For a few dollars more

A few months back, on my way out of Muscat, I was sitting in the Oman Air lounge, generally minding my own business and initially didn’t pay much attention to the young man behind the counter. Slowly, I began to watch him interact with guests – all tourists – and the more I heard him speak, the more impressed I was. Zaid was young, probably in his mid-twenties, and his conversational skills held the perfect amount of friendliness, polite interest and sincerity.

He started chatting with a pair of elderly Dutch ladies who were returning home after their first visit to Oman. He told them about the diversity that his country offers, that they must come back and where they should go on their next visit. Another tourist couple came up and they were captivated, as was I, by his tales of raging wadis, misty mountains and desert skies. And all this while he simultaneously took care of any other customer requests.

Zaid may have only been serving drinks at the Oman Air lounge but he was so much more. I started chatting with him when the tourists had left to tell him how good he was with his people skills. In impeccable English and with a big, open smile, he told me that after ten months here, he was leaving to go work in a bank. To add insult to my injury, he was joining the bank’s call centre.

My immediate, and rather inconsiderate, response was – “Oh no. Why?” And I answered it before he got a chance to reply. “Besides the pay, what else is good? You should be a front office person, not hidden away in a call centre.” He replied, “I need that salary. I want to get married.” I really didn’t know what to say to that.

I remembered Zaid because I will be at the airport again this Tuesday and I hope he is still there. To me, he personified what Oman’s tourism industry needs more of. And yet, I guess I can’t blame him for doing what seems to be endemic to today’s youth – keep jumping jobs for better opportunities, real or perceived.

Stability always seemed like a good thing to me, but it’s possible I feel that way because in my time, that’s what we did. We didn’t change jobs on a whim, for a few rials more or because we thought that if we kept moving, our salary and promotion would be on a steeper trajectory. I agree that if you work at the same place too long, growth can be slower - not necessarily in terms of responsibilities, but compensation.

However, if you like your job like Zaid did, why not speak to your superiors and see what they could offer? As they say: Ask. The worst you will get is a no, but at least you’ll know you tried. Changing jobs for money never works out for one simple reason: It takes all of three months to get used to your new salary and then if your job content is not satisfying, abject misery is usually the outcome. Of course, as a 26 year old colleague told me with a big grin, “You then change jobs again!”

Boredom born out of the daily drudgery of routine is also sometimes cited as a reason for quitting. I met a gentleman this week who has been with the same bank for 25 years at least, but the way he spoke about his work was immensely energising. There was not a hint of the ennui that can easily creep in when you have spent decades with the same institution. I have a strong suspicion that this may have been his first job as well.

He didn’t come across as someone who was in that job because it was a comfortable or safe choice, but someone who seemed to want new challenges and actually enjoyed what he was doing. If Zaid did get his bank job, I just hope it’s at this bank and one day he can have this gentleman explain that good things do come to those who wait. Sometimes anyway.

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