Workplace Bullying & Suicide: Who or What is Really Responsible?
The depth of the harm caused by workplace bullying cannot be underestimated. In this recent article, suicide is added to the list of consequences. This is not new, Australia and the United States were recently under scrutiny for bully-related suicides by targets. Who is to blame? Is it the perpetrator, or his or her manager? What about the CEO or President of the company? What about an organizational culture that encourages or permits classic workplace bullying behavior?
In this article, the former chief executive of France Telecom Didier Lombard quit his post after criticism of his handling of a spate of suicides among employees. Thirty five employees committed suicide between 2008 and 2009, allegedly because of workplace bullying which was ignored by administrators. “Some workers left notes blaming unbearable work pressure, bullying and ‘management by terror’ while scores of other staff, from senior technicians to staff who worked processing bills, were saved as they attempted to kill themselves. One worker was found unconscious after taking an overdose at her desk.”
Workplace Bullying Caused by the Organizational Culture?
What’s important to note about this case is not the number of suicides, although that is reprehensible and nearly incomprehensible, but the fact that Lombard is not being singled out for personally ignoring complaints but for presiding over a collective managerial bullying approach that spread across the company. Bingo. There’s the hook we need to stimulate change.
Workplace Bullying Legislation
If legislation to prohibit workplace bullying behaviors is to be effective, then it needs to be structured so that improving the organizational culture and holding administrators and leaders accountable is included. It is to easy to plead ignorance, or worse, model bullying behavior in the C-suite. Perhaps this investigation will seed the change we are looking for.
I’m Kathleen Bartle, a strategic consultant on workplace conflict to executives worldwide for more than 20 years. My work brings individualized solutions to your teams’ lost productivity, loss of key personnel, low morale, and the high costs resulting from bullying, abrasive behaviors and interpersonal workplace conflicts. You can contact me here.