Maybe one day you overheard your coworker on the phone in her native accent or you see her with what you are certain is Jamaican food. Do not get too excited. Chances are, your coworker did not want anyone to know for a fact that they were Jamaican. Not because he or she is ashamed of course but because of the magnanimous amount of attention Jamaicans tend to receive once their heritage is identified. And who can blame others from lavishing us with nothing but praise and admiration? Jamaicans tend to be overachievers in just about everything they do. Our athletes tend to jaminate (dominate) their opponents once challenged. And so it is in the workplace. Everyone wants to be on #TEAMJAMAICA because we are one of the liveliest people on the planet. So goes the saying: “we likkle but we tallawah”. This attention in the workplace however can prove to be distracting and so many of us choose to fly under the radar in hopes that we can climb the success ladder without fanfare or being favorite because of who we are. When you do find out that Trevor and Maxine are Jamaicans, it is best to just keep your interaction the way it was prior to this revelation. Here is a list of things you should avoid doing if you want to continue to co-exist peacefully with your Jamaican coworker:
1. Please refrain from using patois if it isn’t your native tongue and you are not proficient. It is wonderful that thanks to President Obama you know what “wah gwaan Jumayka means” however you should not holler “wah gwaan” every morning when you step in the office.
2. Similarly, even if you are proficient in speaking patois, the workplace is not the place to practice your lingo. Jamaicans can be very “stooosh”( uppity) when placed in a work setting. Do not greet your Jamaican coworkers with “rudebwoy” slangs such as “yow”, “my yute”, “bredrin”, or “gyal”. They will not only earn you a “cut eye” but potentially garner a long “kiss teeth” or even a “box”.
3. Please do not tell us about that cruise you went on that stopped in Ocho Rios for half a day or that time in college when you and your buddies went to Negril for Spring Break and were drunk and/or high the entire time. Chances are that if you have never left the beach you haven’t seen much of what Jamaica has to offer and know very little about the people or culture.
4. In the same breath, do not go into details about the trip you took once where you spent time in a commune with Rastafarians dwelling in the deep jungles of the hills. Most of us frown upon marijuana use, publicly that is, and do not want to be associated with pot heads or the likes.