Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

American Workplace Needs Humanizing

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

American Workplace Needs Humanizing

Article excerpt

This month, a reportedly deranged man - back to work at the Connecticut State Lottery following a stress-related leave - went on a deadly rampage, killing four of his superiors before turning the gun on himself.

The details seemed all too familiar. The gunman was 35-year-old Matthew Beck, who had accused his employer of treating him badly. He'd complained that his supervisors were stalling on negotiations to pay him back wages and that he was not being assigned any work. Months earlier, he'd filed a grievance contending that he was being assigned jobs outside of his work classification and that he deserved a raise of $2 an hour. Just a few days before his rampage, he spoke angrily of suing the Lottery.

For the American worker, the past ten years haven't been completely kind. Although unemployment has dropped to below 5 percent, underemployment is increasingly the norm, with many middle-income, manufacturing jobs being replaced by lower-paying positions in the service industry. More and more workers have been forced to take temporary or part-time jobs without fringe benefits. In response to cut-throat competition, some unhappy workers have simply given up on themselves. Others have sought legal remedies. But more and more, embittered, vengeful workers have settled matters outside of court - with fighting words and a loaded gun. To many casual observers, the problem of workplace violence is often equated with disgruntled postal workers. The term "going postal" has become a code word for workplace massacres, and there is even a new computer game, simply called "Postal," with the theme of going berserk in public places. As the Connecticut incident indicates, the problem of workplace violence extends well beyond the confines of local postal facilities. Nationally, about four people are murdered every month at the hands of a co-worker or former co-worker. And for every incident of workplace homicide, thousands of workers are assaulted or threatened by an associate. Less conspicuous are the countless numbers of angry workers who seek to sabotage their company's bottom line by spreading ugly rumors to hurt sales or subverting the manufacturing process. …

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