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  • Writer's pictureJohn Macedo

Is your Labourer dumb? Or you've been CURSED? Labour Problems Explored

Updated: May 27, 2022

For Construction Foreman and Project Managers, not being able to figure out labour problems can be frustrating for construction workers.

One of the labour problems is how difficult it is to pass instructions and delegate tasks

⬅️In any labour market, one of the workers' problems that commonly arises is how difficult it is to pass instructions and delegate tasks. Part of the reason for this difficulty is that labour markets are often made up of workers with different levels of experience and expertise.

➡️As a result, it can be challenging to find someone who is both willing and able to take on a particular task. Additionally, labour markets are often in flux, with workers moving in and out of jobs regularly. This turnover can make it difficult to establish continuity and communication among workers.

Finally, labour markets problems are often characterized by a certain degree of competition, which can make workers reluctant to cooperate or share information. All of these factors can contribute to the difficulty of passing instructions and delegating tasks in a labour market.

I an experiment made in 1990 by a Stanford University graduate student, by the name of Elizabeth Newton. She illustrated the curse of knowledge in the results of a simple task. She took several subjects and split them into two groups. She asked the first one to “tap” out well-known songs with their fingers, such as “happy birthday”. The purpose of the second group was to try and name the melodies.

When the survey respondents “tappers” were asked to predict how many of the “tapped” songs would be recognized by listeners, they would estimate the success ratio at 50%. The curse of knowledge is demonstrated here as the “tappers” are so familiar with what they were tapping they could practically hear the melody, which caused them to assume that the listeners would easily recognize the tune. Furthermore, it was actually frustrating to them not to have the listener’s understanding. The actual success rate in recognizing the songs where 2.5% - one time in 40, not one in 2.


“The “curse of knowledge” is a natural mental bias that occurs when an individual, communicating with other individuals, unknowingly assumes that the others have a common understanding background.”

The phrase "the curse of knowledge" was coined by economist, George Akerlof.

It is the phenomenon whereby those who have expertise in a particular field find it difficult to share their knowledge and problems solving tips with others who don't have the same level of expertise.

✳️This is because they are unable to imagine not knowing what they know.

Therefore, they underestimate how much effort is required for someone else to learn what they already know.

✳️In other words: if you are TEACHING or PASSING INSTRUCTIONS you’re CURSED.

For instance, in a construction setting, a tradesman may have some difficulties and get frustrated when teaching his labourers about their jobs and work problems as they can hardly put themselves in the position of their apprentice – this is a perfect example of how the "curse of knowledge" may play out in our everyday lives.

✳️ If a Project Manager or a Construction Foreman is constantly having trouble getting the ideas across with the Construction Labourers, maybe they're having trouble working around their own "curse".

Hey, Just hold on a sec! Spades is a Labour Hire company and we are not trying to cover our ass by saying that the communication is the client's problem. We do the best we can training our construction workers to avoid this sort of problem on site - AND - we believe every labour hire company should do the same.

▶️OK... Let's carry on:

A brilliant carpenter might no longer remember the difficulties that a young apprentice encounters when learning a new task.

When you’re dealing with workers on site, the “curse of knowledge” is present in the mistake of explaining a task in the way that you would understand instead of how workers would understand.

​​So NO. your labourers are not dumb.​​

When passing instructions (to a construction worker or anyone else), you need to be aware that you will always be in the position of “curse by the knowledge” of what you’re trying to achieve to overcome problems.

⚠️It is very important that you acknowledge your “curse” and go with your workers back and forth as many times it’s necessary to make sure nothing is left out or just assumed understood.

A suggestion is to ask the following questions:

· Are you OK to do this?
· Can you explain it back in your own words?
· Do you need anything else?

Let your workers explain to you not what you said, but what is in their heads, and build on it. Keep adding information, resolving presumptions, and aligning expectations until you make sure everyone is on the same page. It may be counterintuitive in the beginning but will save you time since you improve your chances to get everything done as you want in one go. Remember: "slow is smooth, smooth is fast" - learn what we're talking about by clicking here.

Problems arise when what is communicated earlier is presumed to be understood but not entirely so. Skilled workers are trusted to have a full understanding of the working conditions, but during their working hours, they tend to have a large number of wrong concepts that need clarifications.

Labor problems in the construction industry are created by a lack of knowledge

The construction industry is a notoriously challenging environment for labor relations. Contractors are often under pressure to keep costs low, which can lead to corners being cut when it comes to things like training and safety. As a result, labor problems are common in the construction industry.

The most common issues include accidents, injuries, and fatalities. These problems are often caused by a lack of knowledge on the part of workers. Without proper training, workers are more likely to make mistakes that can lead to accidents. Additionally, unsafe working conditions are another major contributor to labor problems in the construction industry.

By increasing awareness of these issues and working to improve safety standards, we can help reduce the incidence of labor problems in the construction industry.

How passing knowledge in the workspace is affecting the unemployment rate and overtime pay

unemployment rate is the percentage of the labor force that is willing and able to work but is unable to find employment. The main reasons for unemployment and part-time employment are offer unemployment and structural unemployment.

​👉🏻knowledge in the workplace is offer unemployment because it forces companies to get rid of their workers and replace them with machines that can do the job better, faster, and cheaper. This type of unemployment often leads to structural unemployment as people who have lost their jobs due to offer unemployment may not have the skills or qualifications needed for the available job tenure.

This can lead to an increase in total employment and a decrease in overtime pay as companies try to save money. While passing knowledge may have some benefits, it also has some negative consequences that should be considered before making any decisions.

➡️How digital technologies can avoid the curse of knowledge in the workplace

⬅️Digital technologies can help avoid the curse of knowledge in the workplace by enabling better communication and collaboration through social assistance.

A key challenge in any organization is ensuring that everyone has access to the same information and understands it in the same way. This can be difficult when people have different levels of knowledge or experience. digital technologies can help to level the playing field by providing a shared space for information and collaboration.

These technologies can also help to reduce the risk of misunderstanding or miscommunication, as they provide a clear and concise way to communicate information. As a result, digital technologies can be a valuable tool in avoiding the curse of knowledge in the workplace.

How knowledge can improve industrial relations in the labour market

Good industrial relations are vital for the smooth running of any organization, but especially for those that rely heavily on labour. By definition, industrial relations are the relationships between employees and employers, often within the context of a particular industry.

To ensure good industrial relations, both employees and employers need to have a good understanding of their rights and responsibilities. This is where knowledge comes in. By increasing knowledge about industrial relations among employees and employers, we can improve communication and understanding, leading to better industrial relations overall.

In turn, this can lead to improved productivity and efficiency in the workplace, as well as greater job satisfaction and stability. In short, there are many ways in which knowledge can improve industrial relations in the labour market, making it a win-win for everyone involved.


In the end, you should avoid working with assumptions. As the instructor and/or supervisor you experience the "curse of knowledge" every time that something is so familiar to you that sounds obvious.

However, to a student, that may be not so intuitive. The key here is to keep it simple and listen. Take your time every time you're instructing someone and break down terms and definitions. This way you make it easier for students to understand.

Considering that you already know what you’re teaching, you can easily break it down into smaller understandable chunks.

⚠️You should also engage your appendices while you train them. I know this will be tough, especially when you’re dealing with a crowd from a different working age population, but it’s the best way to make them understand. Remember that every time you answer a question you may be clarifying the matter to multiple others.

By asking them questions and hearing their opinions, you know how much they have understood. This also helps you refine your approach.


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