Another update from the Jungle…
Tom has worked tirelessly on a local factory manufacturing line for almost 30 years. He has rarely missed work and his work ethic is unbelievable.
There’s just one catch…
Tom is challenged when it comes to making sense out of everyday tasks. Although his IQ has never been measured, those who know him can tell that he struggles to understand new information. He often sits staring vacantly during his work breaks, unable to participate in any witty conversational banter, so he aimlessly watches the clock count down until his next shift. Tom has worked at the factory since he turned 18 and, through the years, has earned the right become a part of the company family. His supervisor and several co-workers look out for him on a daily basis. They try to protect him by intervening when younger workers try to make fun of him or call him names like “stupid.”
Now that Tom is almost 50, his learning disability has become visibly worse. He is often easily distracted and becomes completely inattentive while working on the line. This ends up compromising his ability to work on dangerous machines. (Especially after the day that he almost lost his finger!) His supervisor now assigns him to the dreary, boring, repetitive jobs on the safer equipment.
Eventually Tom’s supervisor decides to retire. He’d known Tom for the duration of 30 years at the factory and knew that under his watch, Tom would always have a job at the factory. On his last day, the supervisor warns his replacement that Tom needs to be handled with compassion and patience because of his slower disposition. The new supervisor, David, is a rising star at the company and laser-focused on increasing productivity and efficiency. He becomes instantly offended that his managerial skills are being questioned by the retiring “old geezer.” He dismisses the unsolicited suggestion with a disingenuous “Ok. Sure.”
In the days following, David is overwhelmed and irate with Tom’s slow pace and inability to concentrate on the line, so he begins to routinely shout at and berate Tom during his shift. David pushes Tom to move faster and to stay focused, which creates confusion and high levels of emotional distress for Tom. This erratic behavior becomes so frequent that David decides to notify Gloria, the company’s HR representative. David informs her that Tom needs to be terminated for poor work performance ASAP.
Early the next morning, before Gloria could call Tom into her office, he wandered away from the line and walked over to the field next to the factory’s parking lot. He stood in the rain, gazing up at the sky and proceeded to take off his clothes and lay down on the ground. David sees this and sends an employee to tell Gloria to call 911.
What should Gloria do next?
She should call the paramedics so that Tom can be taken to the hospital for evaluation?
She should tell David to stop bullying his subordinates?
She should review the company’s procedures for dealing with distraught workers?
In the actual situation, the paramedics were notified, and they transported the employee to the hospital where he underwent a psychological evaluation. That diagnosis led to the employee being placed on permanent disability. As the stigma attached to mental health recedes, employees should be encouraged to seek assistance rather than suffering in denial.
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