Monday, October 26, 2009

'J'cans rebel ...Trinis crack jokes'

Ja-Trini couple Dale and Francis Wade: “Change of behaviour will lead to fulfillment”

JEAN LOWRIE-CHIN | Observer Column | Monday, October 26, 2009

Francis Wade and his Trinidadian-born wife Dale love "tough, intense, unique, hard-to-solve, emotionally charged, corporate-culture-based problems". Their company, Framework Consulting, deals with "typically acute situations" in various Caribbean countries. The savvy consultants work with large corporations but their advice will help businesses of all sizes.

Francis, who returned to Jamaica in 2005 after 21 years abroad, is thoroughly fascinated by the complexities of the Jamaican workplace, which he thinks is not very far from the days of the plantation. He does not blame this "master-servant" relationship on either party. He believes that we unconsciously fall into these roles and recommends that to achieve transformation, leaders should "have the courage to show your imperfections and it will give you a better chance".

The Wolmer's graduate worked with AT&T's Bell Labs in the 80s and 90s when it was a huge entity of over 100,000 employees, but he much prefers his tougher and more exciting Caribbean assignments. "Being back here and dealing with various situations, you realise that even when Jamaicans quickly learn new behaviours abroad, things don't necessarily change at home," says Wade.

Francis Wade opines that the plantation syndrome translates into workers "giving very little and even practising sabotage". He says there is still the pressure of feeling that they are under the hand of the overseer, hence they view their tasks as "their work, not mine".

"I have found that under pressure, Jamaicans become rebellious, Barbadians become restrained and Trinidadians resort to humour," says the sought-after expert who loves giving free advice. (Check out his free e-zines, audios and video at where he has learned from Chris Anderson's FREE - The Future of a Radical Price to offer an unusual amount of content to all visitors.)

"Here in Jamaica, we enjoy protest a little too much," he says. He reflected on a study by Michael Carter entitled, "Why Workers Won't Work", in which Carter analyses a range of studies on our workplace. "He found that when someone gets promoted, they transform," relates Wade. "Thus a worker will say that he wants respect, appreciation, opportunities to improve, while the newly appointed supervisor will say that all the worker wants is money. The supervisor adopts the mindset of "management'."

Wade says that this situation doesn't really exist in the US. "Here we have problems in both directions: employees refuse to be responsible, wanting the boss to be fully and solely in charge, while the boss is expecting an unhealthy loyalty, a kind of subservience."
He contrasts this with the Trinidadian workplace where workers have no time for "the big man". He says that in Trinidad, they make fun of their leaders and the boss drives a modest car. "In Jamaica, even as we are criticising the boss, we may withhold our respect if he or she is not living large, complete with fancy car."

"We like to keep our leaders on a pedestal," says Wade. "And our politicians have exploited this over the years. They give themselves biblical names and offer manna-like promises. But this adulation is not useful because it doesn't build a healthy community."

Wade has seen people even doing good work and not taking the credit, as they fear it may lead to greater responsibility. "In some multinationals you will see the expatriates speaking up more frequently than their Caribbean counterparts not because they are smarter, but Europe and America train their executives to show leadership by speaking up. In several courses at the Harvard School of Business, as much as 60 per cent of the marks are awarded on spoken class participation."

Wade says Caribbean leaders will have to acknowledge a bigger context than the mere inheritance of a culture, and realise that however you proceed, you may be deemed "wicked": "You will just have to accept the context and take the actions."

There is a cultural minefield to be negotiated even by Caribbean executives working in another country in the region. "Trinidadians like to make jokes," says Dale Wade. "But their kind of joking may not be appreciated by everyone. The Jamaican tea lady who is teased about which fete she was at the night before may very well take offence, while her Trini boss believes he is being friendly."

Francis also warns against the labels we put on our businesses. "Workplaces are not families," he says. "If you promote this impression of family, when there has to be a firing there will be sense of betrayal. It is better to make the analogy of team in which the CEO is the coach, but the players know that in the event of non-performance or injury they may be replaced."

This time of recession, says Wade, presents the best opportunity to call people to "a different way of being". The savvy leader can change his organisation "from kingdom to team". He says it requires "bringing everyone on board, identifying acceptable behaviours and promoting a new level of collaboration".

"Not enough is being said about having opportunities and stepping up to the plate," Dale Wade believes. "We are dwelling too much on what's wrong. If we each took that one step, crime could be finished fast. If we decide that we would no longer be paying a single bribe, crime could end. Let us say, 'the act corrupts me and I refuse'."

"None of us is too small or insignificant to cause change," she says. "Change of behaviour will lead to fulfilment and ultimately success."

10/26/2009 2:10 AM
Francis has an accurate analysis of how most Jamaican workplaces operate - even the one inside the home, where the "helper" knows to act like she is mute & the employer makes derogatory remarks about the uselessness of the help, rather than acknowledge the work that has been done. A Trini friend visited Ja. earlier this year & one of the first things he said to me was, "why are Jamaicans so conscious of their place? Nobody even have to say it, but everybody seem to just know what their place is, and how to behave." The man had never set foot in Ja. before & noted that he got precious little accomplished during his trip because of the overly deferential &/or controlling behaviour of those he had to interact with. Until we have employers/supervisors who can think differently about how to organize the workplace & create a more collaborative and congenial work culture, I suspect Francis & Dale will make lots of money off this intractable problem that inheres even in the PM's Cabinet.
10/26/2009 6:50 AM
All I can say is Hallelujah and Amen!!!

Subservience is demanded and freely given!!

The bad thing is that the perpetrators and the victims do not even know that they are in a downward cycle of doom!!
10/26/2009 6:59 AM
hahahahaha Longbench. This is Jamaica and if you dare elevate them out of their place they accuse you of the worst things imaginable.

People are not empowered to think beyond their sphere or position. It is not their job.
10/26/2009 9:26 AM
I endorse Longbench's comments, but I think it goes way beyond mere subservience. For example, you enter a business place and ask the person at the front desk a question that maybe the person one rung above him/her may be the one to answer, but that front desk person does not even to try to get the answer or even to equip himself with the answer, it's just a don't care attitude and you go from one place to another and it's the same attitude. It's not within my purview, so why should I even know the answer - that type of attitude, and there is no effort to correct this on the part of employer/supervisor.
george bish
10/26/2009 9:56 AM
The problem is not equal........

"Managers" will not allow employers to shine........

Owners will not promote employers who have different ideas......who might shine...............80% of the educated leave Jamaica..........

Also, look at the politics of Eddie and Patterson......for the past 30 years......LOYALTY........

Tell me what the people are suppose to do......?...

Have a calypso song and dance.......?......

The people who excel are those like athletes and musicians who have nothing to do with our managerial and political class.........They are the only high achievers we have........

........and I cant help myself but add..........the EDUCATED managers.......they are more ruthless than the owner.........

.......even on the cheapest of salaries.......

Again......tell me what the ordinary Jamaican is to do....
10/26/2009 10:57 AM
Gwaan mIssa Wade brilliant.

No comments:

Post a Comment