Workplace Bullying & Suicide: Who or What is Really Responsible?


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.

  • Lerato

    Recently i experienced perhaps what can be labelled as workplace bullying i attempted suicide. the authority have blatantly ignored the situation.until this day no senior manager counselled me or for that matter spoke to me about the incident. what do a person do in situations like these .As it is i feel humiliated and emotionally numb. I have a feeling like i failed myself. i only brokedown yesterday, that is 3 months after the fact. workplace bullying is lethal. The problem is it is difficult to deal with,because you cannot pinpoint it. It is a pschological warfare.

  • I am sorry for your pain and your experience with workplace bullying. Indeed it can be terribly harmful and it seems that is what happened to you. What can you do? First, seek help. Hopefully you can find a counselor who understands bullying and abuse so he or she can support you. Second, know that bullying is not your fault. You did nothing to deserve or provoke the person bullying you. Third, do not believe that the company will want to help you or believe you. Some companies are very good on these issues, others are not good at all. Do not wait for them to help you. Get your own help now. I am thinking of you.