03:01, you awake off the floor to switch on the kettle so you can get ready for work. Your shift starts at 07:00, to get to work on time you've gotta catch the 5 am bus and travel 53 kilometers. To get a seat in the bus you've got to be the first to arrive at the bus stop. Failure to do will see you standing throughout the journey. After bathing in your plastic wash basin, you've got to boil water for your siblings who will be picked up by their transport at 04:00 to be at school by 08:00. They leave home at 04:00 because they are part of a carpooling system which loads 20 other children from surrounding areas in a ten seater mini bus. Although unsafe its the only way the kids can get to school since no one in the family has a car. So you spend R550 a month and cross your fingers that nothing fatal happens to them while they are packed like sardines.
07:00 'Thank you for calling, my name is Mbali how may I help you?' A greeting you repeat until the clock strikes tea time! Black coffee - not only is it low in fat and calories; it supplies a wealth of antioxidants that help protect your health, more importantly, it's "free" so it sees you through the day. 'That lipstick looks amazing on you' says a colleague in the corridor. 'Thank you, its M.A.C Ruby Woo.' you reply coyishly. Your subconscious reminds you that you haven't paid your Foschini account. One of the four accounts you rely on to remain on fleek. Your Team Leader tells you to sign off at 12:00 to attend a reward and recognition ceremony, you heave a sigh of relief. RnR means lunch and supper for you and your siblings. You sign back on, work and anxiously await 12:00.
Noontide you walk into a room with Management, Executives, HR and your fellow nominees all gathered to celebrate top achievers and top contributors. You walk away with the Best Customer Experience Award for the 3rd month in succession. HR Manager hands you a bouquet, a certificate, and an envelope. You pose for a picture and find yourself a seat close to the finger food platters. Everything about the moment is perfect for your Instagram aesthetic. #Queening #BlackGirlMagic #BerekaMosadi
The ceremony concludes you're encouraged to socialize, mingle and help yourself to the food. As much as you'd like. "I'm not hungry right now but can I pack some to eat later?" "Absolutely, wrap it in foil," says one of the supervisors. The ceremony concludes with 15 minutes left of your lunch break. You walk out to catch some sun and open the envelope. It's a spa voucher to the value of R1500.
You head back to complete your shift. 16:00 is home time. The bus leaves at 17:00, so you pass the time catching up on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and the latest celebrity gossip. 16:45 you make your way to the bus-stop. The bus is full, so you have to stand for the trip back home. Handbag and bouquet in hand trying to maintain balance is a bit of a nightmare. One of the passengers offers to hold it for you. You have two hours to reflect on your day, and you come to realize that you don't have a vase for these flowers and no justifiable reason to spend a day at the spa getting a facial or a massage when you have bills to pay and an empty fridge. The certificate you've carefully put up at your desk isn't recognized by any institution or prospective employer. So where is the reward? You think of potentially selling the voucher for cash which will make a difference to you and your family.
19:07 you walk into the house, to find your siblings waiting for you in the dark. You use a prepaid meter, and the electricity units have been depleted. You message Thato asking him to eWallet you R20 so you can buy 2liters of paraffin. You serve finger foods for dinner by candlelight while you head to the supermarket. SMS notification confirming that R20 has been deposited to your cell phone followed by a low battery alert.
19:40 you fill up the prima stove and the lamp to help the kids with their homework. 21:00 you fold up the table and lay the blankets for bedtime. You sleep with one eye open; a drained cell phone battery - as drained as you are - means you don't have an alarm. If you wake up a minute later than 03:15 your morning routine will be severely comprised. 03:07 you're at it again only today with a paraffin scent in your Malaysian wig!
This is Mbali's reality, and before she's introduced to textbook theories and formulas aimed at improving her outlook and perspective, it would be wise to take into account that this what her perfect average day is. She had two meals, got to work on time and helped her two siblings with homework next to candlelight before going back to sleep on the floor, to repeat it all the next day.
As Leaders and Managers, we often blanket approach motivation. We don't get through to Mbali because we don't have the context of her reality. In 1081 words I have given you context. BE THE DIFFERENCE.