The Case of the Disgruntled Abortion Clinic Worker


Govt. 102


5/4/1999


Case Analysis 2


In “Killing Babies” there is definitely more than one problem, and actually several of these could be analyzed in terms of administrative failures. There was the California criminal justice system, which failed to recognize and correctly diagnose one of its constituents as a future violent threat to society. There was the Detroit police department, which failed to prevent daily harassment of citizens in the lawful operations of their business and also failed to protect female citizens from exercising their civil rights. Also there was the clinic itself and its administrative culture, which failed in enculturating its new member to regard the protesters as mere annoyances the way the rest of the members did.


But the most problematic event is of course at the end of the story, when Rick Beudry, the main character, “goes postal” so to speak, on a group of pro-life protesters outside the clinic. That the violent episode is a product of administrative failure is not immediately obvious; random shootings such as this where the perpetrator has seemingly little motive are relatively frequent nowadays and are usually chalked up to “psycho” perpetrators acting individually. The fact that the term “going postal”, (synonymous with “going ballistic”) is even in existence is evidence of a growing consciousness that some bureaus and organizations turn out more than their share of psychos.


In the present case the abortion clinic may be considered one such organization. As an organization, the clinic is perhaps too small to be considered a bureau. But with two doctors, two nurses, a counselor, a technician, a secretary and a janitor, the organization still has a hierarchical structure and the accompanying roles and tendencies of a hierarchical organization.


In “Structural Determinants of Organizational Behavior” Rosabeth Kanter outlines several scales for predicting behavior that pertain to the present case and Rick Beudry as the decision maker: organizational opportunity, which could be defined as the expectation of mobility and growth that could be achieved within the organization, and organizational power, which is the capacity to mobilize resources and effect change within the organization. Rick Beudry committed a very extreme act, and an analysis of his action in terms of his occupational role may seem inadequate without and accompanying psycho-analysis, but on Kanter’s scales of organizational roles, Rick Beudry was in an extreme position in the chain of command; he was at the very bottom.


According to Kanter, how one ranks on the scale of organizational opportunity depends on a number of variables, and in all of them Rick scores low. The first is the promotion rate from a particular job. Despite PhillipBeudry’s insistence that “at least it’s a start,” within the organization the promotion rate is low to none, since janitors do not get promoted to nurses, and for that matter rarely even to secretaries. Outside the organization, having “janitor” on your resume isn’t exactly a huge bonus either. Related to this is the third variable: range and length of career paths opening from a (given) position. New jobs open to Rick Beudry as a result of his “gainful employment” at the clinic are likely to be equally low skilled and low paid. The second variable she lists is ladder steps associated with a position, and in Rick’s case, working in the clinic there are neither ladder positions above nor ladder positions below; hence he accomplished no great feats to get his position and no matter how well he performs his current job tasks his efforts will not push him up the ladder. Finally, access to challenge and the increase in skills and rewards that a job offers determines its organizational opportunity, and Rick’s position offered none of this.


In fact, Rick Beudry exhibits many of the behaviors that Kanter would predict in a person low in organizational opportunity. He was not hoping for mobility; he just was grateful to not be in jail. He exhibited low self esteem; he called himself a “fuck-up”, “a crack-head” (but not a murderer!) and towards the end even became suicidal. His primary satisfactions were sought outside of work (drinking, bar-hopping, reading to the kids) with the exception of stolen Desoxyn. He was critical of high power