When workplace bullying triggers workplace violence

In his 1995 book Violence at Work, Joseph A. Kinney, founder of the National Safe Workplace Institute, observed that workplace violence can be a consequence of bullying at work.  Kinney noted that “there have been numerous instances where abusive supervisors have baited angry and frustrated employees, pushing these individuals to unacceptable levels of violence and aggression.”

Sadly, it appears that a workplace killing in Fresno, California last week was a replay of that scenario.  As reported by writer Mark Ames on AlterNet, an employee named Jim Badasci showed up to work with a gun and started shooting:

Jim Badasci, who’d worked at Fresno Equipment for 10 years, showed up Tuesday morning with a shotgun at 8:57 a.m., and the first thing he did was kill a fellow co-worker, Ralph Wallis. About two dozen fellow co-workers scattered at that point, some taking refuge at a nearby car wash, others reportedly hiding inside of a locked vault, as Badasci, wearing a hunting vest filled with ammo, proceeded to “shoot the equipment” — in this case, John Deere agricultural machinery.

Badasci then turned the gun on himself and took his own life.

Ames dug into the story and contacted Michael Von Flue, a former co-worker of Badasci, who gave his explanation of why Badasci “went postal”:

In an email exchange with Von Flue, he told me that Jim Badasci had been driven to desperation by a particular supervisor and the company’s toleration of the supervisor’s mistreatment. . . . Von Flue said that Jim “loved his job, talking with people,” and was very sociable, but that the supervisor had made his life hell, and unfortunately the company owners decided not to do anything about it, even though others had also complained. “It is sad that they didn’t follow through…things might have been different I’m sure.”

Ames provides an extensive and provocative analysis of how this workplace killing relates to the current political and economic climate facing workers in America.  This is strong, pointed stuff, and not everyone will buy into Ames’s larger political connections.  But it’s a legitimate attempt to understand bullying and violence at work in a broader context.

For “Why Jim Badasci ‘Went Postal’: How Bullying Bosses and Economic Devastation Are Behind America’s Latest Workplace Shooting” go here.

Hat tip to Michelle Smith of California Healthy Workplace Advocates for the link to this story.

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