The company that drove 35 employees to suicide

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In 2010 there was an investigation on more than 35 suicides in the France Telecom workforce[1]. One of them just jumped out from a window at work and another person was found hanging in his garage with a France Telecom T-shirt on. An official report found that “pathogenic” management methods were applied to achieve job reduction targets between 2006 and 2008. France Telecom was the biggest public telecom operator in France at that time but was now transferring to the private sector to become more profitable. So, the company needed to reduce the staff to fit this new costume, and the tactic was relocation of qualified and long working loyal people – not regarded fit for the digital new world – to boring and mechanical work.

As one lawyer said: “At one time, there was an intention to create a sense of frustration in order to make the employees leave by themselves. The problem was that it worked too well…” The investigation report said: “The result is a list of recommendations, including a move away from what has been called the testosterone-fuelled confrontational management style, apparently adopted by senior management in France Telecom after watching the movie ‘Wall Street’ too many times”. The investigation concluded that management practices stressed the workforce to such an extent that around 35 persons committed suicide. That fact will forever be the tragic legacy of France Telecom for people around the world to remember – and a part of the new company Orange to learn from.

A friend of mine told me about a ”difficult” person who was absolutely hopeless to work with due to mood and psychopathic tendencies but proved nevertheless impossible to fire. The Union was too strong in this workplace. In the end, as there was no other solution to move this person in production than to put him counting screws for months, he finally resigned. This tactic I recognize from the toxic company where I was benched.

This is a part of the book Psychological UNsafety from the trenches you can order or read more about here.

[1] 3 French Executives Convicted in Suicides of 35 Workers – The New York Times: