Stress at Work
Bill Higgins stood alone in the emptied
office. The street door opened, and a stranger entered. Hello.
Can I speak to the manager, please?
Yes. One of her employees went off
sick with stress. The chap blamed the job and demanded that the
manager quit, so she did.
What was the name of the employee?
Im George Thompson.
Sorry, I didnt know.
Can I speak to a middle manager?
No. They accepted collective
responsibility for your stress, and went with her.
When will they be replaced?
They wont. The personnel
department all felt culpable for employing someone so
psychologically vulnerable. They thought the only honourable
thing was to leave too.
Whos dealing with my massive
compensation claim, then?
No-one. All the legal section felt
really awful and have gone. Other staff tried to console them,
but it was no use. Its sad though because, before you, all
the employees had really enjoyed their work. Legal section never
thought to write watertight health and safety procedures to cover
stress in the workplace.
If management, personnel and legal
have gone, what about the other staff?
They all blamed themselves. They
thought that if they had, somehow, taken better care of you, you
wouldnt have suddenly become ill. They were a really
caring, sensitive bunch. They were so upset that they did the
decent thing and handed in their notices. I gather Mavis in
supplies took it all particularly badly.
She was my supervisor.
So I gather. She thought that putting
you in charge of paperclips and pencils would be a nice little
job to start you off. She never dreamed that asking you to unpack
a new consignment would lead to a nervous breakdown.
Nobody. The organisations
closed down. Theyre all trying, in their own ways, to deal
with their guilt about causing your mental health problems. Thats
why Im joining the French Foreign Legion.
Who are you?
Im Bill, the cleaner. Its
my last night. Id always done my best to keep the office
smart and bright. Perhaps if Id dusted just a little more,
it might have cheered you up. Just maybe you wouldnt have
become so miserable and depressed. I feel its all my fault,
really. Im so terribly, terribly sorry.
Look Bill, its not your fault.
Theres nothing wrong with me. So many of my friends have
retired early due to non-existent stress related illnesses, that
I felt I was missing out. My doctor was more than willing to sign
me off for no reason. It seemed so simple to play the system for
all I could get. I never thought it would hurt anyone.
Oh, I see.... Well, its too
late now. I have to be locking-up.
George Thompson returned to the street
door, deep in thought.
In an adjacent office, a video tape
recorder was switched off.