And You Thought Your Job Was Stressful: France Telecom Employees Keep Committing Suicide

from the yikes dept

People commit suicide. It happens. But, when a company has had 24 employees commit suicide in 18 months, with many blaming stress from the company as a reason, it makes you pay attention. Apparently, that's the situation at France Telecom, where the 24th suicide in the last 18 months took place earlier this week. The company says that it's going to look into how it handles human resources, which seems like a decent idea at this point. In the meantime, if you're prone to not dealing well with stress, perhaps cross France Telecom off your list of desired employers.


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    Dark Helmet (profile), Oct 1st, 2009 @ 6:51am

    Perhaps

    Perhaps they actually were simply laid off, but with a killer severance package....

     

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    LoL, Oct 1st, 2009 @ 7:03am

    That is what you can call a killer job!

     

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    Matt, Oct 1st, 2009 @ 7:04am

    Admit it...

    They killed themselves cause they were French. Know I would...

     

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    David (profile), Oct 1st, 2009 @ 7:06am

    I can't wait...

    I can't wait to see the slashdot comments on this one.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 1st, 2009 @ 7:51am

    Uhm... almost like the U.S. Post office. Ever heard the sain, going postal?

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 1st, 2009 @ 7:52am

    Besides, In France they're not nearly as overworked as America.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 1st, 2009 @ 7:59am

    So, 23 suicides didn't trigger anything? Why 24? Hell, after the first couple of suicides wouldn't you start wondering about these things. Seems pretty stupid otherwise. The HR department there must be useless, or not have any resources to combat this.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 1st, 2009 @ 8:11am

    As long as you can keep your head you should be able to advance quickly.

    24 cases then action??? At a place around here there where two with-in few months and it triggered investigations and government attention. They identified a possible third and appeared to avert it. Some key managers where 'contributing' factors and where let go with a severance package.

     

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    Joe, Oct 1st, 2009 @ 8:13am

    undercover operation required?

    Maybe they should send in someone from management, change their name ect and not let anyone know so they can figure out why everyone is so miserable. go up the line of command to see who is causing the excessive stress and fire whoever is causing the problems and work their way up to see who the trouble maker is.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 1st, 2009 @ 8:31am

    I suspect something toxic in the environment. It might be a single toxic supervisor, or it might be poison in the facility.
    I would start by looking for a mercury spill.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Oct 1st, 2009 @ 8:37am

      Re:

      Much, MUCH more likely to find the "toxic" supervisor.


      Because there's guaranteed to be poor management. Guaranteed.

       

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      Anonymous Coward, Oct 1st, 2009 @ 11:48am

      Re:

      I suspect something toxic in the environment. It might be a single toxic supervisor, or it might be poison in the facility.

      More likely a toxic corporate culture.

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 1st, 2009 @ 8:46am

    Suicide Rate

    From the article "the suicide rate among its staff is not much higher than in the general population"

    Is it really that bad being French?

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 1st, 2009 @ 8:52am

    The company says that it's going to look into how it handles human resources.

    its GOING TO LOOK into how it handles human resources? it takes 24 suicides for them to start considering it?

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 1st, 2009 @ 8:52am

    Reminds me of the Monty Python sketch where two office workers watch their coworkers fall past the window.

    "Must be a board meeting."

    Then they start taking bets on who will jump next.

     

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    San Antonio Employment Lawyers, Oct 1st, 2009 @ 8:54am

    Only One?

    I know have a mental picture of the office, of one manager walking around that is the literally the devil in a suit. For 24 suicides there has to be structural problems and toxicity everywhere. 24 suicides is just insane.

     

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    interval, Oct 1st, 2009 @ 8:57am

    We can only pray that the trend continues to the rest of that country...

     

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    ethorad, Oct 1st, 2009 @ 9:15am

    doesn't seem that high

    To me this reeks of the whole MADD "playing D&D causes you to commit suicide" claims. 100,000 employees, and 24 suicides over 2 years means only 12 per 100k employees per year.

    Comparing that to various national rates: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_suicide_rate

    France nationally comes in at 17.6 per 100k, so in fact it seems that working for France Telecom is good for you.

    The US comes in at 11.1 which is probably within the bounds of error of France Telecom's 12. To reply to AC above, it does seem to be that bad being French - although you should come to the UK, we're only 7 per 100k here!

    The article also says that "several" committed suicide at work or blamed the firm. That comes to around 30% of the suicides blame France Telecom (assuming that doing it at work is counted as blaming work). Not sure what proportion of suicides overall blame their employer but 30% doesn't seem that high?

     

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    ethorad, Oct 1st, 2009 @ 9:20am

    oops

    Ah, I missed the "under" in "24 deaths in under 2 years". Guess the 18 months quoted in the link above should have clued me in.

    France Telecom's rate then comes in at 16 per 100k per annum, which is still slightly lower than the national average.

    Surely they must expect to get in that region of suicides?

     

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      JD, Oct 1st, 2009 @ 9:28am

      Re: oops

      Ethorad,

      Agreed... this smacks of sensationalism by the media. FT is a rather large employer in France, and provided the employees are representative of the general population, you would expect similar mortality *and* fertility rates...

       

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      Scott Gardner (profile), Oct 1st, 2009 @ 9:55am

      Probably in the expected ballpark, but -

      France's national average for suicide may be in the 17-18 per 100k range annually, but a significant number of those people aren't the same type of people you'd likely find at France Telecom (for instance, how many of those annual suicides are people under 18, people over 65, serious drug abusers, homeless/unemployed, etcetera).

      I'd bet that if you compare the suicide rate at FT with the national average **for those people in the population that are economically/socially/age-wise similar to the FT employees** that you'd find that FT has much more than its fair share of suicides.

       

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        ChrisB (profile), Oct 1st, 2009 @ 11:50am

        Re: Probably in the expected ballpark, but -

        I think Ethorad pretty effectively smashed this article apart. I wish more people like him (her?) had even a basic understanding of statistics. This is the one subject that isn't gone into enough depth in grade school.

        In any case, the ball is in you court to prove "significant number of those people aren't the same type of people you'd likely find at France Telecom".

         

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          Scott Gardner (profile), Oct 1st, 2009 @ 3:23pm

          Re: Re: Probably in the expected ballpark, but -

          I generally agree with Ethorad's post, but I had a problem with his statement that "Surely they must expect to get in that region of suicides?"

          Further, my problem with his post comes from the fact that I *do* have an understanding of statistics, rather than from a lack of understanding.

          You can't call 16 suicides per 100k per year "normal" or "expected" just because that figure is close to the national average, unless you can also show that your smaller population is representative of the larger population as a whole.

          As another example, let's say that the annual death rate from cardio-vascular disease is 300 per 100k. That may be "expected", but if you were to see that kind of death rate from cardio-vascular disease at a large college, that would certainly not be "normal" or "expected", since the population of the college is markedly younger than the overall population.

          If Ethorad is just going to compare per capita suicide rate at FT with that of the general population in France and judge the number of suicides at FT to be "expected", then the burden of proof is on him to show that the population of FT is at least reasonably similar to the overall population of France.

           

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            Moosyvanian, Oct 1st, 2009 @ 9:15pm

            Re: Re: Re: Probably in the expected ballpark, but -

            No, he's right. The rate is exactly the National mean within sampling error. It seems to me f you want to claim something extraordinary about this subpopulation or the national mean, the burden of proof is on you.

             

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              Marcel de Jong (profile), Oct 2nd, 2009 @ 1:09am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Probably in the expected ballpark, but -

              But I think the key phrase in this, is that the people who committed suicide mentioned the high levels of stress of working within the company (according to the article)...

               

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              Anonymous Coward, Oct 2nd, 2009 @ 3:14am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Probably in the expected ballpark, but -

              Well right off the bat, here are two easy ones:

              1) The rate of suicide among unemployed people is two to four times higher than among employed people.

              2) The age group with the highest suicide rate is those people from ages 75-84, and the rate for those 85 & up is much higher than the rest of the population as well.

              Obviously, anyone working at FT isn't unemployed, and I suspect they don't employ many people over 75, so there are two high-risk groups right there that are severely underrepresented at FT. Do you still think the suicide rate at FT should mirror the overall rate of the nation?

              The suicide rates are also higher for chronic drug abusers (not recreational users) and the mentally ill (two more groups that I'm fairly certain are underrepresented at FT compared to the population as a whole.)

               

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    poop, Oct 1st, 2009 @ 9:39am

    poop

    poop

     

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    TriZz (profile), Oct 1st, 2009 @ 9:56am

    WAIT A MINUTE! Why are you all blaming France Telecom? The only thing they're guilty of is hiring people who are prone to suicide!

    We sit on this site daily and boast about how accountability/blame gets passed on to "the man" when people do dumb stuff (ie: kid kills family; blames Halo, rock music, and Google)

    I mean...the only HR checking that France Telecom should be doing is looking into a psych exam in their hiring process!

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Oct 1st, 2009 @ 11:55am

      Re:

      WAIT A MINUTE! Why are you all blaming France Telecom? The only thing they're guilty of is hiring people who are prone to suicide!

      Do you have some reliable source of information that indicates that the people FT hires are exceptionally "prone to suicide" before FT hires them or are you just making crap up?

       

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        TriZz (profile), Oct 2nd, 2009 @ 8:49am

        Re: Re:

        I'm sorry, is 24 cases of suicide within the organization not enough evidence to show that FT is hiring people who are prone to suicide?

        I mean, the proof doesn't get much more solid than that. Even psychiatric tests could not be more accurate.

         

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          Anonymous Coward, Oct 2nd, 2009 @ 2:03pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          I'm sorry, is 24 cases of suicide within the organization not enough evidence to show that FT is hiring people who are prone to suicide?

          That's one of the most ignorant things I've read in quite some time.

           

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    Volca, Oct 1st, 2009 @ 10:18am

    Human resources

    Maybe they should stop handling human resources and start taking care of the people they employ.

     

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    btr1701 (profile), Oct 1st, 2009 @ 11:58am

    Just Quit

    I mean seriously. If your job is causing you that much stress why wouldn't quitting be preferable to blowing your brains out?

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Oct 1st, 2009 @ 12:10pm

      Re: Just Quit

      I mean seriously. If your job is causing you that much stress why wouldn't quitting be preferable to blowing your brains out?

      Yeah, because we all know how easy it is to go out and get a better job.

       

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    Quintin Brown, Oct 2nd, 2009 @ 8:16pm

    Problem Solved

    They keep calling their employees "Human Resources" just call them "People". Instant fix. The worst thing to ever happen to companies was Human Resource departments.

     

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    elpookie, Oct 8th, 2009 @ 5:21am

    telecom

    What. . .French equivalent of "going postal"

     

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    cathy, Sep 20th, 2010 @ 5:07pm

    Wouldn't it have made more sense to kill the management group. You know organize, think of a good plan and kill them. If the management group is deliberately trying to get rid of its workers and they have a union, why didn't the union stand up for them. Suicide is selfish and stupid.
    I would rather be pennyless and happy than working for some Hitler who only wants me dead. Anyway, what about the people you leave behind. Maybe the families of these suicides should take contracts out on the management and destroy the company itself. Just an idea.

     

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    L K Tucker, Apr 5th, 2012 @ 7:10am

    France Telecom suicides

    i have written every French agency I could find to explain what is happening to cause these suicides, the suicides at La Poste, and Renault. The same suicides are happening at Foxconn in China and Colleges in the United States.

    Pictures and video taken by TV news crews and posted on line show the problem is Subliminal Distraction exposure. Discovered when it caused mental breaks for office workers forty years ago the office cubicle was designed to block peripheral vision for a concentrating worker to stop it by 1968.

    The problem is a normal feature in our physiologic of sight and the deaths are preventable with no cost precautions.

    Anyone with a computer at home or a child in school-college should have the information at VisionAndPsychosis_Net.

     

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