France Telecom Suicide Epidemic Now Tallies 25

It sounds like something out of a mind-control horror movie: France Télécom, the European telecommunications giant, has now seen 25 of their employees commit suicide in the past 18 months. The most recent incident occurred yesterday when a 48-year-old engineer with a wife and family hanged himself in his home. These suicides aren’t coincidental. Victims have left notes indicating that the reasons they took their lives had to do with highly stressful work conditions and company policies. France Télécom, which employs upwards of 100,000 people, began significantly cutting down its workforce and implementing new structures last year, which brought fear, new stress and oppressive management to the workplace. A new evaluation system also put employees on a scale of personal achievement, putting added pressure on the individual. Wrote one woman in a suicide email to her father: “I can’t accept the new reorganization in my department. I’m getting a new boss and I’d rather die. I’m leaving my handbag with my mobiles and keys in the office, but I’ll take my donor card with me, you never know.”The scary thing (well, among many) is how that sounds like something you’d say to a girlfriend or coworker sarcastically—”I have to deal with X, Y, and Z. I just want to die.” Could work ever really get that bad? Attitudes about work in France are certainly different, and because of the school system and types of contracts offered in the country, people generally don’t move around too much from job to job, as is habit in the States. Think something like this could ever happen to a large American corporation? [TimesOnline.co.uk, GlobalPost.com]

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