Yesterday we got a direct message from @flyawaymari. She included a link that we thought was an April Fools’ joke. We checked it out. It wasn’t.
The link took us to a site called Mexican-Workers.com and it provided “insight”into Mexican workers and Mexican culture. The questions were intended for those American companies who need help with “understanding” Mexican workers. Let the patronizing overgeneralizations begin! Yes, this is actual copy. We are not kidding.
We have worked with employers and Mexican workers for many years and we have traveled throughout Mexico many times and for extended periods. Perhaps these insights will be helpful to you as an employer of Mexican workers. Accept these ideas as general comments based on experience and study of many situations. And please understand that many remarks will not be valid for any individual. Also, these remarks may or may not apply to other Hispanic groups. These remarks are not to be associated with the H2A or H2B program and are offered as personal opinion only.
Why are my Mexican workers so darned shy and quiet?
Yes, this trait does show itself on the surface. Initial shyness can lead to more confidence as the worker gains confidence in the work and the employer. Good treatment can lead to positive responses from the worker. Positive feedback on the quality of the work done is important.
Why do some Mexican workers react so badly when I criticize or correct their work?
It is better to correct or chastise (if necessary) your workers separately and privately. There is a group feeling among Mexicans that is much stronger than among US workers.
Why do my Mexican workers all bunch up together?
A group work ethic is prevalent among Mexican workers. This makes it difficult to get the workers to compete against each other for excellence. Also bonus systems work better if you can make it a team or group bonus rather than an individual bonus.
Why is it so hard to get one Mexican worker to take responsibility for something?
Once again, group pressure is strong in a Mexican work group. As the Japanese say, “The nail that sticks up gets HAMMERED DOWN.” You, as an employer, should never expect to change the deep ingrained cultural attitudes of your Mexican workers. By constant attention, you can influence the behavior of your Mexican workers while on the job. You must have a lot of patience along the way.
Why do my Mexican workers break the equipment and tools but don’t tell me about it?
Mexican workers are worried about being blamed for broken equipment and having to pay for it. They may seek to shift the blame. They may blame you for not showing them how to use it. Many Mexican workers have never seen or handled the tools and equipment that we take as common items here. They also tend to blame the equipment as being faulty, thus not their fault.
Why do my Mexican workers so rough on the free housing that I provide?
This is part of a general feeling of separateness between the “real” life of the Mexican worker and your employment. Unless the workers know that they are responsible monetarily for the damages they do, they will not give your property the respect that you expect.
Why do my workers listen to my instructions but then immediately screw the work up?
Language may be the problem. Are you fluent enough in Spanish to be understood? I have heard employers speak Spanish that is NOT Spanish. It is gibberish. They only THINK that it is Spanish. Also, Mexican workers may not understand enough English to grasp what you tell them in English. The instructions may not be clear. The work and tools may be unfamiliar to the Mexican worker. Many a rose bush has been killed by workers who think they are wild brush. Try repetition, repetition, repetition. Try to demonstrate with your hands. Drawing diagrams and writing instructions may not work. Many Mexican workers will have a limited ability to read or write.
My workers drink too much, what can I do?
This is an impossible work situation for many employers. Even one or two heavy drinkers can spoil it for the rest of the workers and you, too. Establish a company policy. Seek advice on current labor laws on your work policies. If you are able to replace the workers who drink, do so. The best answer is to work toward an alcohol free work environment. Mexican workers who don’t drink are easily found in Mexico . Most of your good workers will appreciate an alcohol free environment.
What can I do to for my Mexican workers to like me?
Be careful in deciding what you want. Do you want to be liked or respected? See the section on Respect. Show that you are approachable. Shake hands a lot more with your workers. It is good policy to greet workers in the morning with a handshake and say good afternoon same way. I don’t believe that it is possible to shake hands too often. Even with a group of 20 workers, take the time to shake hands with each one. Greet them by name. Make a special effort to find out their names. Don’t use their nicknames unless invited to. Jesus should be called Jesus even if his friends call him Chuey. You should show an interest in their personal life. To many Mexican workers, their family life is everything. They don’t give much weight to things that happen at work. For them, work is not nearly as important as the employer may hope it is.
How can I get respect from my Mexican workers?
To get respect, you must show respect. As an employer, most Mexican workers who you encounter will give you respect and treat you as an authority figure. You should be as formal in your relationships with your Mexican workers as the work situation allows. The less joking around, the more serious attitude, the better. Small shared jokes are OK but avoid anything that will single out a worker or make him or the work group look foolish. This means politeness, not coldness. Workers will quickly detect a superiority attitude if you have one. For Pablo Garcia , you may address him as Señor Garcia , Señor Pablo or Don Pablo .
Even if you don´t speak Spanish, try a little, like “Buenos Días” or “Buenas Tardes.”This will show respect and a good attitude.
My workers never ask any questions. What can I do about it?
Again, this is a cultural problem. Many Mexican workers will not ask questions out of a feeling of respect and awareness that you are the figure of authority. They may expect that you have all the knowledge and will tell them what they need to know. They will be reluctant to be negative and show independence if they are in a group. They may wait for someone else to ask the questions. They may hope their buddy understood and will ask him later.
My workers want to go home to Mexico. Now what can I do?
This subject is worthy of a book. There are many, many reasons why workers want to go home. Here are some from our experience at USAMEX Ltd:
- has earned enough money to support his family for a time into the future. He doesn’t need more. This is a strange concept to most North American employers.
- just wants to go back home to see his family.
- wants to leave your job and is trying to be polite about it.
- has a special fiesta that he wants to participate in his home town or village.
For a little extra, you can also find out about the value of “good Mexican landscapers:”
Many landscape contractors have discovered the value of a good Mexican landscapers. They’ll mow the lawns, trim the shrubs, dig the drip line trenches……..whatever you need done. And they will do it all day long at a good pace.
Our Landscaping employers like the fact that we go to Mexico to recruit workers directly without any middlemen. They have found out that we truly are concerned with finding good workers with good work attitudes and habits.
The company that developed these questions has a URL call USAMex.org. The company’s site claims the following: “We are concerned mostly with workers from Mexico. We help you get CERTIFIED by the Department of Labor. We prepare the documents for the USCIS (formerly, the INS) Your workers qualify for US temporary work visas. H2A or H2B. This work is overseen by the US Department of Labor (DOL), USCIS, and the US State Department. USAMEX Ltd acts as the AGENT of the employer in becoming certified by DOL and preparing the documents to obtain the visas for the foreign workers needed.” The website was last updated in 2011.