Is your cube-mate super laid back ... or dead?

What a dead-end job.
There was stiff competition for the position.
She must have been dying for a promotion.

The puns are running amok over the story of a Los Angeles County employee who lay dead and slumped over in her office cubicle for an entire day before anyone noticed. Last seen alive at 9 a.m. the previous Friday morning, the 51-year-old auditor was found by a security guard doing his rounds on a Saturday afternoon. The woman most likely died from a stroke or heart attack.

Your first inclination may be to snicker, but the honest truth? This is absolutely horrible PR for the business, the woman's manager and the woman's coworkers. Instead of chuckling, HR managers and corporate leaders should be looking at this incident as a wake-up call.

What type of manager is so disconnected with his or her staff that an employee could pass away undetected? Even mediocre managers touch base with their employees daily, if just to say "Hi" or "Have a great weekend" on a Friday afternoon. And happy coworkers - team players - would certainly notice a neighbor in distress.

Focus is a great thing in the workplace, but not to the point of being clueless. We don't have to be best friends with everyone we share office space with, but social niceties go a long way. Take enough interest in the people around you that you'd recognize if they were in trouble ... certainly if they were unconscious! There is an opportunity for every HR professional in America to use this unfortunate event as a point of discussion regarding the level of interaction between managers and employees.

It's too easy to make light of this story, but the reality is this: Someone died while on the job and it took nearly 24 hours for anyone to notice. Could this ever happen in your workplace?


marree said...

I am sure that you are right when you say that people will laugh, however I find this very disturbing. Have we come so far in functioning in a silo that you would not notice a co-worker that passed out, let alone passed away! I have my own office, but I can assure you that people are in and out all day long and I hope that if no-one saw or heard from me for a while they would check on me. But was it focus or just lack of caring about what is going on around them that led to this unfortunate event? As peers, whether friends or not, we need to take the time to be human, inquiring with our co-workers if they are OK, and give a human touch to those around us!And the responsibility rests with everyone, not just the manager!

The G.Neil blog team said...

You're exactly right, Marree! I worry that some offices - in the name of efficiency and productivity - have lost their "human touch." You're also right that it's up to everyone - coworkers and managers alike - to tune into what's happening around them and express a genuine interest in others.


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