Eskom CEO André de Ruyter.
- Eskom group CEO André de Ruyter has sent a no-holds-barred letter to employees.
- Eskom has been in unsuccessful wage negotiations with unions.
- De Ruyter says he is concerned about how mediocrity is tolerated at the state-owned power company.
Eskom group CEO André de Ruyter has sent a strongly worded letter to employees blasting what he calls a “victim mentality of acquired helplessness” at the company.
In the letter, he calls for a total overhaul of company culture and calls on staff to stop tolerating “mediocrity”.
He also announces the scrapping of weekly meetings – as far as possible – in a bid to improve company culture, connect better with employees, and drive more visible leadership.
The letter, sent by email to all employees on Friday 25 June and seen by Fin24, says staff should avoid blaming outside forces for problems at the state-owned power company.
Instead, he says they should rather look at their own behaviour.
“We tend to blame the government, the weather, and all sorts of very creative reasons rather than step up and accept accountability and responsibility for our own actions. This is something that we need to change as such behaviour impacts our sense of urgency.
“People tend to display inertia and lack of accountability, without any consequence management,” states De Ruyter.
‘Mediocrity is tolerated’
“It is concerning to me how mediocrity is tolerated amongst our leaders and within our teams, evidenced by compromised quality and professionalism and an attitude of complacency and indifference. I have often observed a culture of blame and fear amongst our colleagues, which dims innovation and promotes paralysis and malicious compliance.”
But there is also a sweetener in the email: responding to employee calls for fewer meetings. De Ruyter argues that bureaucracy needs to be challenged constructively without abandoning due diligence and good governance.
“We tend to have excessive and unwarranted bureaucracy, which is not helped by our demonstration of silo mentality and lack of integration.
“All of this, together with our blasé approach to safety, coupled with the poor state of housekeeping that I have observed across our plants leads to lack of effective teamwork and compromised productivity and performance. Such an organisational culture cannot take Eskom forward into the future,” says De Ruyter.
He notes that a complaint that consistently came up in discussions with employees was the excessive number of meetings “which end up compromising our visible felt leadership (boots-on-the-floor)”.
A decision was made that, as far as possible, no meetings would be set up on Thursdays, and instead the time will be used to connect with employees, preferably in person and while adhering to Covid-19 protocols.
Fin24 reported earlier on Friday that Eskom had decided to implement its final offer to unions of a 1.5% wage increase from 1 July.
Wage talks ended on 2 June, with Eskom declaring a dispute when it could not reach agreement with the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) and Solidarity.
No resolution could be reached at the conciliation and mediation process on 10 June at the Commission of Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) head office. The unions then referred the dispute to the CCMA for arbitration, which still needs to happen.
The NUM and Numsa wanted a 15% wage hike, while Solidarity asked for 9.5%. Unions are unable to go on strike legally as they are regarded as performing an essential service.