Why France Telecom Suicides Never Should Have Happened

france-telecom-2You may have heard about the 24 employees at France Telecom who committed suicide because work was too stressful. I’ve been thinking a lot about this problem.

Many employees are afraid to speak up for fear of being fired or looked down upon by their peers.

France Telecom is going through a restructuring in order to stand out competitive communication industry. They are trying to trim the fat and fix the problems. This isn’t easy in France where demand for employee rights is very strong.

I was thinking about the times in the past when I was depressed and worn down by work. That’s why I quit that old job.

I really think people should quit instead of putting their lives at risk.

Too Late

The problem is that people don’t realize that something is seriously wrong until it’s too late. They feel like their life is out of their control.

It’s easy for me to say, “Just quit,” nothing is worth putting your health at risk, but that’s not fair.

I endured a lot of crap while working for some pretty awful bosses. I’ve talked about my depression at work and bullying that I endured.

On 14 July, another 52-year-old employee killed himself in Marseille, leaving behind a note blaming "overwork" and "management by terror". He wrote: "I am committing suicide because of my work at France Telecom. That's the only reason."
- Angelique Chrisafis of The Guardian UK

We don’t think that a man would stab himself in the stomach to show his company that he is in pain. This is what happened at France Telecom. A 52 year old man stabbed himself while in a meeting to send a message.

He was not happy!

Communicate Our Feelings

We don’t communicate our feelings with each other often enough. We don’t want to get labeled as a complainer.

I don’t have the answer to this problem. A company needs to stay nimble and that may mean restructuring every few years, but how far should they go?

It’s tough to see that invisible line.

France Telecom did hire counselors, help people with moving transitions, and even helped subsidize new businesses in order to assist people in creating new careers. It still wasn’t enough.

All I know is that the leaders in companies must learn to do a better job of listening to their employees. They need to take the time to hang out and understand their concerns.

Should leaders be trained to help their employees become happy?

What do you think?

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* Mark Silver over at the Heart of Business wrote a wonderful post called Stopping the Cycle of Violence in Business. I couldn't agree more.

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Image courtesy of Yves Le Bail