I stated something similar in a reply below, but I think it is worth repeating on its own…
It is hard to describe to someone who never experienced a job that is overwhelmingly and exclusively awful how much of an impact it makes on you. And I am not talking about a job that you don’t like or don’t enjoy. I mean a job that has zero redeeming qualities and a culture that is incredibly toxic.
You feel like a failure at work, but there is nothing you can do to improve or impress the higher ups. Nothing is good enough. Period. Managers are instructed not to give out performance reviews any higher than a 3/5 for their best performers because the company does not want to pay out bonuses. You can be outputting 44% of the work of a 13 person team and you are called out by your immediate supervisor because you had a word document open and "it was closed the next time I walked by. So you clearly are not working your full 8 hours a day." You have to handle the work of three, then four, then five people because everyone else seems to be getting hired elsewhere and quitting. And the company certainly isn’t replacing them. (Cost savings, yay!) You aren’t able to find a new job despite putting out dozens of feelers and going to a couple interviews a month, and getting to the final interview rounds for 3 or 4 jobs. Congratulations, you worthless POS. You cannot even get hired out of that company. Maybe you really are that awful of an employee. You are miserable. And you see an out (quitting) but if you quit (without a job) there are a whole bunch of questions. Will someone like you ever be able to find work again? If you can’t find work over five months while you are employed, what makes you think you would stand out anymore if you were unemployed? And in some ways the unknowns caused by quitting are even worse than the misery.
So, you go back in the next day and go "no way the prospect of losing my home can be worse than this." Then you go home and it is "no way my job can be worse than losing my home and failing my wife and kids." And in both cases you realize that, yes, somehow, both of those statements are true. The job is more miserable than losing the home which is more miserable than the job which is more miserable than letting down my wife and kids which is more miserable than my job which is more miserable than losing my home which is more miserable than my job which is more miserable than letting my family starve which is more miserable than my job…
…and suddenly you find yourself with a gun in the front seat of your car because there is nothing in life that is not miserable. Nothing.
I was able to quit my toxic job. But if I was in a situation similar to that of Mr. Thomas, I can easily see why he thought he only had one option. And it is heartbreaking for his family.
Man, this really hit home. That guy’s life could have been mine.
I had this almost this same experience 2 years ago (we were at the job for the same length of time even, five months), and it led to a long period of depression for me. I didn’t kill myself, but I have to tell you, I could see how someone could.
In my circumstance I interviewed as a Senior Engineer, and got offered a Lead engineer position because apparently I had impressed everyone so much (this is important because later, they would claim I wasn’t even good enough to be a senior engineer). I erroneously thought that I would get support and encouragement, I got none of those things. Worse still I was the only black engineer in the entire company at that location, which left me incredibly isolated during my work days, when things got really really rough.
Essentially, 70 days into my tenure, despite 30 and 60 day reviews that seemed fine, my manager and architect of the codebase I worked on, decided I wasn’t up to snuff, and essentially started a process of managing me out of the company. My manager was a very smart engineer but a world class jerk, so when I complained to HR about the unfairness, he was demoted so that both of us were now leads, but guess what?
The Performance improvement process continued … I got a new boss, but he just picked up where the other guy left off. The kicker?
He worked in another city so he actually got feedback on my performance from guess who? my new peer, who clearly now had an axe to grind.
Everything was downhill from there, everything I did was shit, everything. I remember going into work one day and my boss sending me an email that essentially said "you’re not performing at lead engineer level, and you are not even at senior engineer level, if we’re being honest", great morale boost.
When I tried to ask for help (remember I’d never been a lead before) it was turned around as me trying to assign blame to other people. I had nobody to help me, and worse, I was the only black engineer at that location. I felt like and absolute failure everyday for 30 days (they had a 90 day introductory period, so they gave me an additional 30 days to "prove" myself, but in addition I had to agree to that Performance improvement plan, I mentioned earlier.
At one point, I was barely sleeping, was super stressed out and anxious, even on weekends. I’d go into meetings with my new boss, and the old one (remember he’s my peer now) with his superior knowledge of the code base (he built it) would throw me under the bus, claiming I wouldn’t hit my dates, or that my estimates were wrong. Openly, in front of 7 or 8 people, and the new boss would tolerate it.
To add to all this, I was on an h1b, and had left a job that was processing my green card to join this new company. So if I lost the job, I would be right back to square one with everything, and I’d have to find a job within 30 days. Throw that in the mix with being told everyday that I was crap, not having anyone at work to talk to about what was going on, being on a performance improvement plan and walking around totally humiliated wondering what everyone must think of the dumb black engineer who couldn’t even hack it a couple of months.
Anyway, the final straw came when I delivered my project pretty much on time, but my boss changed his tune from "poor performance" to "culture fit". I had known the game was rigged and I was just being managed out, but at that moment I knew it for a fact, and asked to be allowed to give 2 weeks notice, but spend the 2 weeks at home not working for the company, but looking for a job.
They agreed to that, and I was gone.
But that wasn’t the end of that. turns out that at the end of that 2 weeks they had my h1b revoked (usually companies will let it sit a few weeks, especially if they know you’re looking for work). This meant that when I landed a job 30 days later, my visa couldn’t be transferred, and the company had to take back their offer, and move on.
If not for an amazing lawyer who worked some black magic to get my green card 8 months later, (I had an approved i140 from an earlier job, but didn’t realize the significance of that, turns out, its VERY significant). I really don’t know what I would have done.
Those 8 months were truly some dark times, I left the job in October, and let me tell you, being out of work over holidays is no joke, everyone is out making plans and traveling to see family, and there you are contemplating the epic shit your life has become, almost overnight. In addition to failing so badly at a job I desperately wanted to succeed in, I couldn’t work for 8 months, and even worse, didn’t know if I’d be allowed to stay in the country. I was pretty depressed, but I had a group of engineering friends that helped me keep my spirits up, and listened to my rants (no idea how they put up with it honestly), and I think the biggest thing was that a good friend of mine (pretty much my sister), got me into therapy. That was MASSIVE.
If not for that … who the fuck knows.
So yeah … I can totally see the cascade of events that lead to this mans death, I lay the blame squarely at the feet of horrible management, as was the case for me. I wouldn’t be shocked to find that he was placed on a performance improvement plan, and just … gave up.
PS: I’m a bit of a fighter, I don’t shirk from an argument, and I’ll call bs when I see it. This has got me in trouble at a couple of places I’ve worked, but ironically, thats probably something that helped me power through the absolute disgrace of an experience that I went through. I could see how a more mild mannered person, especially a high achiever would just … not.
I mean, can you imagine having to explain to your wife and Children that you’re on a performance improvement plan (which I’m almost 100% sure that this man was on). As a man that has to absolutely destroy you. I didn’t even tell my parents and brothers what had happened for several months, I was just too ashamed.
Throwaway as usual:
Just last weekend (Friday), I thought I had reached my breaking point. I could not handle my job, my friends, my parents and my side idea to the point I convinced myself that the only solution to my problems was suicide. I went on to 4chan to ask for help on the quickest solution.
The only reason I’m alive today is because Amazon does not have a quick shipping policy (what I ordered would have taken me over a week to receive). Now I’m taking one day at a time in the hope that I don’t reach that situation again.
I truly feel sad for both the Engineer and his family!
Getting a job "easily enough" is still a big risk to take when you own a home and have a wife and two kids. I was in a job that deteriorated to the point that it was making me so miserable I would get physically ill around 3-4pm on Sundays due to having to go to work on Monday. It took me about 5-7 months to get to the point where I quit.
It is not an easy step to take. I was 24-25, enrolled in a Master’s program (easy enough to explain why I left without a job) living in a house that I was not paying rent for and had the full support of both my parents and my fiancé. I didn’t want to be a burden to my family. I was scared it would take me another 7 months to find a job like it did when I graduated from college in 2010. I had bills to pay. All of that was overwhelming despite me logically knowing I would be fine and that I wouldn’t starve or go homeless or miss a bill payment because my fiancé or parents had stated so.
I can only imagine the pressures he thought he faced at home if he felt like it was his responsibility to take care of his family. It was probably so overwhelming that he saw no other out.
It is hard to describe to someone who never experienced a job that is overwhelmingly and exclusively awful how much of an impact it makes on you. And I am not talking about a job that you don’t like or don’t enjoy. I mean a job that has zero redeeming qualities and a culture that is incredibly toxic. You feel like a failure at work. You are miserable. And you see an out (quitting) but if you quit (without a job) there are a whole bunch of questions. And in some ways those unknowns are even worse than the misery. But then you go back in the next day and go "no way the prospect of losing my home can be worse than this." Then you go home and it is "no way my job can be worse than losing my home and failing my wife and kids." And it both cases you realize that, yes, somehow, both of those statements are true. The job is more miserable than losing the home which is more miserable than the job which is more miserable than letting down my wife and kids which is more miserable than my job which is more miserable than…
… and suddenly you find yourself with a gun in the front seat of your car because there is nothing in life that is not miserable. Nothing.
Funny, I had a colleague who we all thought had cancer (terminal), fundraising had begun for treatmenet etc. Anyway another friend and I went over to see him one evening to play computer games and just hang out, as he seemed pretty down. During that time we were chatting about his cancer etc. and the subject of suicide came up. I (apparently) said that "I thought it was the cowards way out" (I do not feel that way any more I may say)
Anyway, apparently this stuck in his mind as he had been planning on committing suicide that evening. He never told me this, but it was relayed. Turned out the cancer was entirely made up as he wanted to have a legitimate excuse for committing suicide!
He’s well now thankfully.
It’s funny the tiny chancy things you can do that can have huge consequences.
My heart goes out to this family, and if you do have friends / colleagues that are down or talking darkly. Do reach out to them (however uncomfortable you may find the process), you might really make a difference.
I wish I had done the same. Years ago an old friend got in touch and we started taking about going to see the Corvette museum together. For various reasons I couldn’t do the trip any time soon. Not long after he killed himself. I don’t know if going on that trip would’ve changed anything, but I’m forever left with the doubt. I can’t say I will never again, but I don’t want to ever let down friends or family again.
A while ago, a long long friend of mine suddenly messaged me out of the blue reminiscing on old times and stuff. I could sense something was amiss. I planned an impromptu trip to see him. I didn’t bring anything up…we just chatted about the good old times, cracked a few inside jokes etc. He was visibly much better when I started back after a few days. We promised to be in touch but it kinda dwindled from there.
He got back in touch again and this time told me that he was seriously contemplating the last ride and my trip made him change his mind.
It’s easy to forget that depression isn’t rational. A depressed person may worry that they’re unhirable and won’t be able to find a job in those 4-6 months. They may expect that any job they do find will be as bad as the current one, or worse. If they’re on a visa, they may worry about deportation and having to upend their lives if they leave their current job. They may worry that a gap on their resume will affect their career prospects. They may worry that their friends and family will judge them if they’re unemployed for a while. Etcetera ad infinitum.
I went through a rough period last summer where a project I was involved in was a complete disaster. I basically spent 24×7 terrified that a new "emergency" was going to roll in on my phone via email with a stakeholder telling me how this new issue was ruining their life and how disappointed they were; an issue which I was expected to deal with immediately. After that summer and to this day I keep my phone in "Do Not Disturb" mode 24×7 and treat it as a passive communications device that I only check when I want to, because I have literally run out of notification tones on my phone that don’t send a burst of adrenaline through my body upon hearing them.
This is even after that project is over. I feel like it permanently damaged my brain and my ability to deal with stress.
I have used smartwatches that notify you when an email comes in by vibrating on your wrist. I view these as modern-day human "shock collars" where the shock collar beneficiary is actually not you, but your employer. I actually warn others against falling into that trap of wearing a "shock collar for work". Having your arm vibrate the moment an email comes in is not healthy.