would pride itself with working non-stop, unrealistic deadlines and brag about firing employees who refuse to work under these circumstances.

If this behavior slips to other companies in Egypt, it will become a repulsive market.

I’m quoting here this piece from Forbes article that sums this up, working constantly extra hours is not productive.

“They don’t know any better and believe that the more they do, the more productive they are. People addicted to busyness have no systems in place that help them automate processes, and they have a team that relies on their constant guidance and presence. They believe that being busy is inevitable and actually a good thing. They don’t know how to manage their time efficiently, delegate roles or responsibilities or use systems that create freedom for them to work on important things and have a life.”

2- Employee rights are a thick fat red line, mocking these rights in a such public way is a first in the Egyptian market.

Again, we all heard a manager approaching us asking to stay late to deliver a certain task or project. Normally this manager is asking either politely or apologetically. This was the culture!

Sometimes a certain reward scheme is agreed upon in case of such repetitive requests, or at least, your manager would give you extra days off later. Or they might offer you extremely flexible working hours if you want later.

But, this is the first time, ever, a company is requesting that arrogantly, publicly, bullying and mocking those who want to work normal working hours.

It is the first time a company is defaming employees and overlooking employee rights in such a public self-righteous anger.

Richard Branson, the founder of Virgin Group once said

“Clients do not come first. Employees come first. If you take care of your employees, they will take care of the clients.” Virgin group owns more than 400 companies, and Branson’s net worth is more than 4.9 billion dollars. He also said “Train your people well enough so they can leave. Treat them well enough so they don’t want to”.

It’s the way successful businesses think of their people, because they plan for the long term not for today only.

3- If no one disagreed with what was said in the video, it will happen again and it will spread into the whole sector

Imagine there was no response on what the Digital Marketing Manager said, it will encourage other managers and companies to do the same.

Actually, this point is self-explanatory.

4- The ICT sector in Egypt is booming, such acts will affect the whole sector and bounce investors away

It is well known that the Egyptian ICT sector is a very solid and competitive market.

We all are witnessing that a number of skilled candidates are leaving the country. This is happening for many reasons; we do not want to add yet another reason to drive talents away.

This will not only affect Swvl, it will affect the whole sector.

The bread and butter of the industry are the employees. One of the factors that defines a great ICT sector in any country and attracts investors is the employee rights.

Bragging publicly and priding yourself that you do not care about employee rights will affect everyone.

You don’t believe that the ICT sector in Egypt is that strong? Please check that article on TechCrunch “Egyptian technology startups stand on the shoulders of giants

This article gives you a glimpse how great this sector began in Egypt and how we should keep it the same as great as it began.

Some are sympathizing with the Digital Marketing Manager’s message by saying this is normal and healthy and should give a lesson to low quality employees who want to work normal working hours.

I won’t debate a lot about this point, I will rest my case by this fresh article on Inc – which was published few days ago, titled “Elon Musk Sent an Email to Employees at 1:20 in the Morning, and It Just May Signal the End of Tesla”.

Please let me quote here part of Inc. article

“While it’s likely that Musk truly believes his own rhetoric, what he’s trying to achieve–namely, getting people to buy into the mission of “saving the world” by working themselves to the bone–simply isn’t sustainable. And it’s hurting Tesla employees in the process.

In contrast, the most effective mission-driven organizations encourage balance and taking care of oneself. They realize that anything other than that is foolish and will hurt the cause in the end, in the form of damaged workers and, subsequently, damaged culture.

Yes, the best organizations use their messaging to inspire their people and reach them on an emotional level. But they do so while keeping their individual needs in mind.

The best organizations encourage their people to get enough sleep by not sending emails at 1:00 in the morning.”

And until now, Swvl did not deny what was said and went viral by their Digital Marketing Manager about its internal culture, intense working hours and the alleged reasons behind firing their employees. We are still waiting.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the “Opinion” section are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the position of Digital Boom.

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