BBBEE employees are not entitled. Often they are just COMPROMISED.

By Dr. Ivor Blumenthal
CEO: ArkKonsult

A major problem is developing in companies which have embraced BBBEE, where Employee Ownership or Beneficiary Trusts have been created. Employee’s who happen to also be BBBEE Beneficiaries, sometimes misunderstand that they are ordinary employee’s & do not have a favoured, preferred or somehow entitled status, in comparison with other employees in the company.

There are two target groups which are partly responsible for the mess which is being created in companies where this problem is getting out-of-hand.

The first are Team-leaders, Supervisors & First Line Managers who simply are out of their depth, in managing a workforce where labels have now become attached to Black Employee’s who are listed as Beneficiaries in-terms of BBBEE Deals.

Far from the Black Beneficiary Employee’s (BBE’s) asserting their status as somehow favoured, it is the unprepared echelons of managers who have no idea how to performance manage these members of their teams. It is the Management Team who somehow are attributing this status to these employees. Then an inevitable and dangerous self-fulfilling process takes hold, in the minds and behaviour of the target employee’s.

Yes, the sense of entitlement and “specialness” of their positions expressed by Black beneficiary Employee’s is not of their making, but of how their Managers attribute this status to them.

The second group responsible for these problems arising are the balance of the employee’s in these companies who again are ill-prepared to understand the workings of BBBEE & the benefits as well as limitations on those benefits, which apply in the employment context.

From the rumblings of Shop Stewards to the misinterpretation of peers in an unprepared workplace, the BBE’s quickly become distasteful pariahs. This is not through any fault of their own, or of their making, but because those around them are ill-informed, miscommunicated with or simply not sophisticated enough to understand the nuances involved in attributing such status.

In-reality a BBE is in no way any different to an Employee who is White or a Black Employee who, for whatever reason, is not regarded as a Black Beneficiary at the same time. There is no difference in how they are recruited, selected or contracted with. They do not receive a preferential contract of employment, an enhanced Job Description or any kind of protected status. Indeed their status as a Beneficiary is solely protected while they remain employed. The moment they are fired, or resign, they lose their benefits and are no longer classified as a Beneficiary. An Employee Ownership Trust where it is created will NEVER transfer Shares to a Beneficiary. That Beneficiary will only ever benefit from the Economic Dividend declared in the company, while employed.

The identical Performance Management System, distinguishing between Performance and Behaviour, prescribing Management, Counselling and Discipline phases will apply to BBE’s in precisely the same way that these policies apply to all other Employee’s.

Indeed, a BBE will inevitably find him or herself subjected to a Behavioural Focus during Appraisals at an increased rate compared to other Employee’s where they display a disproportionate sense of entitlement or haughtiness and certainly where they become insubordinate in the process.

This is the way it must be.

As far as Managerial Responsibility is concerned, in dealing with these problems, Senior Management set the culture in a company and hence are the first line of responsibility, when it comes to where proper and effective communications needs to arise from.
If there is insufficient content-rich communication about what is being introduced, about why a Black Employee Ownership Trust or a Black Beneficiary Trust has been strategically decided upon and why it is necessary, about what it means for the normal employee responsibilities of those deemed Beneficiaries and about the normalcy and regularity of what is required from those Beneficiary employees’s in the normal course of production at the company, then it will be Senior Management at whom the finger is pointed when things go wrong.

A Manager is deemed responsible for the Management of ALL Resources under his/her control and that includes the Beneficiary Employee as a new Resource who recently has now been introduced into the workplace. Managers have to devise ways and means of managing this new Resource and especially manage their integration into the work team.

Our Labour Courts will only accept, that where Management has discharged its onus and responsibility in preparing the workplace for the introduction of this new resource, in coaching and facilitating the introduction of this resource into the workplace and in managing peer-to-peer relationships and problems that arise because of the introduction of the Black Beneficiary Employee into the workplace, only where that onus has been discharged will Management be entitled to then focus on the culpability of the BBE him/herself where problems arise. The message to management is clear. Discharge your onus and then you are free to manage for consequences of entitlement and insubordination and everything else that can potentially go wrong.

As for Peers of the Black Beneficiary Employee, they similarly have an onus to discharge. Be receptive to engagement and communication from management on the reasons for pursuing the Beneficiary strategy. Show a clear understanding of the “why” and the positive impact which it will have on the ultimate survival and both Turnover and Profitability in the company and then and only then should problems arise, Peers will be able to reflect on the poor behaviour, attitude and even the adverse performance of their Black Beneficiary Employee brethren. Only then would they be able to successfully pass the batten of responsibility to this new Resource introduced into the workplace.

Naturally, though, it is easiest to talk about the New Employee when one thinks about a Black Beneficiary. However, the majority of Black Beneficiaries are not new Employees but pre-existing Employee’s. This is when it becomes complicated. Otherwise, very normal Peer-to-Peer relationships and Management-Subordinate relationships of the past are significantly compromised and hampered when that pre-existing cohort of Employees are suddenly elevated to the status of “Beneficiary”.

Both that Employee and his/her peers will need a significant amount of Counselling and especially Relationship Coaching to overcome, especially at the beginning, the mass of complications which arise both in the minds of the Beneficiary themselves, as well as in their relationships with their co-workers and their Managers.

It is ultimately an Art and not a Science at this very early stage. There are no Norms and Standards dealing with these challenges. It is for the actual Actors on the Stage of the Workplace to sort these issues out for themselves and for those coming up the ranks to learn from those solutions and experiences.