It is no coincidence: it is a small world!


“Many small people, in small places, doing small things can change the world”.

— Eduardo Galeano

“It is a small world”! This statement is usually used to show surprise when one meets someone one knows at an unexpected place or finds out that one shares a friend, acquaintance, etc., with another person. This expression may be accompanied with shock, pleasant surprise or even a collapse.

Our workplaces create encounters with internal staff as well as customers. One does not need to know a customer’s status before exhibiting professionalism. Several customers who receive great service only at the second encounter do not get excited. The first impression lasts forever in customers’ minds.

Events in our workplaces

As we co-exist and work together, we show our various personality traits and adapt to each other’s, to perform our various functions to meet the objectives of the company, as an employer or employee. Globalization has proven the smallness of our global village to a large extent.

Let me examine the following scenarios or occurrences. Please note that any similarities in names or events mentioned are purely coincidental:

William, the “Threatened” Supervisor

William is a Supervisor in a bank. He feels threatened by the fresh young entrants who have been placed under him. He feels uncomfortable about their bubbliness and eagerness to learn the rudiments of the job. With the help of technology, the speed of their knowledge acquisition makes him feel threatened that he will sooner or later, be easily replaced by these “upstarts”. He resorted to bullying them and was unwilling to share his knowledge with them, blaming them for the errors they made regularly. Many of his staff did not enjoy working under him. Fifteen years after leaving the bank, he entered the same institution to seek audience with the current bosses to look for employment for his son, who had just completed his National Service. He comes face to face with one of his previous subordinates who was a victim of his bullying. He was the new head of department.  They recognized each other, and William was embarrassed, full of guilt. It is surely a small world.

Sarah, the Unprofessional Teller

One afternoon, a teller burst into her manager’s office, sobbing and stressed. She made a serious confession, amid the sobbing. She had seen the owner of an account which she had been suppressing credits from. The customer was seated in front of the operations manager, looking worried. Apparently, she had been suppressing cash lodgements meant for the account and paying up on the third day after the transaction. the account holder was the Divisional Police Commander! To cut along story short, she was dismissed. Ten years later, she opened an account at another bank where she channelled proceeds of the day care centre into. She needed a bridge-gap loan to supplement her working capital needs. She made an appointment to meet the branch manager for a discussion. Guess who she met in the office? Her former branch manager whom she confessed the cash suppression to, a decade ago. We cannot judge her at this point since it was under a different circumstance, but it was embarrassing. Artificial intelligence may not catch this event in its credit analysis, but it is a small world indeed.

William the “kick-back” Loans officer

William, the Loans officer was known to be a bully who extorted money from customers before their loan applications were considered. He became notorious among his colleagues for his unethical acts and eventually lost his job when it was discovered by Management. Several years later, he attended an interview in response to an advertisement in the national newspaper for the position of a project officer for a Fund Management Company with several subsidiaries in the West African sub-region. Who did he meet as the head of the interview panel? One of his former bank’s loan applicants who was unable to access a credit facility due to his inability to pay the bribe demanded by William! It is a small world indeed.

The “Entitled” Students Representative Council (SRC) President

An SRC President, Michael, from a public university, exhibited very strong charismatic and leadership qualities. After being voted into power, he showed a different shade of his character – rudeness and abrasiveness towards the University Council. He believed that the university owed him a duty of honouring every request he made on behalf of the students. He was popular on social media and did not use the appropriate language as a leader during negotiations with the authorities and regularly threatened and called for boycott of lectures, and students’ demonstration on and outside campus. One of these demonstrations ended up with a confrontation with the local police, which turned violent with many students suffering from tear gas, rubber bullets and hot water spray from the police. He eventually resigned from the SRC after a probe revealed that he had embezzled some funds of the SRC. Upon completion of his studies, he went to further his studies in the Netherlands. His thesis had to be supervised by his former Hall Master at the university, whom he was not on talking terms with during his undergraduate studies in Ghana! We cannot judge him. The encounter ended well, but Michael never forgot the embarrassment upon setting eyes on his Professor. It is indeed a small world!

The Dictatorial CEO

The employees of Mr Addai’s insurance company avoided contact with him.  Nobody dared to join him in the elevator for fear of being shunned. Monday mornings were “terrorist” periods for the staff. His cold eyes and steely looks always scared employees especially when they could not meet their targets. He would just ask you to forget about the job, pick up your bag and leave.  Even the head of human resources department could not do anything about the high staff turnover in the company. Ten years later, Mr. Addai entered an office to submit a bid for an advertised supply contract. One of his former staff in his insurance company was the Procurement Manager! It is a small world!

The Former Branch Manager and the Current Branch Manager Meet face to face

Ken, a long-serving branch manager trained several graduates, taking them through an intensive rotational program. He was well-liked by his staff due to his readiness to share knowledge to groom them as future executives in the bank. Upon his retirement, Ken maintained his account with the bank to receive his monthly pensions. He travelled to one outstation branch in the middle belt of the country and had to visit the branch due to a problem he had with his ATM. Guess who approached and hugged him? Kofi, one of his favourite trainees! It was an emotional re-union as he was given a VIP treatment by the branch manager himself. It is a small world!

The Training Manager’s Proposal

Upon retirement, Joseph, a Training manager partnered a group of retirees to set up a consultancy to train staff of various services-related industries. A highly competitive bid was being made for a country-wide training program of staff of an institution. Various companies were invited to make their presentations to a panel of specialists at the head office of the institution. Joseph opened the door to the Board room to see one of his mentees in his former institution, chairing the panel! A pleasant surprise?   No! he had been known to be a very lazy, and inefficient training manager. He lost the opportunity. What a small world!


The above incidences serve as a reminder to all of us that every venture we undertake is an opportunity that we should not gloss over. The whole world is watching us. Whether we do it well or not, whether we learn from our mistakes and move on or not, posterity is there to judge us.


Alberta Quarcoopome is a Fellow of the Institute of Bankers, and CEO of ALKAN Business Consult Ltd. She is the Author of Three books: “The 21st Century Bank Teller: A Strategic Partner” and “My Front Desk Experience: A Young Banker’s Story” and “The Modern Branch Manager’s Companion”. 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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