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Poor work ethics

During a conversation this week a friend said that the behaviour of some workmen when hired (to do a job) remind him of a comment a politician made one day.

The politician was apparently addressing a group of friends and told the story of a man who had approached him seeking a job. The politician eventually found a job for the man but on seeing the man some time later instead of receiving the usual gratitude the man appeared very upset.

So the politician, as usual, enquired about the man’s well-being. However, he was most surprised when the man said: “Sir, I asked you for a job, not for work.”

Within minutes several individuals in the group had their own stories to add about poor work ethics in relation to workmen. One lady added that she had hired a workman who was recommended to her as a good carpenter and cabinet maker. So she asked him to build some book shelves onto the side of a room much like what obtains in a library. About one year after the work was completed, the shelves started to come apart. She then called the workman who said he had built what she asked him to do, but he could not guarantee how long they would last.

These and several other problems were highlighted among the group as we tried to grapple with the lowering standards of work and poor work ethics among employees in the workplace. The article this week is about the emerging ethical problems among employees.

Before going into any dialogue about ethics, I decided to carry out my usual research. A section in the book Responsibility Ethics and Legitimacy of Corporations caught my attention. The author commented that over the last 10 years or so stake holders (government, labour organisations, businesses and other enterprises) in many countries have tried to implement what he termed “ethics and value-driven management”. The main aim of this initiative is to try to mitigate against the reoccurrence of the many business scandals like the “Madoffs” and “Stanfords” (Rendtorff, nd).

As a result, they decided that one method of doing this was by incorporating a catalyst for preventing unethical behaviour from entering the fibre of the business through consultations with the public on issues relating to values, norms and social expectations (Rendtorff, nd).

You may ask the question: What has this to do with us and the poor work ethics of the man in the opening vignette? Well, this man is a member of our society and his behaviour and that of others is a symbol of the values of our social order. Therefore, the behaviour must be addressed before it is allowed to develop into a massive problem.

Furthermore, we at the individual level like to believe that poor work ethics is only among a certain few and it is easy to blame other people for their poor attitude towards work. However, on hearing how widespread this problem has reached, management specialists must come to the conclusion that this form of behaviour should be dealt with at the macro level as a means of improving productivity.

Now, say for example, Smith decides he is not going to produce but still expects to be paid. At the end of the day, someone has to carry his weight in order for the organisation to achieve its objectives. If this behaviour becomes widespread, the organisation may cease to meet its obligations when they are due although the demand for goods is high.

If this behaviour spreads to other organisations the impact would soon be realised in the country’s balance of payments as outputs would decrease while demand for goods would increase. Should this behaviour persist, sooner or later it would have a negative impact on the foreign reserves of the country. At least this is the end result in a nut shell.

Consequently, should this behaviour (of putting in as little as possible to achieve rewards) continue we may find ourselves like Greece with an enormous balance of payment deficit. I do not mean to alarm anyone, but according to BBC World and other news sources on the Internet, Greece is currently recording the highest ever suicide rates on a daily basis.

This is because of the ensuing social problems and economic instability caused by years of political parties (on both sides) pursuing the same mandate. The reason why I reference Greece is the similarity between them and us in relation to their dependency on tourism and the lack of other foreign currency earners.

I know that some readers are saying that political science or economics is not my area of expertise so what is the point? The point is, that until each and every one of us endeavour to increase productivity by using creative means to do so, we will not be able to chart a way forward for future generations.

We must wake up and see that there is a threat that we could destroy the Barbados we know so easily if we continue on our present track. So instead of asking for “a job and not work” and not valuing what we do, we must change our attitudes and strive to perform the best we can whenever possible. If each one tries we will all make a difference. Until next time.

* Daren Greaves is a Management & Organisational Psychology Consultant at Dwensa Incorporated. e-mail:, Phone: (246) 436-4215

2 Responses to Poor work ethics

  1. Gabriel March 12, 2013 at 4:33 pm

    Ms. Daren you have it quite right….. wake the others up to smell the coffee before it is too late,,,,,or later we may spell coffee, kawphy,,,same sound different words…….
    The realism of this can be seen with the departure of BS&T and the Trinis who are directing things. We no longer work as you imply we go to cool out and hold piece a money later. That is over, since all foreign corporations see 110% performance as the norm.
    No performance,,, no job tomorrow.
    This brings me to the government and the unions. We need to move away from the appointment system and have performance appriasals in both directions. Management appraise Employees, and then the inverse is done.
    In the corporate world, we never have unions and salaries and benefits are very good, so it is time for our people to behave and perform like professionals and the companies will have to pay.
    Keep the good work up and print a work article every week….. I also like the sexism bit,,, it was great….God created man and woman as a bitter/sweet relationship,,,,,it has its checks and balances,,, we cant do with or without,,,,,but us men (not males) need to respect our women and understand they are the best thing God ever created for us,,,,
    Keep it sweet,,, the real men will back you,,,secure men are never worried about women seeking security,,,God did not put women here to ostracize men, but to be their keepsake and help mate……
    Until next time,,,,, God Bless Barbados and all in it…

  2. Tony Webster March 12, 2013 at 6:21 pm

    ONE: Cherchez the nexus between big unions, and politicians of all stripes: the higher eschelons of our society “like it so”, and their gaze is limited to a five-year horizon. The private sector naturally struggles to dance to this stop-and-go political tune. TWO: recognising that the status quo is almost cast in stone as far as the working-age folks are concerned, we need to introduce radical reform to our educational system, to at least give the coming generation a fighting chance. These reforms must mesh with a new strategic LONG-TERM economic plan/ vision. Unfortunately, we cannot depend on the natural swing of the pendulum to provide a “self-correcting” mechanism, as those privileged at these levels will be the last ones to feel the sting of reality, and to join the rest of us in paying for the foolishness that is often passed-off as “progress” , but which in reality, constrains us individually and collectively from achieving our ultimate potential. Make that “securing our survival”. Of course we can do better; we need the political will and enlightened leadership to do so.


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