Would You Ever Go Postal at Your Workplace?


One of the most publicized incidents currently in the U.S. news is the case of the flight attendant, Steven Slater, who had a tirade at the end of his shift on board a JetBlue flight. This tirade came after an unruly passenger, at the end of the flight, decided to unload her baggage from the overhead compartment before the crew had given the OK for passengers to leave their seats. Slater asked the passenger to sit down but the passenger refused. At the same time, her luggage fell from the overhead compartment onto the head of Slater. Slater then requested an apology from the passenger who then cursed at him. Slater then used the plane’s public address system and declared, in rather colorful language, that he had enough after 28 years as a flight attendant and cursed the passenger who cursed at him. He then grabbed two beers and opened the rear exit and deployed the emergency exit slide and exited the plane via the slide. He was since arrested later at his home.

This is obviously an incident where a worker had enough of the conditions in his workplace and had a rather explosive reaction. It also brought to mind an incident I had in the past where I may not have acted as diplomatically as I could have in a work situation. It was the end of a long weekend where my group, the IT applications group, had just implemented a new software package. On Sunday, I was performing some last minute testing of the application and I discovered a major problem. As a result, I needed access to the application server and did not have the security to do so. So, I then called the Network Manager who never called me back. I was hoping that this issue could be resolved before the company started working on Monday since the Manufacturing floor needed to use this application to do their jobs.

When I caught up with the Network Manager on Monday morning, after stewing on this issue overnight, I screamed at him at the top of my lungs within earshot of any employee who happened to be in the area. The network manager, in not so many words, pretty much told me that there will never be 24X7 coverage so don’t expect it. To make a long story short, the issue was resolved that morning after the company pretty much came to a standstill for a couple of hours. That work stoppage could’ve certainly been avoided if I was able to contact the network manager on that previous day.

Could I have handled the situation with a calmer demeanor? Probably. Did I have justification to go off on the network manager that morning? I certainly thought so. So, I’m wondering, would you ever “go postal” at your workplace? If so, do you feel that your tirade would be justified? And what would be the consequences?


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Discussion

  1. Daquan Wright on the 24th August

    If you show off your emotions they can surely be used against you, watch everything you do and say at your job.

    There’s been many interesting events I’ve seen lately regarding work and such, similar to the plan incident. I’d avoid yelling at anyone, it just makes the work place more tense and less enjoyable….besides, you don’t know someone’s state of mind.

    • Bob Bessette on the 25th August

      Hi Daquan,
      I was so fed up at that point that I had to let it out. This was the only time in my roughly 30 years of employment that I yelled at anyone at work. I just reached my boiling point. I agree, it is best to be diplomatic but, at times, our emotions get the best of us. Thanks for your comment.

      Best,
      Bob

  2. Claude Betancourt on the 24th August

    Sometimes the level of incompetence of your co-workers and support personnel could drive on nuts. I lose my mind at least once a day with people like that.

    Sometimes I think it’s better to go off verbally than to hold it in and pretend to be calmed and collected, which can only result in ulcers and high blood pressure.

    Having said that, nothing compares to going postal as some employees of the USPS did by shooting up their workplaces. That my friend is more psychopathic than just being frustrated with incompetence.

    • Bob Bessette on the 25th August

      Yeah Claude,
      I guess the “going postal” is simply a term these days that is used when someone goes off at work, but not necessarily along the lines of a shooting. Wow, you actually lose your mind at least once a day with co-workers? That is a shame. You may want to look into other work. I am fortunate in that I work with people who care about their work and their competence. It appears that you take your work seriously as well or you wouldn’t lose your mind. Good luck with your job.

      Best,
      Bob

  3. Zackery M on the 24th August

    Tell me if this counts:

    When I was working as a server in a restaurant I made it clear I was never, ever going to be available to work Sundays. It wasn’t a religious thing, I just really hated working Sundays. So I considered it a favor when my manager called me and asked if I was available to work one Sunday afternoon. I said I would work.

    My shift started out badly. No one was tipping and I was getting the worst possible customers. After about two hours a group of young people sit down. After unsuccessfully ordering alcohol for a minor but before the dessert, they walked out.

    I was so angry I chased them into the parking lot. I spotted them getting into their car and I pursued on foot, running fast enough to get my hands on the driver’s side door, but nit fast enough to grab the person in the back seat. The driver accelerated and I tripped (still holding the door handle) and was dragged a couple feet through the parking lot.

    After that I told my manager I wasn’t going to finish the night and I was going home.

    Z

    • Bob Bessette on the 25th August

      Hi Zackery,
      That incident definitely comes under the heading of “going postal”. I think you went above and beyond what you are expected to do in such a case. I think getting the license plate number and letting the police go after them would have been the better option.
      I gotta commend you though and thank goodness you didn’t get hurt!

      Best,
      Bob

    • Zackery M on the 25th August

      It wasn’t so much me being a good employee, but more of me being an angry 21-year-old. I was trying to pull the person out of the back seat by his hair so I could kick his ass. Not to get them to pay. =-)

      These customers gave me a hard time and I was just angry.

      Z

    • Bob Bessette on the 25th August

      I hear you Zackery. I think they deserved it and maybe they’ll learn next time not to walk out. I can certainly understand your anger.

      Best,
      Bob

  4. Lauren on the 25th August

    I’ve worked at a job where I was getting to the “postal” point. I knew I was getting frustrated and continually unhappy. Once you start feeling that way, it’s truly time reevaluate. There’s no excuse for lying to yourself about “making it work”, “I won’t be able to find another job”, etc. You’ll always find another job if you care enough to really look.

    When I feel I felt like that, I remembered what a coworker said to me one day: “Why would you want to be a disgruntled employee?”

    Ask yourself if you are feeling disgruntled, and if the answer is in any way yes… then it’s time to move on before you go postal.

    Good article!

    • Bob Bessette on the 25th August

      Hi Lauren,
      I agree with you that it makes more sense to take other routes before going postal. Fortunately my current job is a good one with opportunities for learning every day. I agree that if you are disgruntled it may be time to move on.

      Best,
      Bob

  5. Melanie Brooks on the 25th August

    I try to talk out my frustrations before I get to the “going postal” stage. I work with a lot of women with very strong opinions. Having a thick skin is absolutely necessary. I have a poster in my office that says “Keep Calm & Carry On” and I try to live by it!

    • Bob Bessette on the 25th August

      Hi Melanie,

      I like your poster. Maybe it’s best for all of us to have a poster to help to prevent us from going postal. 🙂

      Thanks for your comment.

      Best,
      Bob

  6. Anthony on the 25th August

    Fortunately, I haven’t yet gone postal at work and to be honest what’s postal for me probably isn’t postal for many people as I’m quite an introvert. However, I certainly feel that at times I’m becoming more open to an outburst. It’s as though the older I get, the less tolerant I am of people’s rudeness or constant “I want, I want”.

    I notice how other people are and it may just be me getting more cynical with age but I think people are becoming more rude and more demanding with little to no consideration of others. I think this is particularly noticeable if you are in a public service line of work (which I have been myself in the past).

    Personally I think for someone to be looked down on because of their position or to be taken advantage of because they’re willing to cooperate or compromise where others aren’t is extremely frustrating and unfair and an ideal setting for someone to go postal!

    …rant over : )

    This was an interesting post, thanks!

  7. Koren Berman on the 25th August

    Very interesting article. I actually hadn’t heard of the flight attendant frenzy; being a frequent passenger I often think of how arduous their work is. As my mom, a flight attendant too always said “there’s nothing glamorous about it”, when I grew up I understood how true that is.

    Unfortunately workplace frustration is not endemic to airlines. I’d safely say most freelancers work from home or in a small-size office, thereby it’s a common misconception that working for them is easier. But when you freelance, you don’t get the safety cushion that a flaming flight attendant has standing behind a large corporation. Freelancers simply can’t afford burning bridges because of a vexing client.

    For me (and I suppose for many) it’s easier to snap at somebody over email. They’re such an accessible, easy and endless medium where you can talk talk talk and silence the heck out of the person on the other side. 100% of times I deeply regretted it. That’s why I’ve made a habit of taking a step back and not replying immediately after the reading, at the heat of the moment. When I come back I usually have different perspectives; or my anger has mostly gone.

    So far I haven’t had an odious experience like yours in my workplace, but I’ll heed to your advice. Thanks!

    • Bob Bessette on the 25th August

      Hi Koren,
      I certainly like your practice of taking a step back. I think most of us, if they had the presence of mind to do so, may change our behavior as a result. This is certainly words to live by and I’ll try to do the same. Thanks!

      Bob

  8. David on the 25th August

    Very, very close to that point now. When it comes I rather doubt I’ll care about the consequences.

    • Bob Bessette on the 27th August

      David,
      It may make sense to go to your Human Resources department if it is getting that bad. You haven’t given any details but that is always a good outlet.

      Best,
      Bob

  9. Kayla on the 25th August

    I had a freakout moment at a job once, got mad enough over a situation that had been happening for a few months and straight up walked out. Fortunately it wasn’t a career job — just a part time job. Oh, and, I got my job back the next day. 🙂 The other girl causing the mess of trouble with me and many others actually got fired!

    Of course, though, my case was unique and not nearly as serious. It’s not right or ethical to necessarily go ‘postal’, but I don’t think anyone who does do it is necessarily in a stable state of mind at the time. Emotions do get the best of us at times, and in those incidents, the actions are almost unintentional.

    • Bob Bessette on the 25th August

      Kayla,
      Agreed. Our emotions can oftentimes get the best of us. It is sometimes hard to think of any consequences at the time. I think it’s funny that you got your job back the next day.

      Best,
      Bob

  10. Kris on the 26th August

    Very recently, I quit my job. I work… sorry, worked… in the realm of 3D animation. Having worked literally around the clock for nearly 3-4 days straight to meet their ludicrous deadlines, with no support, or any understanding, I was due to move house. They wouldn’t give me any time off to do it, so I spent the weekend knackered, but shifting furniture about.
    Once that was done, I was expected to carry on at this stupid pace on a wage that just didn’t cut it.
    A couple of days in, my girlfriend knackered her back through slipping over at our old house and had to go to hospital. So I rang my work and said that I’ve got to go to hospital, and explained why. I was extremely worried, as I didn’t know how bad it was, and it did sound very bad. So I’m explaining this on the phone.. when my boss says “Any chance you could take your laptop with you and do some work while you are there?”

    I couldn’t even comprehend the gaul of these %^*&^£s!!!!! The next morning, I wrote a very very lengthy email explaining what a pathetic bunch of useless &*^&*^&^%^*!!!s they are, and that I quit without notice.

    Desperate for their precious work to be finished, they came all the way up to see me, and were apologising and kissing my butt. We worked out a freelance rate, and i finished the work.

    It all seemed to have worked out well… until it happened again. This time, they tried to stiff me, and go back on the pay terms they had agreed. Totally underhand, and pathetic.
    One of the bosses was telling me how he lectures business.. blah blah blah.. it was a joke.

    So I told them to stick it. But.. oh…. they realised that they still needed me, or they don’t get paid. Haha. So I spiked them, and charged them over the odds, and promtly told them that I will never work for them again. It was the best thing I ever did, and now I’m doing something way way better.

    It is hard to explain this whole thing without several pages! But I just wanted to let people know, that giving in to your emotions isn’t always a bad thing… especially if you are justified. It does make you feel a million times better. And.. if you are pushed to that point anyway, then you probably shouldn’t be working there anymore… so leaving would probably be the best thing you could ever do. Things “usually” (get out clause 😛 ) work out for the better. Life is too short to be destroyed by some one elses money grabbing business. Do yourself a favour, and start your own company if you honestly feel you can do it better. Don’t suffer the fools at the top.

    Good luck, and take care,
    Kris

    p.s. My girlfriend was eventually ok… but that is far from the point.

    • Bob Bessette on the 28th August

      Hi Kris,
      Glad to hear that your girlfriend is OK. I agree that giving into your emotions can be a good thing as was my situation in the post. I was glad I got it off my chest and I didn’t get physical, although I certainly felt like it. There are many fools at the top but sometimes there aren’t a lot of options for some people. I hope you are doing well…

      Best,
      Bob

  11. Angela on the 27th August

    I’ve had some ‘going postal’ close calls in the past. I’m not the type to scream or break things. Each time I almost lost it I wanted to simply walk away and never come back. When I get angry I get real quiet and cry. So leaving and taking some ‘me’ time is my solution when I’m about to lose it. Mostly because I’m in no emotional state to make any coherent sentences to scream anyway.

  12. Stacey on the 8th February

    The “going postal” feeling happens for me a daily. This is going to sound totally dysfunctional but it works for me…
    My supervisor is the biggest jerk and the best boss I have ever had all at the same time. He makes me so angry with his micro management style sometimes. I never hold in how I feel and we have yelling matches often. He takes complete advantage of my skills and continues to add more and more onto me everyday without giving me the staff to cover most of it. He is very short, very cold, and no other way works like his way. He never takes responsibility for the poor way he treats me. He expects perfection 100% of the time. I work my a** off everyday working towards 110% but it is never good enough. If there is nothing to manage he will create fires so he looks like a hero putting them out. I have never worked under these conditions before in my life. I totally love my job. I get things done and I always ALWAYS come out on top making him look good. We scream at each other but the rule is that we scream behind closed doors. Then there are the times when we are having so much fun we can’t stop laughing. It’s crazy and I love it! It’s crazy and I hate it!

    • Pooja Lohana on the 8th February

      Loved your story, Stacey! I can only imagine what a thrill it would to have a love/hate relationship with your job! Perhaps you could do a guest post for us sometime 😉


      Pooja

  13. Anon on the 19th October

    I have fantasies of taking the abusive managers at my store, and lining them up in a dark room and make them beg for forgiveness. I’d like to shoot my boss in the head just to show them I am not joking. I wouldn’t ever do it, of course, but sometimes it helps to think of those who have abused and bullied me for too long getting a taste of their own medicine….here is what it feels like to have to admit to something under duress, here is what it feels like to no have anything you say matter, here is what it feels like to have someone trying to harm you when you feel innocent and try to do a good job. BANG!

  14. Anon on the 19th October

    I am not a violent person and I would never do anything to hurt another person. Sometimes I just wish they knew how hurtful, painful and stressful it is to work there under their constant nit picking and expectations to meet unrealistic goals and standards given how many hours you have in a day.

    I have researching the matter after several of my co-workers told me that I should file harassment charges and said that they feel I am being bulllied and held to a higher standard. After researching it, I found out what is going on for me is actually called Mobbing. My boss has talked about me so poorly that management thinks I am a cruddy employee! NOT TRUE. I work my @$$ off and am the most knowlegable person in my department, which only incites my insecure, incompetent boss to want to attack me further!

    The point of my first comment, see above, was that I being a nice person and a person of sound mind can understand how someone less stable than myself could actually reach a breaking point where they simply can’t take anymore and if that person is inclined towards violence it would certainly make management or bullies at work the target of their wrath.

    To anyone suffering, research Mobbing in the workplace.

  15. Anon on the 19th October

    The point of my above comment was this, if I am someone who knows I would NEVER do anything violent to another person, it is easy for me to see how someone of less sound mind and aversion to violence than myself could be pushed over the edge.

    I encourage everyone here to research Mobbing in the workplace. It is painful, stressful and abusive!

  16. Brita on the 31st January

    I’m an agreeable person, often to the point where I’ll apologize to keep the peace (even though I’m in the right). For five years I’ve worked in a cubicle for a very large telecommunications company. All incoming calls are first routed to our sales staff, but if the sales rep senses the call will not yield commission (e.g. Missed appointments for phone or internet installation appointments, complex billing issues, price increases, their fourth call for a repair on the same issue), the calls are escalated to our team. These customers are irate (and rightfully so)! Many have missed days of work waiting for an install or repair. My job is to deflate the situation, keep their business and (in most cases) endure heaps of verbal abuse. The job has affected my health (I now have high blood pressure, GERD, and a few months back was hospitalized with full-blown pneumonia). Our employers encourage us to come to work sick and litter the walls with signs like “Cover That Cough”. Still, you have about 500 stressed out people in a building without windows breathing the same “sick air”. So this place us definitely affecting my health. To add to the fun, we must us an app that monitors our breaks, bathroom time, and virtually ANY time not spent on the phone. The stats are posted on a giant screen near the ceiling so your co-workers all know if you’re using six minutes “personal time” to empty your bladder. The big-wigs from corporate were visiting the other day and talking about “what the shareholders want”. They run the place by using fear to keep people in line. Of the original 27 people I began training with, there are three left. No, I would never go postal or hurt another human being, but I am actively looking for another job. It’s their loss, because I save more customers and receive more customer commendations than my entire team combined (literally, I’ve been told this by upper management, but my last pay raise was 1.74%). This company only cares about new customers and recruiting new employees; they don’t have the sense to see the worth in retaining existing ones. I’ve sent letters, I’ve written papers showing the statistical and financial benefits of keeping current customers happy, but it does no good. Many employees work until 9-10pm. The security guard sits on his lazy ass and watches TV in the foyer as lone females walk 200 feet into a very dark parking lot carrying a purse — easy pickins’ for a mugger or rapist. The fact that a company (which requires a badge to enter) shows so little concern for the well-being of it’s staff says it all. Theyve just spent millions on renovations — would it kill them to hire an off-duty police officer to patrol the parking lot after dark? I can certainly see why people go postal, and it wouldn’t surprise me one whit if it happened where I work. I pray no one is mortally wounded.

  17. Brita on the 1st February

    Above I meant to say “diffuse” the situation, not deflate.

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