Why do people go postal


The statistics collected by the U.S. Department of Justice claim that as many as 3-4 supervisors are killed in the country each month as a result of workplace violence. In fact, the problem has been so rampant in the country that the act of subordinates killing superiors or supervisors actually has a special term i.e., “going postal”. We examine the origins of the coinage as well as the reasons behind the phenomenon

Origins of the term “going postal”

On August 20, 1986, a post office employee named Patrick Henry Sherrill opened fire at the Edmond, Oklahoma post office. Sherrill shot two of his supervisors, killed a total of 14 colleagues and injured 7 others. After this incident, similar shootings took place in a number of post offices through the country and thus the term “going postal” came into being.

Reasons for people going postal

Easy availability of firearms

Studies have found that up to 75 of going postal incidents involved the use of guns. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that easy availability of guns to employees with a serious grudge against supervisor or coworkers is a major factor in people going postal.

Change in status of employment for employees

While most employees in both blue as well as white collar jobs have a dislike for their supervisors, it has been seen that employees that went postal were often the ones whose employment status had recently changed. Employees that lost their jobs, got their hours decreased, lost out on a promotion they thought they deserved etc. form the chunk of all workers involved in such incidents.

Supervisors fail to keep track of odd behavior

Usually, a supervisor is able to observe threatening or questionable behavior a few days ahead of a workplace violence related incident. However, in cases where employees did go postal, it was seen that threatening or questionable behavior in the perpetrator went unnoticed by supervisors or was ignored.