Frequent questions from our employers about Mexican
workers and Mexican culture
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
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
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
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.