Mexicans on the street

Mexicans on the street

Mexico is not known for its productivity. Everyone has heard of the stereotypical “lazy Mexican,” walking slowly, lazing about, working at a snail’s pace, talking a lot … just some of the perceptions of Mexicans. When I first arrived and saw how many hours people spent at work in Mexico City, I thought those stereotypes were completely unfounded and downright wrong. Then I started to realize that while people do work long hours in Mexico, work is rarely conducted in the most efficient manner possible, reducing overall productivity. I have found, it is the lack of organization, over-hierarchical processes and unimportance given to schedules and timings that leads to this great lack of productivity in Mexico. Here are some real-life examples:

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Organization in general is a joke. A million papers, a million archives on various computers, one or two people controlling the information and 50 others in need of it but not having a clue as to where to find it. Long, wordy emails and ridiculously long powerpoints that are not only hard to digest but nearly impossible to use for planning.

Hierarchy is extremely important in Mexican culture. Bosses have ALL the power and typically are the only ones who make decisions. This leads subordinates to defer any decision for fear of upsetting their bosses, making it impossible to work with anyone except the highest level client in order to agree to anything and move ahead. In addition, everyone and their mother has to review things, though with people receiving as many as 200 emails a day, it is virtually impossible, leading to increased mistakes for lack of clear lines of accountability and responsibility.

Schedules and times are always taken with a grain of salt … nothing is ever fixed in stone. I have rarely been to a meeting with a client that was not rescheduled a minimum of two times leading up to the date and almost always started late and ran over-time. In fact, meetings are rarely even assigned end-times. People like to share their opinions and discuss things for extended periods of time here. And if a meeting ended on time, the following meeting just might start on-time, which would be very un-Mexican.

But aside from all these cultural conditions that affect productivity in Mexico, somehow, work does get done, companies do make money, and most people seem content with their work (totally subjective opinion). And I must say that when deadlines put on the pressure, Mexicans DO know how to get things done quickly and efficiently. I generally think they are hard workers, even if half their time is spent trying to reschedule meetings and read their boss’ mind. Perhaps the whole influenza outbreak and week and a half of “working at home” wont have such a negative effect on productivity after all.

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