Rudeness and the Jamaican Workplace


Here in Jamaica, we put a lot of stock in manners — the worst insult that can be made about a manager is that they don’t respect people.

In a recent issue of Harvard Business Review, the following excerpt makes the point that the Jamaican worker is right — rudeness has been found to be correlated with productivity.

Rudeness and Its Noxious Effects

Grumpy managers who have a tendency to lash out are sometimes tolerated in businesses if their direct reports are thick-skinned types who don’t complain about anything. But beware of more distant effects: It’s likely that other employees are harmed by these incidents, even if they only hear about them secondhand.

The mere thought of being on the receiving end of verbal abuse hurts people’s ability to perform complex tasks requiring creativity, flexibility, and memory recall, according to Christine Porath of the University of Southern California’s Marshall School of Business and Amir Erez of the Warrington College of Business Administration at the University of Florida.

In studies involving separate groups of university students, the authors tested the effects of three forms of exposure to rudeness: In one study, the harsh words were directed at participants by a researcher (“What is it with you undergrads here?…[you] leave a lot to be desired as participants”). In another, the cutting remarks came from someone ostensibly outside the study—a professor whom the participants had to interrupt (“You preferred to disturb me…when you can clearly see that I am busy. I am not a secretary!”). In the third, the participants were asked to imagine that those incidents had happened to them.

In all three cases, participants’ ability to perform tasks such as solving anagrams and suggesting uses for a brick was impaired. As for why this happened, the researchers say their studies indicate that after exposure to rudeness, people think hard about the incident—whether just ruminating or trying to formulate a response—and those thought processes take cognitive resources away from other tasks. As the authors put it in their recent Academy of Management Journal article, verbal abuse affects more than just those who experience it directly; it apparently “can harm innocent bystanders.”

Reprint: F0803D

Substituting Being Smart for Being Organized


Here in the Caribbean, smart professionals sometimes get quite lazy.

They have quick minds which they use to run rings around people who are not quite as sharp as they are, don’t know how to hold them to account, and are unable to see behind their lack of organizational skills.

They are used to dealing with people who aren’t quite as smart as they are, and are able to get away with procrastination, arriving late at meeting and being sloppy with their commitments because they are able to “make up for it in the end” with a blast of concentrated effort.

The only time they run into trouble is when they come upon others who are either as smart as they are, or more organized than they are, or demonstrate a willingness to hold them to account for their promises. Then, the game is up, and if they don’t “up their game” to the next level, they are likely to fail, or be fired or be sidelined.

This laziness results in lower standards, failed objectives and a general sloppiness that pervades corporate Jamaica, and businesses across the region.

I compare this with my experience in some of the best corporations in the world. The difference is not merely one of size, but it starts with the choices that are made by one smart person, compared to another.

Service from Untrained Professionals


In a comment on a prior post, Crystal made some excellent points. Among them were:

Weeding out the wrong candidates is definitely a must because all the training in the world would not prompt an employee who is not customer service oriented to assist a potential customer. Unfortunately for a vast majority of the Caribbean this is not an option. Many businesses taking this route will be left with closed doors. It is difficult for them to attract employees much less the right employees. I have witnessed quite a few instances where customer complaints have resulted in a mere slap on the wrist or no consequence at all to the employee, all because business owners need these employees to keep their doors open. I believe that it would take an instance of outright theft for them to let an employee go.

There is some definite truth to this, as the difficulty of finding employees in Trinidad, and to a lesser extent, Barbados is well documented. Yet, the lack of service in Jamaica which has rampant unemployment, does not bode well for that theory. However, I would argue that the general service level in Jamaica is higher than it is in the other islands; this from personal experience, perhaps due to the greater difficulty in finding one in the first place.

Too often business owners in the Caribbean do not reflect the attitude that they want their employees to portray. Many treat their staff with disdain, mistrust and so they reap the benefits of their deeds.

I believe that this is the crux of the matter, and is reflected in the book “Why Workers Won’t Work” and other studies and reports. Incidentally, a summary of the book is available at our website.

Not to say that the employees are not a fault, many refuse to utilize the training given seeing the current job as a stepping stone and so they are not required to give their all.

Let us say that they are not taught how to give it their all, especially in a customer service relationship.

My wife suffered recently at the hands of a doctor who had no problem having her patients wait for hour without apology. She also “prescribed” J$4000 of Herbalife products when she came in with a stomach ache… none of which happened to be covered by insurance, but which she made a profit as a distributor in her multi-level marketing “business.”
Where does a doctor learn customer service skills? Or an accountant? Or a lawyer? Certainly not in school.
Yet, they are called upon to use their undeveloped skills each and every day with an unsuspecting public.
In our small economies, I imagine that 90% of high school graduates will have occasion to work in a customer service capacity at some point, without a single hour of customer service training whatsoever.
The problem is that we are all able to pick out bad service when we see it, but terribly poor at seeing and stopping ourselves when we are the ones delivering it. We just don’t have the right capacity.

The Difference an Engaged Employee Makes


In a recent Trinidad Newsday article, a colleague of mine, Kwame Charles, makes the following observations:

Research findings:

The SHRM article highlights several research findings on employee engagement that demonstrate its link to competitiveness. Some of these findings are as follows:

  • Highly engaged employees perform 20% better than disengaged employees and are 87% less likely to leave their organisation.
  • Engaged employees work harder, are more loyal and are more likely to “go the extra mile” than disengaged employees.
  • Engaged employees have been found to be five times less likely to have a safety incident and seven times less likely to have a lost-time accident than disengaged employees. In one study, the average cost of a safety accident for engaged employees was US$63, while the average cost for disengaged employees was US$392. This company was able to save over a million US dollars by increasing employee engagement.

Interesting, especially given my estimate that some 60-80% of Caribbean employees are disengaged.

Dr. Kwame Charles

The 60-80% that are Resigned


I want to make a crazy estimate.

I am guessing that some 60-80% of Jamaicans are in jobs that they dislike.

I have no idea if this is a true estimate, but I think it might just be in the ball-park.

The reasons?

  • An impossible education system that forced decisions at 16 about which 3-4 courses to take at CAPE/A’ levels.
  • The narrow range of options available at UWI.
  • The way jobs are structured
  • Our moribund economy
  • The lack of information about opportunities

They all combine to create a mindset of scarcity in which a job becomes something to hold onto at all costs. People get stuck in careers and in positions for which they are ill-suited, by virtue of their lack of motivation or skill.

The effect on a company’s productivity is cumulatively disastrous, as is the effect on our economy.

I’d be interested in hearing what other opinions are on this topic, and what might be done about it.

I’m not sure how this fits in with books such as Kenneth Carter’s “Why Workers Won’t Work,” except to say that I think he was focused on studying rank and file workers.

(A copy of Framework’s 2-page summary of the book can be obtained by sending email to or by visiting our website under the Ideas section.)

Study on Workplace Engagement


I found this study astounding, although not altogether surprising.

It was published in the 2003 HBR in an article entitled Fair Process: Managing in the Knowledge Economy, by authors Kim and Mauborgne.

Their central finding is that employees will commit to a manager’s decision — even one they disagree with — if they believe that the process the manager used to make the decision was fair.

In other words, employees care as much about the process used to derive the outcome, as they do about the actual outcome themselves. This says much about how Caribbean managers need to manage, in order to gain the buy-in that is needed to change behaviour and produce a positive culture.

For example, in the case of the Jamaican workforce, the book Why Workers Won’t Work as well as our project report from the Trinidadian Executive in Jamaica both describe the importance of respect in the local workplace. (A summary of the book can be downloaded by sending email to, and the Trinidad report can be downloaded by sending email to

In coming to decisions in the Jamaican workplace, it is critical that managers go the extra mile to demonstrate a certain kind of respect for the workers. The following paragraph from the HBR article seems to fit in perfectly:

“Fair process responds to basic human needs. All of us, whatever our role in a company, want to be valued as human beings and not as “personnel” or “human assets.” We want others to respect our intelligence. We want our ideas to be taken seriously. And we want to understand the rationale behind specific decisions. People are sensitive to the signals conveyed through a company’s decision-making processes. Such processes can reveal a company’s willingness to trust people and seek their ideas – or they can signal the opposite.”

The authors mention 3 basic principles of fair process:

  • Engagement — involving individuals in the decisions that affect them by asking their input and allowing them to refute the merits of one another’s ideas and assumptions
  • Explanation — everyone understands why final decisions are made as they are. All inputs were considered impartially in the interests of the company. This helps people accept the decision even if it runs counter to their own opinion.
  • Expectation clarity — once a decision is made, managers state clearly the new rules of the game. What are the news standards, and how are people to be judged?

The authors also make the case for 2 psychological kinds of justice, distributive and procedural (which I will simply refer to as Model A and Model b.)

In Model A, the idea is that when people get what they deserve (compensation or promotion) they feel satisfied with that outcome. They will reciprocate by fulfilling their obligations to the company to the letter.

In Model B, trust and commitment are built, which produce voluntary cooperation, which in turn drives performance, leading people to go beyond the call of duty by sharing their knowledge and applying their creativity.

I remember a funny story told to me by a good friend of mine over 15 years ago, that illustrates the difference between the two (thank you Tom B.)

Some kids used to pass by an old man’s house that had a zinc roof on the way from school each day. It was the kind that made a very loud sound when it rained.

One day, they decided to pelt his roof just to hear the sound it made, and sure enough it was loud like gunshots!

The old man, who had a reputation for being crotchety, ran out, and shouted at them and waved his stick, looking quite upset. The kids ran away laughing.

The following day, they told their friends, and even more of them showed up to stone the old man’s roof, hear the loud sounds it made, wait for him to come out, watch him wave his stick and have a good laugh.

On the third day, even more showed up, and the same thing happened, except that the following morning, the old man woke up with an idea.

Once again, the kids showed up, but this time he was there waiting outside. He called them over, and told them that he would pay each of they $1 to pelt stones on his roof that day.

They cried with glee- was was not only crotchety, he was also insane!

They pelted, he paid up and they ran off happily.

The following day, they showed up again, and this time he apologized, as he only had a quarter for each of them. They pelted his roof, and took their money and ran.

The next day they came, he again apologized and said that no he had only pennies to give.

They refused — he couldn’t expect them to pelt stones on his roof for that little money! So they left in a huff, never to return.

In summary, the old man was able to manipulate the kids into adopting Model A, when they had in fact started out by using Model B. Once they moved to Model A, he could take control of their desires.

So it goes for many employees, who respond to their managers using Model A because their managers are using it themselves.

The authors presented the following summary in the form of a chart:

Model A

  • Tools: resource allocation economic incentives, organizational structure
  • Attitude: Outcome satisfaction “I got what I deserved”
  • Behaviour: Compulsory cooperation “I’ll do what I’m told, or else”
  • Performance: Meets expectations

Model B

  • Tools: Fair Process (engagement, explanation, expectation clarity)
  • Attitude: Trust and commitment “I feel my opinion counts
  • Behaviour: Voluntary cooperation “I’ll go beyond the call of duty”
  • Performance: Exceed expectations (self initiated)

The authors make the point that fair process is rare in companies. When managers are asked for evidence that they are fair, they point to equitable treatment, authority and freedom given, resources provided and rewards earned.

The authors say that these answers confuse fair outcomes/results with fair process.

Most managers are loathe to get too much into engagement, explanation and expectation clarity for reasons that I find particularly pertinent to managers in the region.

The first reason has to do with power. Some keep the rules for success and failure vague as a way to keep control. Others use memos, speeches and purely one way communication to keep away direct challenges. For these managers, fair process is a threat to their authority.

The second reason comes from an unconscious belief that people will only care about what’s best for themselves in the very narrow, short- term sense. However, the research shows that people will go along with decisions they disagree with, and might impact them negatively as long as they perceive the process to be fair.

In other words, they can understand that short-term sacrifices are sometimes needed to advance long-term interests — if they trust the process.

N.B. The authors note that fair process is not the same as consensus, compromise or democracy.

Networking Issue 3.0


Defining Who We Are

A good friend of mine shared with me that she became a lawyer because that was the last application that was left.

While studying for her A-levels as a n 18 year-old , she had no idea what she wanted to do after graduation, and when asked by her Guidance Counsellor what she planned to do, she responded with an honest “I don’t know.” Her Guidance Counsellor, who could not allow this particular vacuum of intent to go undisturbed, insisted that she needed to apply somewhere, especially given how bright she was.

They talked over a few ideas, and came up with one, but she had completely run out of applications to the local university for that faculty. However, she did have some remaining applications to the Faculty of Law and… well today my friend is a lawyer.

Or to put it more accurately, a she is lawyer who has no passion for the practice of the law.

What she does have is a secure job in a secure profession that most people would envy. According to the logic of most Caribbean employees, that is more than enough, and “she should be happy.” After all, what more could she want?

While our system of education has tragedy written into its script, with a 16 year old having to choose four subjects on which to “concentrate” to the exclusion of others, there is a wider travesty occurring daily in our societies. People are not working on what they care about. Or, in other words, people find themselves in professions and jobs for which they have no personal passion or belief.

They arrive at work each day, go through the necessary motions and come home in the evenings to demonstrate to their children that one must make do with what one has, and never seek to change anything. If anything, most of one’s effort should be directed towards holding on to what one has.

I will not argue with whether or not this approach to work is right or wrong, but I do know that it has inescapable consequences.

First, it enforces an ongoing mismatch between people and work. If I am too afraid to leave the job I dislike for one I do, then someone else’s interest in this job will never be satisfied. In effect I am blocking them from having it by staying it in myself. Movement from one job to another is a positive thing to be encouraged, in part because brings everyone closer to the work that most satisfies them. Ultimately, this is good for the economy of countries, as productivity has everything to do with job satisfaction, according to Caribbean studies like Why Workers Won’t Work by Kenneth Carter. High quality work is produced most easily by motivated people who want to be in the jobs they have.

Second, it creates organizations of people who are demotivated. The faces of people in our service industry across the region who appear to be suffering are encountered everywhere. They seem to have no interest in what they are doing, and no hope that this job will lead to anything or anyplace new. They seem to be just holding out until it all ends… somdeay.

Thirdly, the next generation of workers (our young people) comes to identify work with drudgery, as opposed to self-fulfillment. Given the lack of psychic rewards they become unwilling to delay the gratification they can get from both entry-level jobs (with an instant paycheck) and criminal activity. There is no bright future in their minds to look forward to in the long-term, and life instead becomes about getting theirs now.

What does this all have to do with networking?

To put it simply, networking occurs most easily and naturally when it is a natural extension of what we love to do. Whereas it is possible to do “logical” networking — doing the things that one is supposed to do — it is much easier to do “passionate” networking, starting with topics and questions that one already has an interest in pursuing.

And this is where networking begins — with an honest assessment of who we are, what we are interested in, and how to make these real or apparent in the listening of others. The best place to start is withareas of authentic interest.

My advice to someone who is not already passionate about what they do is: find something quickly, or resign yourself to a struggle. Who we are will not be denied, not matter how hard we try.

Worker Attitudes in Jamaica


Carl Stone was a giant of a man, but his work has largely disappeared from view.

He was a UWI academic who was most famous for his innovative polling techniques which seemed able to predict each General Election outcome, much to the chagrin of whichever party he predicted would lose. He was roundly condemned, pilloried and accused of being biased, but his polls were much, much more accurate than those conducted in any First World democracy.

Recently, I needed to get a copy of his book: Worker Attitude Survey. I had seen reference to it in the Jamaica Gleaner, and wanted to get a copy. First, I visited the plaza bookstores. No-one there had heard of Carl Stone, much less his books.

Then I tried The University of the West Indies (UWI) bookstore, where his name was emblazoned on the wall. They had heard of him, and the book, but did not have a copy. They advised me to visit the library.

With my wife in tow, we stopped by the reference desk and got a copy of what was really more of a pamphlet than anything else. It was a dog-eared copy that had been donated, after the owner had made notes in the margins and done some heavy underlining.

We read it in about 20-30 minutes.

  • The 1982 survey found that on the average, Jamaican workers put out only 67% effort on the job
  • Today it takes 1.5 workers to produce the same as 1.0 worker 25 years ago
  • Job satisfaction is correlated with productivity
  • There is deep distrust about management’s motives and concern for worker’s interests
  • Work effort was not correlated with job satisfaction or income level
  • Work effort was correlated with the quality of management, leadership example and having a positive attitude
  • Only 34% of workers felt that management recognized and rewarded workers who worked hardest
  • Productivity increases when managers display better skills, and present more upward opportunities to workers (especially in the form of educational opportunities)

These findings correlate well with the results described in the book: Why Workers Won’t Work by Kenneth Carter. This Jamaican case study reports that only 24% of workers are motivated, and ascribes the general cause as “management’s attitude towards workers.”

In the summary of the article available at the Framework website (in the list of white papers under Ideas), the author, Erica Samuels-Wade, states that “Workers cite the lack of respect and recognition, poor communication, lack of involvement in decision-making and general disregard for workers as human beings as key factors in their general contempt for and lack of confidence in management.”

This is the background upon which managers try to get work done. It starts out poorly, and there is not a blank canvas upon which to start to build a relationship. Instead, workers fully expect the relationship to be a poor one from day one.

The Customer-Supplier Fallacy


The time has come for the business world to retire the customer-supplier model, and this is especially true of Caribbean companies.

There was a time when companies were more interested in making short-term profits, than they were in serving customers.

Until the early 1980’s, Western companies were quite complacent in the way in which they served, or did not serve customers. The rise of the Japanese manufacturer, however, forced a level of competition that created an entirely new paradigm of customer focus. The Quality Movement was born, with gurus such as Deming and Juran taking the lead in helping customers to create a new focus on serving customers.

However, as useful as the model was when it was introduced, it had its limitations. It was primarily created as a way to transform the relationship between the paying customer and the employees of the company. By thinking about the customer differently, employees could begin to put their needs at a higher priority than before, and therefore ensure that the company’s efforts were focused on the end-customer needs.

Problems arose as the model was stretched beyond its limits when it was applied to internal relationships between departments, and employees within departments. The “customer-supplier” model was applied to all kinds of relationships, and to this day it is still being mis-applied.

The mistake came when two departments or employees that are interdependent were forced into the model’s relationship and one party had to be seen as the customer and the other seen as the supplier. In a neat, artificial world of linear processes it was possible to force the distinction to apply, but in most real-world working relationships the optimal way to achieve combined goals is not to think of the relationship as linear.

Instead, the relationship should be seen as more of a partnership between equals, where an objective is shared, as are the means to accomplish it. In this kind of relationship, the customer – supplier model is not useful, and can even be damaging.

For example, in some companies in which my colleagues and I have worked, we have observed individuals fighting over who should assume the role of supplier versus customer. The fight would typically take place over who the customer is, and therefore who had the power to set the precise terms of the relationship.

In other companies, there has even been a struggle to turn a productive, non-linear relationship into unproductive, linear relationships with an emphasis on formality and bureaucracy. Attempts to turn the New Product Design process in numerous companies into something that resembled an assembly line are good examples of trying to force a creative process into a mould that it should never be forced to fit.

Thankfully, the newest thinking from the marketing world related to the customer’s experience offers a way out.

In our work here in the Caribbean we face a situation that is not unique, but is quite pronounced relative to that of developed countries. In short, the average customer service professional in the region has at most an idea of what excellent service is. At the same time, they have very little direct experience of excellent customer service.

In other words, they have heard about, read about and seen excellent customer service in the movies and on television and from those who have traveled. However, they have not actually experienced it themselves on a systematic basis.

This is quite different from their counterparts in the North America, for example, who are much more likely to have experienced service that is consistently professional through a variety of national chains or nationally known companies. In the Caribbean, the regional examples such as KFC, HiLo or local public transportation companies for example, are not examples to emulate in the least.

The new employee, therefore, enters the workplace with this lack of experience serving as their only point of reference.

Furthermore, they enter workplaces that are characterized by a deep mistrust, if Jamaica is an example through which region-wide behaviours can be broadly understood.

Studies by Carl Stone in his 1982 study for the Jamaican government entitled Worker Attitude Survey, and the book Why Workers Won’t Work (1997) by Kenneth Carter show clearly that most workers are demotivated, and that their de-motivation has its roots in distrust of management.

It can be argues that this distrust has its roots in slavery, and the perverse worker-management relationships that prevailed in that institution for almost 400 years.

Regardless of the source, this lack of mistrust in today’s workplace begins with worker-manager relationships and continues in the employee-customer relationship. There is an old axiom: “an employee will never treat their customer better than they themselves are treated.”

I would update that axiom to say that an employee will never provide an experience for their customer that they themselves are not experiencing on the job. I would even go further to day that an employee will show no more interest in the customer’s experience, than their manager is demonstrating in the employee’s experience. In other words, a manager who does not care will produce employees who do not care.

I cannot say to what degree the above “updated axiom” is true of companies based outside the region. However, I am confident in saying that our background of workplace de-motivation and distrust makes it more (not less) likely that an unskilled manager will do serious damage to the customer’s experience by mismanaging employees.

The symptoms are rife across the region. “Res a Dem” treatment, sullen faces, workers standing around waiting for something to happen, “service with a scowl” according to a colleague of mine.

The enterprising worker is unable to rise above the norm, and quickly learns to do as little as possible to keep the job, without being committed to a high standard of anything. Eventually, he or she moves on to a different job, hoping that it will be different, and generally encountering the same situation.

While I have no empirical evidence, I believe that there is a difference when that same worker migrates to North America and encounters very different management style, in general. The change in behaviour may not be immediate, but it does take place. If this could be investigated with actual research, it might show that the worker himself is not the problem, as they are quite able to adapt to the demands of their new job.

Instead, the problem would seem to be one of management, and ownership. Company leadership takes the primary role to create the environment in which the workers serve customers. In other words, the onus is on them to create the experience that is desired, provide an environment that is abundantly manifests it, and train themselves and employees to produce it consistently.

This focus on producing experience is the gift that the marketing world has given to those who must transform their companies to be customer-oriented. These experiences go beyond the mere meeting of needs and the provision of outputs, and include as well the psychological feelings that ensue from good service.

For managers, this is a far departure from the old customer-supplier model, and for Caribbean managers it means finding ways to overcome destructive relationships and experiences that damage the bottom-line.

Critical Thinking vs. Faithful Following


One of the grim reminders of plantation slavery in the Caribbean is how well we were trained not to think.

To say it differently, it has to do with how well we were trained to follow without questioning. This tendency that I see widespread in our people across the region does not augur well for business, as critical thinking is a key competitive advantage in a world that is coming to rely more and more on knowledge workers, and less and less on manual labour. Recent studies, most notably in the work of Rich Florida’s “The Rise of the Creative Class” demonstrate that cities marked by lower wages and fewer knowledge workers are less successful by almost every key measure: prosperity, crime, unemployment, etc.

The truth is, the colonial powers in the Caribbean did a good job in subjugating large numbers of slaves with a combination of physical force and religious fear. In Jamaica, for example, news of the Haitian Revolution of 1791 in which former slaves set themselves free, while killing thousands of their former owners and master, caused a stir in Jamaica’s white planters class. They too were vastly outnumbered (by more than 10:1, I believe). They too were using brutal, physical methods to subjugate their slaves.

Upon emancipation, it was feared that when the Negroes took their revenge there would not be a single white person left standing. However, that did not happen, and it was not only because of the possibility of brutal repression.

Instead, the fear of God had been driven into the hearts of their former employees. Christianity was unknown to the Africans that were enslaved. Today, there is only the slimmest of evidence remaining in a handful of religions (obeah, vodun, etc.) that the slaves brought to the Caribbean had had any exposure to any other religion than mainstream Christianity.

The religious transformation was virtually complete. Millions of slave and their ancestors were transformed from being Muslims, Animists, Ancestor-worshipers and other religions into Christians.

In the mind of a brutal slave owner, I can only imagine that when a missionary asked a plantation owner for permission to “minister” to the slaves, the owner had no interest in teaching them the liberating power of the gospel and the equality of all people before God! Instead, I imagine that he was only interested in how deeply he could entrench his slaves in a thought-system based on fear that would further subjugate them.

This was not the religion of the ruling class in either Europe or the Caribbean. Nor was it the religion of the ordinary white people in either region.

Instead, it was a customized, weakened and twisted Christian philosophy that was more or less invented by whites were, above else, wanted to maintain control. This control was important in just staying alive, thereby avoiding the brutal fate of the slave-owners in Haiti, but it was also critical in making a good profit.

This determination to make a good profit was of course, paramount, and was the entire reason to have slaves to being with. The minds of the Africans being used to make that profit was seen as a potentially useful cog in the wheel.

But it was just not enough to get the slaves to believe a set of lies and half-truths backed up by scripture. After all, obvious lies can be mis-proven through direct experience by a thoughtful few. This fact is puzzling, as the religious fabric put together by the missionaries and plantation owners now seems so transparent and ridiculous in retrospect, and their motives so patently obvious. Couldn’t a slave have figured out what they were up to, and tell the others?

The final piece of the puzzle resonates even in today’s workplace.

Slaves were taught to follow faithfully. Serious questions, doubts and critical thinking were made evil. The reward for blindly believing was God’s blessing in the afterlife, while the punishment for the sin of doubting “God’s message” was hellfire and damnation.

As a slave-owner, getting this way of thinking into the minds of your slaves signified success of the higher order. It made the job of keeping control that much easier, and reduced the slaves to unthinking, but God-fearing brutes.

Which is what we have in today’s Caribbean workplace, in varying degrees. Not brutes, but workers. Not unthinking, but demotivated and disempowered.

From the book “Why Workers Won’t Work” by M.L. Carter” (a summary of which is available on the Framework Consulting website under Ideas) are the following findings:

  • 76% of workers in surveys have described themselves as “demotivated”
  • Over 51% of supervisors and 83% of rank-and-file workers considered their skills and education to be under-utilized.
  • Some 65% of the rank-and-file workers considered their jobs to be unimportant in relation to the objectives of their organization.
  • Some 66% of supervisors and 80% of rank-and-file workers reported that they are rarely, if ever, consulted about changes that affect their jobs.
  • Some 84% of workers disagreed with the following statement, “In general, the more workers produce, the more management earns, and the more workers will benefit in terms of higher wages and better fringe benefits”.

These are the results of a manager-worker relationship that was born in the slave-master relationship that formally ended in 1838, but has never been discontinued.

Today’s workforce has less and less of a need for manual labourers, and more and more of a need for knowledge workers, yet there is no evidence of a systematic approach to unravelling this historical evil. The results in the Caribbean are clear — the Blacker the country, the poorer it tends to be. In other words, the result of the slave-owners peculiar theology and means of control is poverty, unemployment and crime, and the countries that had more slaves with which to inflict this ideology are suffering the most.

It remains a dicey subject to this today, and it is difficult to see encouraging signs — although I am committed to finding them and writing about them. If the problem were seen plainly, I believe that the mental slavery that Bob Marley sings about could be reversed within a single generation.

Our schools would be focused on teaching our students that their own critical thinking is paramount, rather than the ability the repeat the thinking of others.

Our parents would encourage our children to think for themselves, rather than to just be obedient or else face physical punishment.

Our Christian churches (and mosques and temples) would teach the faithful to skillfully renew their own minds, rather than to merely believe what they are told, and that to do so represents the best path towards the liberation of future generations.

Teachers, parents and pastors have every reason to be frightened by all this, as it contradicts their experience and what they have been taught over the years: ” Don’t do it, or else you will lose control.”

Except that, that’s the voice of the plantation-owners, whispering to us from years past, and it is our duty to steadfastly ignore them.

P.S. The summary of Why Workers Won’t Work can also be downloaded by sending email to