Is Bad Leadership to Blame for Employees Poisoning Boss?

2 NC cafeteria workers accused of poison attempt March 02, 2011 

ALBEMARLE, N.C. (AP) — Authorities say two North Carolina high school cafeteria employees have been arrested and accused of trying to poison their boss’ tea. The Stanly County Sheriff’s Office says 38-year-old Angela Johnson and 64-year-old Eileen Hallamore were charged Tuesday with distributing food containing poison. Authorities say their investigation started last month after the county board of education reported a poisoning attempt at South Stanly High School in Norwood. No students were involved. Deputies have not said how the poisoning was discovered or what may have motivated the women. It was not clear if the women have attorneys. They are due in court April 25.

The Next Question You Ask

When this story was reported my words were, “Is she okay?” (She is) My next words were, “What did she do to deserve it?” I know that may seem weird or maybe even cruel, but you can’t help it. I don’t mean to be making the victim to have to defend the employees but what drives two employees to partner in this activity? Of course the Sheriff will ask the employees, “Why did you do it”? But it would be interesting to ask the victim, “Why do you think you deserved it?” Maybe they do ask that, I don’t know. So if they did, comparing the two stories would be an interesting case study in workplace conflict.

You also know that something of this nature had to be building up over a period of time. I can’t see anyway how a slow poisoning can be a quick retaliatory act. This is something that needs to be thought out over a long period of time. Also, which of the two employees had to convince the other that this was a good idea? While I can’t imagine moving to these extremes, what causes two employees to take this action on their manager? I can see that you might wish someone else would do it, but even in that case, what would it take for you to start thinking I am going to do this?

Keep in mind, I don’t see this as a situation where a mental disorder caused these employees to snap…because it was two employees. We have heard about many cases where somebody just loses it, but is it possible for two employees to snap at once? That doesn’t make sense anyway because it was a slow poisoning.     

What Could Have Prevented This

Are cases like this on the rise? I am not certain, but I think we are going to hear of more cases. Why do I say this? Because leadership development is not being invested in for “all” levels. This issue and many others are covered in the ebook Averting the Leadership Development Crisis. In this book you get insights into the traditional methods of leadership development that are outdated for today’s very lean organization. Organizations in which cost controls and higher productivity demands are forcing the unskilled and inexperienced into leadership roles that they are not prepared to handle.

You Gotta Do More with Less

For several years I have been experiencing more tension around the concept of doing more with less. What I see, is that human beings can only handle so much simultaneous activity. Just looking at the legislation around driving and cell phone usage and you can see that the only way to address people’s misconceptions around their inability to multi-task is thru legal restrictions. So is the doing more with less going to eventually generate some catastrophic events for certain organizations? You bet! Is placing unskilled leaders in an environment where doing more and more with less going generate more bosses being poisoned? What do you think? 

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