The place where honouring one’s word is abnormal
Welcome to Jamrock! The patriots will tell you that not all Jamaicans “change their mouth” and they are correct. The problem is that so many Jamaicans are apt to renege on verbal agreements that it has become a pervasive issue in several areas of interaction.
People employ skilled workmen in their homes to do repairs and they agree on a price for the job after the workmen assess the nature and scope of the work. Many workmen then call the homeowner, within thirty minutes of starting the job, to say that the job is worth more. These workmen claim that it is more work than anticipated and so they had to increase the price. Suspicious homeowners usually ask the workmen if they have settled on the price they gave because they are not going to pay more after they start the work. Despite the homeowner’s advisory, the workmen still demand more payment than that which was agreed. Many labourers who cut lawns and do gardening practise the same habits. The homeowners and the labourers agree on a price for the job, then they claim that the sun is “hot” so the job requires more effort than was expected thus the cost of the job increases. They tend to scare homeowners, particularly females, because these labourers menacingly demand more money with machete in hand.
Some household help will tell you they are showing up and they do not. The employers usually tell these helpers to give sufficient notice when they are going to be absent so a suitable replacement can be found but last-minute cancellations still occur. Sometimes these helpers are single parents, and their toddler becomes ill, so they have to make last minute cancellations. This is understandable but this does not explain the frequency of most last-minute cancellations.
The problem of people “changing dem mouth” is pervasive. One version of this occurs frequently in the public and private sectors. Some young adult workers will call their boss at work and tell them that they are on their way to work and do not show up. These dishonest employees are more likely to get away with it in the public sector than in the private sector because of the difficulty of firing civil servants who have passed their probationary period. Although private sector employers can fire these workers immediately, recruitment and training are costly so some employers may be hesitant. Moreover, some of these employees when they show up at work do exceptionally well so employers may be reluctant to fire them because the pool of competent workers from which they can be replaced is very small.
There are many busy consultants that some organizations beg to take an extra contract. The consultant discusses their tight schedule with the organization, and the firm’s representative say they understand the time constraints and will work with the consultant’s schedule. However, as soon as the consultant signs the contract the firm starts to make demands on the consultant’s time as if they are the consultant’s only client.
A private sector company contacted a university lecturer to recommend some recent graduates the company could employ. The lecturer recommended ten graduates and the company selected six after job interviews were conducted. The successful interviewees accepted the job offers and went to the company’s job orientation workshop over several days. None of the six students showed for the job and none called to say they were no longer interested in the job much to the dismay and chagrin of the employer. Many people will blame the universities for producing these kinds of graduates but this blame is misplaced because universities cannot in three or four years turn a dysfunctional and morally bankrupt 19-year-old into an emotionally stable, competent, and productive worker.
Some members of the political class are not better because they show up during election campaigns and make many promises to voters that are not honoured when they win the election.
Jamaica will continue to have difficulties in achieving its national development goals if many of its citizens with their “two-mouth” continue to breach verbal and written agreements!