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Chronicles from a Caribbean Cubicle

5/30/2006

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.

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