Rotten apples we can well do without!

Vice president of the Human Resource Management Association of Barbados, Donna Hope, made several insightful points yesterday at the launch of a World Of Work Showcase slated for June 20.

There was also interesting input from chief executive officer of the National Initiative for Service Excellence, Kim Tudor, at that launch. Also present was managing director of Regional Management Services Inc., Dennis DePeiza, and he too had much to say. The three had one principal convergent point, and it related to the work ethic and etiquette to be found among Barbadians. The consensus was that these important standards were poor, had reached national crisis and there was need for remedial action.

The purpose of the imminent World Of Work Showcase, we understand, is to introduce secondary and tertiary school-leavers who are 35 years old or younger to job opportunities and accepted standards to be followed by entrants into the world of work, among other critical areas.

This is all well and good, but we suggest that bad attitudes, practices and behaviours related to work have permeated Barbadian society to such an extent, the problem even stretches to those approaching retirement age. This is not a youth problem; it is a societal one. After all, those young people who were mentioned at this week’s launch will grow into adults and take their shortcomings with them.

But the major problem facing those trying to encourage young  –– and old –– to display better work ethics, to prepare themselves more professionally for the world of work, to see the importance of productivity and the linkages that ought to exist between productivity and salaries, are faced with a malaise that has become institutionalized.

But let’s start at the beginning. Miss Hope lamented that many of our young people, whether from secondary schools or university, found difficulty in even applying for jobs. She stated: “You are looking at the letters of application, and looking at the outline of the resumé, and you are wondering, ‘What happened here?’”

Miss Hope referenced specifically cases where employers had reported that some individuals were using text message language in their letter-writing, and some applicants had gone to job interviews knowing nothing about the organization at which they intended to work.

Juxtapose that with Opposition MP Ronald Toppin last year saying from the floor of Parliament that he saw no need for the teaching of English literature in schools. It was undoubtedly an asinine statement from someone who should know better. If an individual of his standing attacks one of the foundations of the universal language, the folly is likely to find currency in impressionable minds already struggling with understanding the intricacies of the language.

When one develops an appreciation for and understanding of the English language, it galls to even think about the use of non-standard forms of communication in written –– or even spoken –– communication.

And what about our work ethic? The presence of Miss Tudor at the launch was interesting and indeed instructive. That there is something called NISE is something of an irony. It never fails to amuse that one needs an organization to promote and sensitize employees to the necessity to give excellent service at all times.

Job retention, one would have thought, should act as a major spur to perform

at one’s optimum. If one needed proof there was something wrong with attitudes in a country, it would be the need for such an institution to encourage productivity and excellence.

Absenteeism in Barbados is offensive. It is an area highlighted annually. It has thrived in times of economic plenty in the island and, we daresay –– if complaints in the public and private sectors are to believed, remains a concern even in a period of economic stagnation.

We have a situation where some in the public sector take uncertified convalescent leave based on the fact there are seven days to be taken. The rationale is that they are there to be taken within the rules, and hence they are taken. So much for being sick!

The private sector is not immune from this sort of work ethic. And it is not a problem related to our youth. It relates to us all.

We believe productivity should be as important to those providing capital as it to those providing labour. Our unions will state their primary purpose for existing is to provide robust representation for the workers. But if our state institutions and private enterprises fail, it will affect the workers and, of course, the union movement.

But how frequently –– if ever –– does one hear any union chastising its members for absenteeism, malingering, poor work attitudes, two-to-three-hour lunch breaks, poor customer service, et al.?

When unions demand salary and wage hikes, are these things factored in? Are employers given assurances the status quo in terms of poor work performances will change? Do the unions embark on a re-education programme to raise performance standards?

Of course, there are hundreds, thousands of excellent workers to be found in every nook and cranny of the island. And we applaud them. But, unfortunately, rotten apples in a barrel don’t make the good ones better.

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