Monday, September 29, 2008

Don’t follow the hammer

I read in last week’s news that corporate India is in disbelief after a nutted-out mob of laid-off workers lost their minds and bludgeoned their CEO to death.

The boss – head of the Indian operations of Graziano Transmissioni, an Italian-headquartered manufacturer of car parts – died of “severe head wounds.” Other managers were beaten, but survived.

According to news reports, the attack followed a long-running clash between the factory’s management and workers who wanted better pay and permanent contracts. It seems that the 47-year-old honcho had dismissed them from a factory in a suburb of Delhi.

Those wounds were inflicted by dozens of crazed employees who had been canned by the company. Police said they were waiting outside of the factory as a negotiation was going on inside.

The boss had summoned some workers to cuss and discuss. One report said more than 150 workers who were waiting outside apparently heard a yell from inside. That’s all it took to send them rushing in. Chaos took over and someone clobbered the boss with a hammer. Now, the way this happened is likely how all mob killings go – several want to inflict death and the others are trampling along behind them mindlessly, just following the hammer.

In cases of mob mentality or herd mentality, people acting in a group lose their personal accountability in an instant. Why the heck is that?

We’ve watched it happening a lot here in the U.S. lately. For example, look at the freaked out electronic mouse-pushing herd, rushing from one investment to another – and with a click, it takes millions of dollars from one place and puts it someplace else in a second. Look at the lines of panicked gas-buyers rushing to top off their tanks so they can drive to the mall across town.

I am reminded of the quote from “Men in Black” movie with Tommy Jones and Will Smith. Tommy Jones’ character said: “A person is smart. People are dumb, panicky dangerous animals.”