- Mrs. Harriott entered the public service 19 years ago as Office Manager at the Ministry of Tourism, after which she took up a job as Director of Office Services at the Accountant General’s Department, in 2010.
- She says she realized her services were needed beyond the specifics of her job description, and quickly moved to transform her department while endeavouring to boost staff morale.
- Mrs. Harriott, who is also Pastor at the Potter’s House Open Bible Church in St. Catherine, says her spiritual foundation has empowered her to deal with daily challenges encountered in her organisation.
Since her entry into the public service 19 years ago, Acting Director, Human Resource Development with responsibility for training, Accountant General’s Department (AGD), Yvette Alexia Harriott, has remained committed to making a meaningful impact on the sector and advancing the welfare of her colleagues, particularly those she supervises.
Mrs. Harriott, who assumed the position in December 2012, commenced her civil service career as Office Manager at the Ministry of Tourism. After a successful stint, she took up a job as Director of Office Services at the Accountant General’s Department, in 2010.
Recounting the move to the AGD, Mrs. Harriott tells JIS News that she was initially apprehensive about the job, and wondered whether she had made the right decision.
“When I came here I had mixed feelings. I said ‘God am I really to be here…should I really go back to the Tourism (Ministry)?’…because it was really two different environments… and I said ‘Lord, tell me how to start’. So I decided to (stay and work) with the 13 persons who I had direct responsibility for, at the time,” she says.
Mrs. Harriott says she realized her services were needed beyond the specifics of her job description, and quickly moved to transform her department while endeavouring to boost staff morale.
“At the time, there was a lot of tension in the unit and persons didn’t think much of themselves. (Persons such as the) office attendants and messengers…felt de-motivated…they felt that they were the least of the ‘apostles’ and that nobody really cared. (But) I said (to them)…‘together, we can make the change, we can make the difference’,” she informs.
Mrs. Harriott recalls that one of her first engagements, in this regard, was improving the Unit’s aesthetics by repainting sections of it. She points out that, despite initial apprehension by her colleagues to this move, she persisted as she was determined to get the job done, which won their admiration, and support eventually.
“I got the paint the brush, changed my clothes one evening, and when I started, persons were looking and saying ‘but this woman is really serious!’… There was one individual in the Department and she ‘Mrs. Harriot, I’ll help you, I can paint’; so I gave her a brush. So while I was using the roller, she was using the brush,” she informs.
Mrs. Harriott notes that the task was not completed that day, resulting in her returning early the next day to finish the job.
But she didn’t stop there. The veteran civil servant undertook similar engagements in other units, doing so out of her own resources and time, as was the case in her department.
“Persons marvelled and said ‘this woman is different’. But, for me, if I’m working in an environment, I have to be comfortable, and so I will do whatever it takes (to achieve this for myself and others). And it doesn’t matter whether or not I get a pat on the shoulder, I want to make a difference, and I must make an impact. So no matter the cost, I put that (effort) first, and just do it,” she says.
Mrs. Harriott has also initiated a weekly devotional exercise for her department, which is conducted on Mondays, before work commences. This, she notes, was and is still well received by her colleagues, adding that it is not unusual to see persons from other units joining her department to participate in this spiritual exercise.
Another engagement which the veteran civil servant launched in her unit is a birthday club, which she describes as, yet, another avenue to motivate her staff.
“The party is usually held on the last Friday of the month…and persons would say ‘Mrs. Harriot, you know I have never had a birthday party…I’ve never gotten a birthday gift’. So it means a lot to the staff. This has now spread to the other units,” she advises.
Mrs. Harriott says she also tries to offer words of encouragement and motivation to her colleagues as often as possible, by reminding them that they are ‘as good as any (other person), better than many, and inferior to none’.
“And so, even during the devotions, I would say that ‘look, you are just as important as any Director or supervisor… so stop looking down…and when you walk through this place (department) , hold your head up’,” she points out.
Since assuming the position of Acting Human Resource Development Director, Mrs. Harriott has been integral in revising and redesigning the Accountant General’s Department’s orientation booklet, which has been disseminated to members of staff. In addition, she has initiated quarterly publication of a Training News Letter, to keep staff members up to date on the latest human resource developments.
Mrs. Harriott, who is also Pastor at the Potter’s House Open Bible Church in St. Catherine, says her spiritual foundation has empowered her to deal with daily challenges encountered in her organisation.
“There are challenges everywhere. So we just have to learn and strategize how we are going to be dealing with them. I like a good challenge; I don’t run away from challenges. So the same counsel I give at church, I (provide) at work,” she points out.
Mrs. Harriott advises that she endeavours to make herself conveniently available to counsel her colleagues, who seek this intervention.
“So I will be at work at six o’ clock some mornings…I don’t take lunch time… I sit at my desk; so I will talk to people during lunch time. I am not one of those who grab my bag at 5:00 p.m.; I make the time just to counsel with people who might need it,” she says.
Mrs. Harriott informs that the spirit of service to others remains constant in her life, adding that she doesn’t regard herself as being above the persons she supervises.
“If there is a meeting and the attendant is not available to go and serve the participants, I don’t see myself being above (doing that task), which I have done before,” she said.
With these selfless undertakings and a desire to continue serving her country, it is no surprise that Mrs. Harriott was selected as a runner-up for the 2013 Civil Servant of the Year Award.
The award, which recognises one civil servant deemed to have exhibited excellence in public service delivery over the preceding year, was copped by Jamaica Information Service (JIS) Production Director, Enthrose Campbell.
“I was elated. I said ‘my God, I have served all these years and, finally, I am being recognised for working, for serving my country’… and I was really humbled. It was something that I didn’t really expect. I didn’t even know that I would have been nominated, and so I was flabbergasted when I got there. So, again I give God thanks for yet another milestone as a civil servant,” she says.
Mrs. Harriott urges members of the public sector to continue working to make positive impacts on the persons they serve, even in the face of challenges encountered.