Blog entry by Alan Chapman

by Alan Chapman - Thursday, 26 December 2019, 1:35 PM
Anyone in the world

Corporate Responsibility for Worker Suicides

Leadership, Suicide and the Anthropocene

This is a highly significant development in the responsibility of employers and corporations.

The responsibility is that the workplace should not be a cause of suicide.

While for most people this states the obvious, the principle is not generally reflected in law or practice.

The subject of suicide - and especially workplace and work-related suicide - is deeply relevant to the Anthropocene (i.e., the 'sixth extinction' and its mitigation and survival), because suicide is the ultimate negative outcome when things go wrong in life

Homicide is the other most extreme negative outcome when things go wrong in life, but suicide kills far more than homicide, and suicide is far less understood and prevented, far more dangerous, and far more damaging and expensive to society. 

Suicide is also a 'barometer' or 'litmus paper' or 'acid test' - i.e., a simple, quick easy measure - of the health of society, and all that this implies.  

We still do not measure workplace suicides, and even less so do we measure suicide attempts by workers.

We most certainly should do, if only because if we want to manage and improve anything, then we must measure it. 

This lack of measurement (globally generally) is understandable because suicide is perhaps life's greatest taboo, and is deeply frightening to most people, especially to corporate and institutional bosses, who naturally seek to avoid risk of legal or other formal accountability for the wellbeing of workers in the challenging context of modern leadership. 

Leaders, like us all, are simply trying to do their best, according to their upbringing, conditioning, training, natural biases, and pressures of life. 

Each of us sees the world in our own unique way. Nobody is born evil or reckless.  

Under sufficient pressure, each of us would die by suicide, and/or kill someone.

Nevertheless, this is legal ruling is a huge development, and a legal precedent that will send powerful vibrations around the world, especially in the leaderships of big organizations, and those responsible for laws and standards, education and training, regulation and compliance, and governance and future imaginings, of workplaces.

In time we will see these emerging principles extend also to the responsibility of corporations and institutions and service providers, i.e., to protect users and customers and suppliers and other stakeholders from suicide, and all that is implied by this. 

France Telecom/Orange Suicides - Bosses Jailed

I've been following this case since the suicides at Orange (now France Telecom) were first reported, in the early 2000s, especially around 2010.

Below are a couple of news reports about the jailing of the bosses found guilty of the leadership that caused the suicides.

You can research and explore further in your own ways.

Having considerable personal suicide experience, and working in many aspects of suicide myself, I understand the effects of suicide on friends and loved ones of suicide victims. There are no words to explain it. 

That said, significantly, I also feel great pity for the bosses. They are perhaps deeply traumatised victims too, of the world we have all created; the Anthropocene.

Throughout time, all leaders necessarily struggle to balance the needs of the wellbeing of workers and followers, with the needs of sustaining the organisation for the 'greater good', or whatever term we might use to describe the aims of a leader.

When human systems reach a certain scale, it becomes impossible to reconcile the needs and wellbeing of everyone, internally and externally, and the leader must decide how to lead, according to what he/she believes is best.

In this case, according to the civilized improving world we generally seek to maintain and develop, the balance was wrong:

Future leadership - suicide and the Anthropocene

Where do we take this? 

Leadership, and suicide, and the Anthropocene...

What do we make of all this: these deeply valuable important 'gifts'  - this 'gold dust' of complaints and mistakes - by which we learn so much, so unimaginably infinitely greatly?

Because trauma is growth, and the biggest traumas, and most frightening taboos, are the biggest growth and learning; and thereby how we become all that we can be.

And specifically what lessons and improvements are enabled by this case?

Think about it. 

Think about what this means for you - as a leader and a follower, as a teacher and a learner, as a monster and a victim, because each of us is all of these - what does this all enable you to be, and how might this enable you to be all you can be? 



[ Modified: Thursday, 2 January 2020, 2:05 PM ]