Sep 29, 2009


24 are the hours in a day. 24 could be the number of shoes in your closet, though I'm guessing that would be the number of black shoes you use to go to the office. 24 could be the number of freckles on your nose. 24 could be the day you were born. 24 the number of unanswered e-mails still sitting in your mailbox, though if you are Shota-Hunter, the right number would be around 24 000. 24 are the months in a two year period.

Today, from the news, 24 are the number of France Telecom employees who have commited suicide in the last 18 months. This gives a different sense to the number. 24 employees have seen in ending their lives the only way to get out of the conditions that the organization imposes upon them. 24 are the tip of the iceberg. How many else are there who don't commit suicide but are subject of the same inhuman treatment these 24 were? How many don't do it because they need the job to support their families? How many don't do it because they have been bullied into submission?

This is, on the other hand, a reality lived in many other companies, some even worse in the private sector, but people don't care. Unions are ignored, but then in the private sector unions are down right prohibited because "they cause conflict between the employees and the employers". Flash news: if the working conditions are good, trust me, the Unions won't stir any problems.

Then again, this is not a matter of unions or not, it's a matter of people, and how unreasonable some can be. What was France Telecom thinking when the first person commited suicide and blamed the company for the decision? And what was thinking when the second followed? Evidently that it was just a matter of people throwing a temper tantrum. Don't they get the complains? Or do they think that the well being of their employees is entirely irrelevant and grupmy, depressed people can produce the same as happy, motivated people? Well, they don't, and if they can't see the results, maybe it's time to check the company and see where all the inefficiencies are going. A bit of advise? Start with the upper hierarchies.

When I worked at the bank, there was a boss who loved to mistreat their people. Though there was no colocation quota settled, not quota would affect the workers' wage (which is fix), he loved to gather up everybody once a month and tell them how bad had they performed, signaled out people, berated them and let his mignions to call anyone out to be berated. A personal case of that was when I was sent for one month to sell credit cards, which everybody had to do for one month every year. We could not answer the phone, only make calls, because all the calls that entered had to go to our loan procesing workmates. We were given lists of people preapproved to call. The lists weren't nearly enough to keep us occupied, so I took my textbooks to study while the new lists arrived.

A mignion called me one day to berate me, saying that I wasn't allowed to read at the office.

"What should I do then?"
"Make calls."
"All lists are finished. I'm still waiting for the new ones."

Sometimes lists could take days on arrive.

"Then take calls."
"I'm at the Credit Card section. Can I really take calls?"
"No, you are on the Credit Card section! I thought it was explained clearly that you CAN'T take calls!"

(As you can see, the mignion was very clear with the procedures.)

"Then, if I can't take calls and I have finished all my lists, what can I else do?"

The mignion looked at me with a mighty air of superiority.

"Your productivity is extremely low. You should be concerned about it."

Two days later I was awarded for breaking records in Credit Card sales. And the lists I was waiting that day hadn't arrived.

Many of my friends and coworkers have been subjected to worse kinds of bullying, things you wouldn't see even in The Devil Wears Prada. Though the worse cases happen usually in places where the workers have lower levels of education, or places where a given degree, a specialty is not needed, often happens is specialized places that workers with high degrees and so are mistreated. The debasing of workers, screaming at them, keeping them after work hours against their will, bullied into staying with either paid or not extra hours, often making them work on something that will be either filed away or discarded as soon as it's finished, the pushing of irrational deadlines or irrational demands, minimizing their skills, hiring people from the street to better positions, internally denied to them, and then demanding them to teach the new ones the ropes are ways of bullying more and more common in our laboral environment.

But 24 suicides don't tell the company that something is going wrong. High levels of personal rotation tell nothing to the company. Complains tell nothing to the company. Companies care about the bottomline, the worker is just an annoying necessary evil. Well, two things:

  1. How do they expect to reach the bottomline with no employees? Good quality workers will leave toplaces where they can be appreciated, and the constantly rotating base of lower quality workers will drag the company down slowly. There are not so many workers as the companies would like, certainly not many good.
  2. Workers are also customers, so a deceptioned worker, sad and depressed will strike twice.

1 comment:

Abril said...


Gracias por llegar a mi blog y dejar un cometnario tan lindo... agradezco a nuestro amigo en común que nos permite conocernos....

24... cabalístico... me impresiona el hecho de los suicidios... algo no está bien en esa compañía, terrible en serio que hoy que la gente que tiene mayor conciencia sobre el trabajo como un medio de subsistir pero no para vivir y entregarse a él por completo... todo tiene una medida.

Te mando un abrazo y es un gusto conocerte y seguir tus pensamientos diarios.