I’ve been having a tough time at work lately. The issues stem from communication and lack thereof in the office. It amazes me how we function as a society, as families, as workplaces when we are so hell bent on not communicating, and yes, I’m guilty of this myself.
It’s the idea of good communication, or rather a voice for workers, that really has made the union movement so important to me. Having the ability to voice your concerns, to talk to those who support you and your co-workers, well, it’s a voice I don’t have in my current job and one of the fundamental things I miss most about being represented by a union (BTW, I have no choice on unions, I am an exempted employee). For those not happy with their “voice” I also hear you, but sometimes the voice we get that isn’t quite right is still better than screaming into a pillow, isn’t it?
That’s why when I saw the news about the shooting in Kentucky , I thought about communication and how something can go horribly wrong when you don’t communicate well. And yeah, anger or arguments, those are examples of poor communication. Very poor communication. From MSNBC
HENDERSON, Ky. - An employee shot and killed a supervisor and four others after an argument at a western Kentucky plastics plant in a rampage that ended in the gunman's suicide, police and a company official said Wednesday.
The employee, a press operator, began arguing with a supervisor and was escorted from the building, company CEO Bud Philbrook told The Associated Press.
Cellphone usage and goggles set off a 25 year old. Goggles and a cell phone? Again, from MSNBC:
Police said Wesley N. Higdon, 25, had an argument with his supervisor about wearing safety goggles and using his cell phone while he was at his press machine Tuesday.
Later that night, as the supervisor escorted him from the building, Higdon shot him, apparently using a .45-caliber pistol he kept in his car. Then, he charged into a break room and the plant floor and kept shooting before killing himself, police said.
Maybe, if the supervisor had been able to communicate policies and safety to Higdon over the time he’d been at the plant maybe he’d been able to save himself and all the others. Or maybe, if someone in Higdon’s life had been able to get him help then the shootings might not have happened. Someone like his girlfriend who didn’t believe him. From Kansascity.com:
he called his girlfriend late Tuesday and told her that he wanted to kill his boss, according to police. The girlfriend didn't warn anyone, police said, and Higdon returned to the plant and began shooting.
Teresa Solano Ventura, 20, said Higdon threatened to kill himself Tuesday while they were on the phone, but he had made such threats before and she didn't believe him.
In the end, it seems as if this troubled 25 year old was trying to tell someone that something was wrong. Working a press while on a cell phone and not wearing goggles is like asking for trouble, asking for an injury…maybe if his girlfriend had understood he really wanted to kill himself and take everyone else out, maybe if she’d understood she could have gotten him help.
I just can’t even begin to understand how it’s possible to make the leap from stress to murder and suicide. But what’s worse is knowing that there were signs all along the way; signs that the troubled Higdon was asking for help, but clearly not communicating it very well to his family, friends, co-workers or managers.
Shootings are a tragedy. But shootings in the workplace, I just don’t even have words for what this is.
My deepest sympathies go out to all the family members.