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Kempe Ronald and Hope Sr. into employee perceptions of leadership and performance management in the Botswana public service. The article is about public servants in Botswana who play an important role as partners in the management of public sector and national affairs. During the past three decades, the country has accomplished a reputation for sound development management and good governance. That reputation has been derived primarily from the behaviour and performance of the country’s public servants who have been motivated to fulfil their duties honestly and effectively.

On the contrary, in recent years, a culture of Indifference and perceptible laziness has crept into the public service leading to serious bottlenecks in service delivery. This article by Kempe Ronald and Hope Sr. discusses and analyses employee perceptions of leadership and performance management in the Botswana public service in light of the country’s reputation with respect to the nature and functioning of its public servants.

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The research approach employed is based on a sample survey of, and focus group discussions with, employees in two major central government institutions. The two institutions are not identified – they are referred to as Institution A and Institution B. The institutions were chosen for their separate and distinct public reputations, with Institution A highly regarded as an efficient government agency whilst in comparison Institution B is under-performing.

The positivistic methodology of the questionnaires is appropriate to the objectives of the research because it is a sample of subjects drawn from a population, thus enabling the researcher to make accurate inferences about the population. For a population of 121,035 employees in the Botswana public sector, it would be time consuming and expensive to collect individual data. The combination of the focus group to develop the questionnaire is a good method – also ideal for quantitative study.

In this investigation into employee perceptions of leadership and performance management in the Botswana public service, taking into account the current culture of Indifference and perceptible laziness that has crept into the public service, the use of focus groups is an advantageous method of gathering data relating to the feelings and opinions of employees – it is invaluable to understand the reasons and motivations behind the drop in performance of public servants who were once honest and effective.

Focus groups allow them to discuss opinions, reactions and feelings of the situation, and ‘listening to other group members’ views encourages participants to voice their own opinions’ – Hussey and Hussey (1997), – provides the researcher with abounding data. Methods used to collect opinions of the employees were questionnaires and focus group discussions. 110 questionnaires were administered to junior management and general staff members of the two institutions, comprising 8 percent of the total number of employees.

The questionnaire was an inclusive and detailed instrument covering the various areas indicated in the next paragraph. Alternatively, one weakness is the possibility that in the long run this not a large enough administration of questionnaires for the 85,690 working for the central government – I also note no representation of smaller companies hence arguing the case of is fair representation extensive? Focus group discussions immediately followed completion of the questionnaire. These were designed to increment the rich information contained in the responses to the questionnaire.

These focus group discussions developed into lively and forthright discussions about a range of relevant issues and provided invaluable insights into the views of public servants with respect to leadership and performance management. They also offered an absolute impression of the organisational culture of the two institutions in question. The sample employed by Ronald Kempe and Hope Sr. does seem to be representative of the population and thus the characteristics of the sample will most probably be found in the remaining employee population of the Botswana public sector.

To add to the correctly targeted population their seemed to be a consistent blend of the right occupation – employees working for central government. Although, I have to say that it does seem there was little attention paid to important factors that would have made the sample further representative and stratified i. e. age, sex, wage etc. The positivistic approach of closed-multiple choice questions, used in the questionnaire, other than it’s unbiased nature – has two advantages; firstly it facilitates the analysis process and secondly it is easier for both the interviewer and respondent.

An example: – ‘In Institution B, leadership and organisational planning was, not surprisingly, regarded as very weak. Close to one-half (47 percent) of the interviewees in that institution rated leadership qualities as just satisfactory while another 28 percent gave a rating of poor’. – Kempe Ronald and Hope Sr. (2003). This enabled each respondent to understand the questions in the same way and each respondent was asked the questions in the same way as the others. The results were a good variation in relation to employee perceptions about leadership and organisational planning across the two institutions.

In Institution A, the quality of leadership and organisational planning was rated very high. Also revealed through the focus groups was that the institution ‘has demonstrated its recognition of the need for change and re-engineering by commissioning external reviews of its operations and recommendations for improving performance and efficiency … has been engaged in some degree of strategic planning and has been attempting to link its strategic planning activities to its operational policies at all levels of the organisation’. – Kempe Ronald and Hope Sr. (2003)

This variation of results, clearly classified, was shown with the results from In Institution B, where leadership and organisational planning was perceived as very weak. The significance of the results were emphasised with the data that revealed up to one-half (47 percent) of the interviewees in institution B rated leadership qualities as just satisfactory while another 28 percent gave a rating of poor. Hence the question of validity and reliability comes to the fro. Could the difference of results suggest an abnormal pattern of performance within the sector? – Not possible to pick up due to the constraints of the research.

One possible way to counter this and both personal and procedural reactivity is triangulation, as mentioned later, and replication with other researchers if possible. Conversely the meaningful data advocates the view that administrative and leadership capacity is not adequate at present and leaves room for extensive improvement of organisational effectiveness. Furthermore, focus group discussion revealed no concrete operational policies passed on to staff from a unit, divisional, departmental, and organisational perspective – perhaps stemming from the fact that there are no strategic objectives at micro-level i. e. unit, division, department that feed into the objectives at the macro-level – organisation.

Thus revealing a path to lack of common understanding among the staff of the policies and goals of the organisation and the role of their departments achieving them. The nature of any organisational environment has much to do with employee job satisfaction and motivation. The continuation of meaningful and significant data was again shown in the results of Institution A, where all of the employees said that their superiors consulted them frequently and their ideas sought.

Furthermore, one third of the respondents indicated that they were always consulted, and the other two-thirds indicated that they were consulted more often than not. With respect to job satisfaction, approximately 49 percent of the respondents from Institution A expressed dissatisfaction with their current job in the organisation. The research also revealed the reasons for this dissatisfaction, with the primary issues highlighted were lack a of challenging work, under-staffing resulting in work overload, paucity of opportunities for promotion and placement in posts without regard to ability and past performance.

While all of these reasons were noteworthy, it is the issue of promotions, or lack thereof, that seemed to be ubiquitous. As mentioned earlier focus group discussions immediately followed completion of the questionnaire. These focus group discussions developed into lively and forthright discussions about a range of relevant issues and provided invaluable insights into the views of the public servants with respect to leadership and performance management.

They also offered an absolute impression of the organisational culture of the two institutions in question. In the focus group discussions the majority of the employees expressed dissatisfaction with respect to the promotions process. The main issues they cited were lack of appropriately planned career paths, non-transparency of the promotions process, non-availability of posts in the organisational establishment, a lengthy promotions process and promotions not centred on performance but superiority.

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