December 20, 2017 was not an ordinary day for staffers at the Mombasa Road-based Standard Group, especially in the marketing department.
An unusual mail would pop up for most employees who were close to the then business manager, Fredrick Okango. The email’s intro was breath-taking, but only to a certain point. Okango was leaving, or rather forced to leave, unceremoniously.
“This mail is not the ordinary goodbye but I am sending it to you so that you can understand that in work life strategy is not only a requirement but also a life partner that when it is abused it MUST be defended,” Okango set the mood.
His five years at the Standard were done, and it was time to leave. However, his focus was not in the five years, but his last five months at the company, which he calls ‘five months of terror’.
Five months before, Okango was transferred from Agency print to Outdoor and Nairobian as the Business Manager. In the email seen by this writer, Okango says being transferred to this docket, which was under commercial manager Betty Kuremwa, was like being sentenced to exit. All business managers who were transferred to the post, under Ms Kuremwa, are said to have exited ungracefully, and he would not be spared.
Okango terms Kerumwa as “an inconsistent, vindictive and indecisive leader with a micromanagement, bossy, bully and a screaming culture of insecurity at work”.
“My experience with Betty Kuremwa has been the worst of my 15 years of work life her dismissive attitude coupled with poor judgment of character lead to a big division but, I have never worked with such and under a person like this before,” wrote Okango.
But what could have led to the fall out?
In her insecure nature, Kerumwa felt that Okango was going to take her position. Any staffer under her that she perceived to be a threat was forced to exit, on redundancy grounds. On December 14 2017, six days to writing this letter, Okango would be the next victim of redundancy, instigated by Kerumwa.
“You will also recall that Betty once said that I needed her current job? For records the job was never advertised and I never lobbied unlike herself. I once applied for a GM digital since it was advertised and I qualified not canvassing,” says Okango.
“I have had to work with Betty for the last 5 months as strangers. We never talked for a long time including now, she was always quick to put blame where there is none and exonerate herself where there is any”.
On the fateful day, Okango would not even get a redundancy notice as required by the labour laws. He was invited for a meeting at Mombasa Road offices, only to be informed that that was his last working day for the company.
“The architect of the redundancy failed to convince me and discuss with me why a proper redundancy notice and the selection criteria was never given as required by laws of the land. Why did HR fail to respond to my numerous concerns raised about Betty four months ago but only waited for redundancy to hide the matter?” he poses.
“Once again let it be known that the reason I am leaving Standard Group is not redundancy but one Betty Kuremwa and company who feared my strong and contrary opinion of work,” he says.
Three months to his new position, Okango tried to air his concerns of constrained working relations with Kuremwa, to an extend of indicating that he was “increasingly losing hope in working with her”, as per letters and email communications in our possession.
He even went ahead to call for help from the HR, but all he got was termination of his employment without notice.
At one time, he foresaw his exit, saying that he “could never win a war against his supervisor (Ms Kuremwa).”
Kuremwa is said to be indispensable at the group, and any employee who crosses her path is knocked out.
Okango is currently the secretary general at Thirdway Alliance Kenya.