The Case of Errand Boys – A Stitch in Time Saves Nine


“Continuous learning is the minimum requirement for success in any field” – Ann Frank

Hello dear readers, thanks so much for welcoming me ‘the nose-poker’ into your workplaces this Monday morning. You may smile that I am calling myself a nose-poker, but what else is the ‘Risk Watch’ column for? We cannot always sweep risk under the carpet, because it is like the silent observer sometimes turning itself into Lucifer to tempt us in doing the wrong things at work; or simply being ignorant about the work and making serious mistakes. As for error, we say that “to err is human” but we cannot continue to use that slogan at the least mistake we make.

More Feedback from the Security Guards

Feedback from my two articles on the security guards continues to pour in. Due to the nature of their work, their feedback has been by telephone – talking to me in guarded tones, not revealing any names and organisations. They get quite emotional when they call me. It seems my articles have touched some raw nerves in them. I am confessing that I had also made some wrong assumptions about them.

My assumption was that they don’t read! Oh my God. I have forgotten that they are always left to guard the property of the organization, and while they are idle and there are no occurrences they end up reading all the newspapers and magazines lying around the tables and receptions. I now see why they kept on calling me. I am not a security expert, just a lay-person who speaks her mind about risk issues at workplaces.

Can you imagine that they witness siphoning of fuel from office vehicles at unholy hours; removal of spare-parts and other consumable items by officers into their cars; the use of company cars by unauthorised persons to unauthorised places – and even the unholiest office romances in odd places??!!

It is an amusing world. We all know that the things we all do under cover of darkness are witnessed by God, but sometimes these unseen security guards also see things we have no idea of. Ha ha ha! Their main problem is that apart from the meagre allowance given them, they are the first accused whenever there is a theft case in the office. Many staff pass by them every day without even a hello, and yet when the lift gets stuck, when there is a smoke or fire alarm, everybody calls them for help.

I hope all bosses take note of the various tips and recommendations made in my last article. Please regard the security guards as partners, because they can unearth and prevent a lot of things in your workplace and also add value to your company’s bottom-line.

Who is an Errand Boy?

I cannot just talk about security guards and not mention the errand boys that organisations have in the system. They also play very vital functions that complement the work of the drivers. What functions do they perform?

This is a quote from the Merrian-Webster Dictionar: “A person whose job is to run errands for important people. For example, He worked his way up from errand boy to regional sales manager”

According to wiseGEEK: “An errand-runner is someone who performs errands on behalf of another person or an organisation. A number of industries have a need for errand runners, ranging from courier services which deliver documents and materials to personal assistants who do errands as part of their jobs. This position is often viewed as a temporary rung on the ladder to promotion, with people proving their mettle as errand runners and then going on to work in more important positions. People can also run errands as a form of temporary or short-term employment.”

The Main functions of Errand Boys

Errand boys pick up and deliver messages, packages, documents and other items between offices or departments, or directly to other business concerns; travelling by foot, motorcycle or public transport.

This category of staff has quite recently been outsourced to other companies. They form an important chain in the service provision being carried out. Gone are the days when companies employed full-time messengers. In some establishments, they double up as cleaners. Their work is therefore multi-tasked and a lot of trust and loyalty is expected from them.

In some places they are described as office boys. They are hired to open, clean, and close the office, and engage in preparing tea, arranging files, handling telephone calls, relaying messages.

The ‘Extra-Curricular Activities’ of Errand boys

After winning the trust and confidence of managers, some errand boys are made to perform functions not expected of them. We are all guilty of at least one of these:

  • Sending them to do some shopping for us…. After all, you cannot step out during office hours. Ha ba! We are all seriously guilty.
  • Adding personal parcels to the official ones to save us the cost…Yen bre ye?
  • Using them to perform our private affairs when the official work is waiting…Man must survive!
  • Using them to carry cash to customers. Hey…that’s serious…as for this, I fear oooo!

In some organisations, some of the cleaning company staff stay behind to perform these functions and are paid an extra amount for running these errands.

The Advantage of Errand Boys

In modern times, outsourcing such basic functions unrelated to the core business is a cost-effective measure and reduces strain on the wage bill. Some of them have been so hardworking that they have been able to upgrade themselves and become formally recruited as office clerks. There are numerous examples of such persons who have climbed the ladder to be managers of their establishments, while those who entered with the basic ordinary education certificates are still in their comfort zone and stuck in the lower grades! Attitude is the key. No position is permanent.

The Limitations of Using Errand Boys

However, we must recognise the limitations to their use and prevent them being taken for granted. The implications are quite serious. For example:

  • Some of them are allowed to handle cash…. It is when there is a problem that we recognise certain jobs are out of bounds to them.
  • They perform filing of documents. Serious! The banker’s duty of confidentiality is gone.
  • Some complete deposit slips for customers…. The bad nuts can dupe the bank or customers by wrong postings.
  • Some go to the extent of holding themselves out as officers or managers and go around the small local communities duping customers with promises of granting loans or sometimes collecting monies from them.
  • Can you imagine the case of an errand boy who was called ‘Bank Manager’ in town, while the manager was rather thought to be an office clerk? Mmmmmm…things are happening. The real bank manager got furious when his customer mistook his position for that of the messenger!

No assumptions

The present crop of office or errand boys or cleaners are very literate, some with BECE or SSSE certificates. Some are computer-literate and can work on the office software when given the least chance – but please, never be tempted to give them that chance. It will spell doom one day. They read well and can make good use of the material or documents they handle, either for good or for bad reasons.

Let us encourage them to upgrade themselves, not looking down on them and treat them as younger partners. After all, the bad ones can put poison or other unmentionable things inside the food you send them to buy for you. We should never be afraid of them.

I know of one messenger/cleaner who found two bundles of cash in a teller’s trash-bin and handed the cash over to her the following morning! Meanwhile, the teller had suffered a sleepless night wondering what caused her imbalance in the cash she had received the previous day. It takes an honest and trustworthy errand boy or cleaner to do this. God bless his soul, and I will always use him as an example although he is dead and gone. May his godly soul rest in peace.

Meanwhile, don’t forget to read my second book. “My Front Desk Experience: A Young Banker’s Story” is out. The book takes readers through three days of typical front-desk activities for Mary, an inexperienced but smart front desk officer in a bank. It is a rollercoaster story of highs and lows. The general public will get an insight into how front desk persons perform balancing acts to work within the rules and regulations of banking, while ensuring that professionalism is reflected in their service delivery to maintain customer satisfaction and loyalty.


Alberta Quarcoopome is a Fellow of the Institute of Bankers, and CEO of ALKAN Business Consult Ltd. She is the Author of two books: “The 21st Century Bank Teller: A Strategic Partner” and “My Front Desk Experience: A Young Banker’s Story”. She uses her experience and practical case studies training young bankers in operational risk management, sales, customer service, banking operations and fraud.



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