Sunday, August 8, 2010

Workplace violence


Beer delivery truck driver went on rampage, killed 8, self. Insane Murderer or Vigilante Justice?

1. He never had trouble before.
2. There are accusations for racial harassment/discrimination
3. No incidents are filed with workplace/union/government agency (except noted below)
4. Some of the dead are accused harasser.
5. He was about to get fired for alleged stealing
6. He called 911 detailing the incident before killing himself (the government agency incident report)

I don't have all the details, and so will not judge either way, but I think these facts are true:
1. Worker is harassed, bullied, etc
2. Top Management/Owners are actually nice guys who don't allow harassments in workplace
3. Stealing is allegedly done by such worker, as reported by low-ranked manager/union
4. There is a discrepancy between Owner perception (as presumably reported by middle management) and operational reality.

My opinion:
And it is just an opinion, since I do not have all the details,
This reminds me of sexual harassment cases that was highlighted way back in 1990s. It was huge back then, so if you've been awhile, you can't miss it. I'm guessing the middle management/supervisor type are young people who either ignorance of such issue, or incompetents who cannot draw the parallel between the two. Specifically, THE VERY PEOPLE WHO ARE SUPPOSED TO STOP AND REPORT THE CRIME, ARE THOSE WHO DO THE CRIME!

The bosses provide reports to top management, right? The report would detail operational effects, employee problems, concerns and so on. When the boss sexually harassed the secretary (worker), will that get reported? Not likely. Most likely the boss will say that it's just "harmless fun", and then keep doing it. The boss keeps having fun, while the worker fumed, stressed out, and finally quit. And the cycle repeats, since the boss would obviously have the power to choose hiring candidates.

Unless the top management provides a way for the worker to bypass middle management, the only way top management know that there is a problem is through sexual harassment lawsuit. That is a lose-lose situation. The company loses in fines, the worker loses in career. Who wants to hire a trouble maker? The heavy-handed sexual harassment education in the 90s, highlighted the dire consequences that can result from such incidents.

But harassments are harassments. It can be sexual, racial, class, or anything. The point is, does the company condone such action? Of course not! That would be stupid. A lot of time, the harassment occurred without top management's knowledge. It is in my opinion that the owners of the beer delivery place are decent people, and that they truly did not know. But they should have! That is communication failure, and communication skills are necessary part of management skill set. Which means, that this incident happened because there is management failure.

Just my opinion, nothing more.

And now for my rant: It is not unheard of for bad management to provide false report to paint a worker as "bad". I made it a policy to leave such companies quickly, regardless to whom it was done. If you want to win, you have to surround yourself with winners. Bosses who provide bad reports are losers who cannot grasp reality. Good workers will not tolerate that and will leave. That leaves bad workers who in truth would be less concerned about profitability, and more about political survival. And the company will enter death spiral, where bad decisions cause more good worker to depart, leaving more bad worker to make bad decision and so on.

Ask yourself this: Do people in your department worry about maximizing income? Increasing revenue? Gaining marketshare? Profitability? Or do they worry about how to cut expenses to the barebone? Reducing worker's comp to a minimum? Survive yet another economic downturn? About how mistakes really hurt the company? If it's the former, that's good. If it's the latter, that's bad, and you should try to change the negative, crisis management technique to a more positive one.

I think it would help that if you fire people a lot, that you advise them that there are methods of resolution, other than arbitration that will favor a company or killing people. Although the word "lawsuit" can be expensive, the cost of human live is much more so.

A few questions:
1. What was stolen? It's a beer delivery place, mostly warehousing. There's nothing valuable in there!
2. Why forced resignation? No warning/disciplinary action for first offense? Sounds harsh treatment to me.
3. How come a trouble free worker suddenly became troublesome worker when he comes to this company?
4. Why does the worker feel that killing people, instead of suing for wrongful termination, a better solution? Did the company representative made any threat regarding such lawsuit?
5. How is the turnover rate? Are workers happy or stressed out?
6. Just how exactly do you evaluate management competence, anyway?

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