Can work kill? The Example of Renault
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The twenty-first century has been witnessing an increase in the number of suicides. Among the 160,000 suicide attempts annually, about 11,000 cases are reported each year in France alone, and among these, it has been estimated that 300 to 400 suicides are due to work pressure. In this situation, the difficulty lies in assessing the liability of a company and it can be assumed that the number of deaths due to the work environment's pressure is actually much larger. But how can one really determine the underlying reasons of such a dastardly act? Is it due to work pressure, personal life or existential discomfort? A major current issue is whether or not one can accuse the office environment to push employees to commit suicide. In such cases, the share of the responsibility borne by the company remains extremely complicated and suicides are rarely classified as accidents. Since late 2006, the suicides by five Renault employees have been particularly publicized; this is what led us to choose this company in order to illustrate this phenomenon.
After an extensive search for information, we came to a conclusion that the methods of corporate governance strongly influence the atmosphere in the workplace, employee stress, and personal satisfaction achieved in the workplace. What is the relationship between corporate governance and these "suicide clusters"?
Initially, the description of the various suicides that have made news for Renault as well as in other competing companies and the 2009 contract in place at Renault will allow us to analyze and identify what is the pressure felt by employees at Renault. Finally, we describe the reactions occurring in the company after the wave of suicides and we will give some new theories and recommendations on governance and management to improve working conditions.
France holds a not so good record, with the suicide rate highest among developed countries. With average 160,000 attempts and 11,000 suicides listed every year, the 21st century has been seeing an increase of the phenomenon. Enriching society, individualism, progress, and suicide rates is increasing in Europe, hitting especially the privileged classes.
It stands to reason, according to Durkheim, that enrichment generates anomie, disorientation, idleness and angst. It is in the richest countries that people have committed suicide the most. Poor countries, such as Egypt, Peru and China, have the lowest rates. On the contrary, in countries with high living standards such as New Zealand, Canada, Germany and France, people commit suicide very often. But another theory says that it is not in the big cities that people commit suicide, but in the rural disadvantaged areas: such as the rural areas in France and Britain. And suicide rates record the lowest rates in cities, like in Paris, London, New York, where comfort is the best.
Urbanization has created new forms of sociability. However, enriched society, individualism, progress, and suicide is increasing in Europe, hitting especially the privileged classes. During the 20th century, new techniques of work in organizations have had an impact on working conditions. The race for performance affects the management styles, and is felt by the employees themselves.