Wed | Sep 30, 2020

Kristen Gyles | Changing the ‘links’ culture

Published:Wednesday | August 5, 2020 | 12:12 AM
Kristen Gyles
Kristen Gyles

There is a clear double standard in the way we view corruption and how fluidly the parameters change, depending on the accused.

The recent revelation by two of Jamaica’s top pollsters that voters are largely unmoved by allegations of corruption is at first shocking. But it only takes a surface-level evaluation of the ‘runnings’ here in Jamaica to see that much of the nepotism and cronyism ensuing within the political sphere is only a sample of what has become a cultural reality.

I would be very interested to see a local statistical study carried out to determine just how many persons currently occupy jobs they were ‘recommended’ for by a family member or friend within the organisation. It would also be interesting to see exactly what percentage of high-school students got transferred into schools because of a ‘recommendation’ from a family member or friend within the school. Nepotism? Never. Certainly not until those who control the country’s resources engage in the same behaviours. Then, it’s definitely nepotism.

One can argue that nepotism is only bad when opportunities are given to underqualified persons. At face value, it is not an unfair argument. Given the subjectivity of what it means to be qualified these days, though, the question is, in how many cases of alleged nepotism is the person extending the opportunity willing to admit that the recipient is underqualified? So, for example, when the minimum requirements for a job are a bachelor’s degree and four years’ experience, who decides how weighty each criterion is? Who is more qualified: The candidate with a master’s degree and three years’ experience or the candidate with a bachelor’s degree and eight years’ experience?

Perhaps if the candidate with the master’s degree is the HR manager’s nephew, he may be seen as the better pick, especially when it can be argued that time spent studying is academic experience. However, good governance practice might require that the HR manager recuse him/herself from the recruitment process in that particular case.

There is always a way to argue that a family member or friend was the best pick for the job. And when all other arguments fail, the excuse is that the job carries so much responsibility that only a very trusted candidate who can work well with the supervisor will really carry out the job well.


In whatever way an individual sees the issue, it is hypocritical to see the same ‘links’ culture that ordinary folks engage in as blatant corruption when politicians engage in the same behaviours.

A big part of the reason it is so difficult for persons from certain backgrounds to get ahead is not always lack of opportunity, but, rather, the stealing of the many available opportunities from them by persons who want to push their relatives and friends ahead.

Of course, for someone running their own ‘side hustle’, employing a cousin is purely their prerogative, but when an organisation (whether private or not) wishes to benefit from public funding and expects to collaborate with other organisations which are accountable to the public, the same ‘patty shop’ mode of operation can’t and won’t work.

Too many Jamaicans seem stirred by the idea of nepotism and cronyism only when they are not the beneficiaries.

My two cents: If you are working in a job that you got on account of who you know within the organisation, perhaps your disgust at nepotism is a little shallower than you would want to believe. If you can’t stand in the bank line and wait like everyone else, and would prefer calling your cousin who works around the back to sort you out quickly (and yes, because you are late and busy, and everyone else is not), you are in fact engaging in nepotism.


And very importantly, if when you get stopped by the police you have a habit of pulling out your ID for them to see that you are Mr or Mrs Big Wig, you should examine yourself and your ideas before pointing a finger at anyone.

Many of the behaviours we ourselves as ordinary citizens engage in contribute to a general culture of nepotism and cronyism – the same things we complain about within the political sphere.

Every corrupt mindset starts somewhere, from children being allowed to ‘skip’ the line in primary school to watching their parents connect the right wires so the light can come back on.

Regardless, any culture can be reversed. It is up to the adults who know better, to do better, and that is especially if they are calling others to do better.

Mature adults don’t beg their friends for a ‘skip’ in the supermarket line because it is inconsiderate of others who are waiting. They should also teach their children that it is inconsiderate when they skip the line. That is how culture changes.

Kristen Gyles is a mathematics educator and an actuarial science graduate. Email feedback to and