Timesizing® Assocs. - Homepage
[Commentary] © 2002 Philip Hyde, The Timesizing Wire, Box 622 Cambridge MA 02143 USA (617) 623-8080
Work-Related Suicides from July to September, 2002
9/30/2002 work-related suicide in the news -
9/20/2002 workplace murder in the news -
- A Nebraska trooper killed himself Friday, news squib, WSJ, front page.
...A superior said the man felt he botched a computer check on a suspect's gun before a bank robbery last week in which five people died.
[And an ampler version from a regional paper -]
Nebraska - Trooper kills self after lapse in case , 9/29/2002 Boston Globe, A4.
NORFOLK - A state trooper, apparently guilt-ridden that he did not catch one of the men who a week later became a suspect in a deadly bank holdup, used his service revolver to kill himself Friday afternoon. Four suspects are being held in Thursday's robbery at the US Bank branch in Norfolk in which five people were shot to death. Nebraska State Patrol trooper Mark Zach had stopped one of the robbery suspects for a traffic violation, but failed to detect that the gun the man was carrying was allegedly stolen. Although the gun was confiscated by authorities, Zach apparently felt responsible for not getting the suspect behind bars on a more serious stolen weapons charge.
[Could less work and more work-life balance have saved this man? Troopers (and even Park Service law-enforcement rangers - if the Grand Canyon is any indication) can get pretty intense, and they can put in some serious megahours. We can't be sure that sharing the vanishing work with shorter, enforced workweeks would have saved the situation in any particular one of our cases on this page, but it would sure have made these disasters less likely. Most of these people basically needed to get a life, and Timesizing would certainly have encouraged that.]
9/18/2002 work-related violence in the news -
- Lawyer gets life in killing of partner, by Joe Lambe, Kansas City Star, B1.
A Kansas City lawyer was sentenced Thursday to life without parole for beating his law partner to death, ending one of Kansas City's most unusual cases in recent years.
In July, jurors convicted Richard Buchli, 52, or first-degree murder and armed criminal action for the May 5, 2000, beating of Richard Armitage, 49. Armitage died two days after he was found in his bloody office with his skull shattered by nine blows from a blunt object. The case marked the first time in about 25 years that a Missouri lawyer was charged with killing another lawyer.
...Buchli professed his innocence.... Prosecutors won a conviction despite a lack of eyewitnesses, a murder weapon or a confession. Prosecutors contended that Buchli was hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt and killed his partner partly for money. ...Following the sentencing, Kathleen Armitage, the victim's widow, said she had no doubt Buchli had killed her husband, but she got little joy in his going to prison.... [Armitage] was one of the nation's top organ donation lawyers and...donated his own organs in death....
9/17/2002 work-related violence in the news -
- [more bizarre violence partially motivated by the global overage of labor hours and resulting drought of markets -]
Man admits poisoning food in rival's shop, killing 38 in China, by Erik Eckholm, NYT, A5.
BEIJING...- A jealous business rival has confessed to spiking the food in a snack shop in eastern China with rat poison, killing 38 people, mostly schoolchildren, and sending hundreds more to the hospital, state news organizations reported tonight.
...China Central TV and the New China News Agency said...that a man named Chen Zhengping had admitted to placing a potent rat poison in products of the Zhengwu Pastry Baar in Tangshan, a town near the city of Nanjing in Jiangsu Province. Boarding school students and soldiers who relied on the shop for breakfast fell violently ill after eating fried dough sticks, sesame cakes and sticky rice balls on Saturday morning. Some patrons collapsed right in front of the shop, bleeding from the mouth and ears, witnesses said.
The accused man ran a rival shop and told the police that "he nursed a hatred because of business competition," according to a TV report. By some accounts, Mr. Chen simply hoped to makew patrons ill when he placed the toxin - a banned rodenticide called Dushuqiang, or "strong rat poison" - in the rival shop's products.... Dushuqiang contains tetramine, a chemical that attacks the nervous system [oral and aural bleeding doesn't sound like nervous system], and was banned in 1991, officials said. But illegal production has continued in the countryside, and the poison has been used in other crimes, as well as in many suicides.... [Last] night's official report said 38 were dead and 6 others were in critical condition, whicle "most of the 200 victims" were in stable condition..\.. Reports in some papers here and in Hong Kong have quoted unidentified Jiangsu officials as saying that 49 or more had died and hundreds more were seriously ill.
..\..When people started dying, [Mr. Chen] fled and was arrested Sunday in Zhengzhou, 370 miles to the north, officials said. He has been returned to Nanjing, and the investigation of the case continues, police said....
China sentenced, summary squib, 10/01/2002 WSJ, front page.
...a man to be executed for killing 38 people near Nanjing Sept. 14 by putting rat poison in snacks sold by a rival vendor. Hundreds were sickened in the incident.
8/18/2002 work-related violence in the news -
- Insurance exec shoots, kills 2 co-workers, self, Arizona Republic, A5.
NEW YORK - An insurance executive called two co-workers into his office near Times Square on Monday morning, shot them to death and killed himself, authorities say. ...A police source told the Associated Press that the gunman...had been romantically involved with one of the victims, a woman.... The third victim was a man....
The gunman, a VP in the fraud investigations unit at Empire Blue Cross-Blue Shield, was formerly an FBI agent in New Jersey, according to a federal law enforcement source speaking on condition of anonymity.
8/11/2002 work-related suicide in the news -
- The latest modern scourge: Office rage, by Alan Cowell, NYT, 4-2.
A new survey has found that the stress of the modern workplace has increasingly induced outbursts, particularly among women angered by such irritants as broken computers and annoying colleagues.
[Reporter Alan Cowell has carefully omitted the first irritant mentioned in the original source article for this piece, "'Office rage' sweeps British workplace - survey," Reuters 08/14/02 07:42 ET via AOLNews. The second sentence in the article is, "Overwork, faulty computers and annoying workmates were the main cause of 'office rage' - and women are more likely to snap than men." Guess Cowell's corporate masters at the NY Times didn't think the truth fit particularly well into their current culture of workoholism. Britain is another major English-speaking economy that doesn't have the sense to claim the promise of technology and CUT THE WORKWEEK! But at least Britain doesn't censor it out of their news.]
- First it was road-rage among irate motorists hurling abuse and sometimes coming to blows, or worse,
- Then it was air rage, a phenomenon ascribed to excessive in-flight boozing....
- Now, rage has rippled [into] Britain's [placid] offices, once more used to leisurely tea breaks....
The survey, commissioned by a recruitment agency [Pertemps] and based on a poll of 450 office workers across the land, found that 51% of women and 39% of men had come close to punching a colleague....
[It's not at all clear whether women are really "more likely to snap" or just more willing than men to own up to their emotions and admit they've felt like punching someone. We suspect the latter is the actual truth in the matter. The NY Times' terror of slamming the cultural shibboleth of Unlimited Work Per Person In America extends all the way to the second-last sentence of the source article, which sets forth some advice, "Bosses should defuse conflicts early, listen to staff complaints, avoid overcrowding and set realistic workloads and deadlines." Cowell completely omits the sentence of what bosses should do, paraphrasing only the sentence of what employees should do - which omits anything about workloads. And he calls them workers, not employees. Apparently in contemporary America, as put forth by the nation's supposedly liberal newspaper (as demoed by their current editorial feud with the Wall St Journal over whether there is or is not an anti-Iraq-war faction within the GOP), it's still "not done" to mention overwork disparagingly or to talk about what the boss "should do" to improve the working environment - it's all the fault and responsibility of "the workers." The old campaign for "the discipline of the work force" lives on in Third-Millennium America, and regardless of all the malfeasance of top executives currently in the news, you just don't even think of such a thing as the discipline of management - that would be too close to America's real problem.]
8/06/2002 work-related suicide in the news -
- Homicides rise again, threatening Oakland's renaissance, by Evelyn Nieves, NYT, A12.
Employees at a Safeway grocery store in Oakland, Calif., consoled one another on July 15 after a murder-suicide. The number of killings in the city this year has increased from 48 by the same time last year to 69. [photo caption]
...The Oakland Police Dept. estimates that 60-65% of the city's violent crimes are committed by an estimated 10,000 people who are either on parole or probation and that about 80% of the killings are drug-related.
...Said George Phillips, a police spokesman, "You have people who for the most part are undereducated, they're from low-income backgrounds, they have low job skills, and they have no hope.... And the drug business is a very lucrative business."...
[Again, we have made it much easier to earn a dishonest living than an honest one. And as we comment at the end of today's prison news, 8/11/2002, there's no excuse for this because we have one of the most highly technologized societies, meaning full of worksaving devices, on the planet. If we can't yet share the concentrated wealth initially because of the disincentive to the divested and the parasitification of the beneficiaries, we can at least share the vanishing and concentrating human employment as the robots assume more and more of it. That means cutting the workweek gradually as far as it takes to recover our unemployment-deactivated markets by spreading the work and spending power across our entire population. That means retraining our executives and managers to focus on schedule-suturing and cross-training &/or retraining itself. That means something very like Timesizing.]
8/02/2002 work-related suicide in the news -
- Alaska: Woman kills retired top lawman, AP via NYT, A13.
The vice chairwoman of the Alaska Chamber of Commerce killed the state's retired commissioner of public safety and wounded his wife over the weekend, state troopers said.
[Sheesh, maybe Alaska is even weirder than Texas! Lucky he was retired - he wouldn't have been a very good advertisement for his agency.]
The victim, Glenn Godfrey, [served] from Aug/2000 to last June, and before that, he was director of the Alaska State Troopers. [They] were shot at their Eagle River home early Saturday by the Chamber official, Karen Brand, who then killed herself. The Anchorage Daily News quoted officers as saying Ms. Brand was upset because Mr. Godfrey had ended their relationship.
[Neither of the protagonists were too smart if they were mixing business and pleasure while in high-visibility jobs.]
8/01/2002 work-related violence in the news -
- Beverly Enterprises unit to pay penalty, WSJ, A4.
...It Calif. unit agreed to pay a $2m penalty to state officials and enter a no-contest plea in Santa Barbara County Court to two felony charges under California's elder-abuse statute. The fine and plea settle cases that resulted primarily from two deaths at the La Cumbre Convalescent Hospital in Santa Barbara...in July 2000 and in July, 2001....
The cases alleging abuse resulted from the deaths of patients Laura Simmons...and William Marthai.... Attention was focused on the facility after Mary Hochman, a nurse, committed suicide and left behind a detailed journal of complaints about practices at the home.
[Phew - we've one sick society when the only way of getting the Big Microphone is killing yourself (or somebody else).]
7/14/2002 work-related violence in the news -
- Civil servant in Lebanon, disgruntled, kills eight, AP via NYT, A6.
BEIRUT...- An Education Ministry clerk opened fire at colleagues [yester]day with an assault rifle and two pistols, killing 8 people and wounding 5.... After he exhausted his ammunition, he dropped his weapons, walked down the stairs and lit a cigarette.... The police arrived and arrested him.
..\..The clerk, Ahmed Mansour, is Muslim and most of the dead were Christians. But the police and Ministry officials said a financial dispute was behind the shootings.... Education Minister Abdul-Rahim Murad said Mr. Mansour was angry that he had been asked to repay a $12,000 loan from the compensation fund...which handles pay raises, bonuses, end-of-service payments and loans to teachers..\..
[But he wasn't a teacher?!]
"They asked him to sell his car," the Minister said. "He sold it, got upset and consequently came and committed his crime"..\..
Mr. Mansour...had worked for the Ministry for 23 years.... In [his] village of Loubieh in southern Lebanon, his wife...broke down on hearing the news. "I can't believe Ahmed would do something like this," she said. She added that her husband, the father of four, was a diabetic who took tranquilizers....
- Workplace violence, letter to editor by Managing Dir. Paul Viollis of Citigate Global Intelligence & Security of Manhattan, NYT, 3-10.
"Corporate protection in a violent world" (Exec Life, June 23) provided a good picture of the hazards faced by firms from unhappy former employees.
Employees, however, do not snap only because they hear the news that they are being terminated; this type of violence builds over time. Such employees can be identified, and the risk to executives and other employees mitigated, well in advance.
[Seems to us this is a trifle optimistic. A number of our stories below mention the unexpectedness of the incident and the perpetrator.]
These employees have generally already exhibited some unacceptable behavior in the workplace. If managers let employees know in a clear way when they have crossed the line, and provide a platform for improving that behavior, they greatly reduce the shock that can be a catalyst to violence. Written policies about workplace violence give managers a tool to convey the parameters of acceptable behavior.
[In the economy of the future, mass termination will be "outside the parameters of acceptable behavior" for managers and executives, and timesizing will "provide a platform for improving that behavior."]
If executives are reduced to calling in the muscle of law enforcement after an incident has occurred or training executives and employees about avoiding danger that has already spun out of control, they are risking the loss of morale and productivity in their business.
[What "morale" in today's overworkplace?]
For earlier suicide stories, click on the desired date -Jan-Jun/2002.
2000 & previous.
For more details, see our laypersons' guide Timesizing, Not Downsizing, which is available online from *Amazon.com and at bookstores in Harvard and Porter Squares, Cambridge, Mass.
Questions, comments, feedback? Phone 617-623-8080 (Boston) or email us.