Saturday, September 11, 2010

Career Suicide... and how we can prevent it.

The following is an article I wrote for a local men's magazine a couple of years back ....


      We have all read about it in the papers or may even know a friend or relative who has done it.  People at the peak of the careers who suddenly, without any apparent reason, commit career suicide by engaging in an act which causes irreparable damage to their careers.
     Loosely defined, career suicide is any intentional act to self-destroy ones own career. In some ways, it is the individual’s way of reaching out for help. Similar to physical suicide, the reasons behind career suicides are often personal and are usually cannot be attributed to a single cause.  Issues will usually build-up over a period of time and, before the individual knows it, he'll start doing things to hurt his career.

     Fortunately, much like physical suicide, there are clear symptoms or telltale signs that precede the ultimate “act”. Thus, with a little knowledge, you will be able identify this self-destructive behavior and stop it from happening to you before it is too late.

Guilt ... the root cause

     Psychologists will tell you that in any behavioral problems, there is usually a presenting problem and an underlying problem.  Solutions focused on solving the presenting problems (without addressing the root problem) will only bring short-term relief and will prove futile as the root of the problem continues to exist.  The presenting problem will then mutate and begin to manifest itself in other forms of self-destructive behaviors.

     While there are many root causes that may lead a person to commit career suicide, the most predominant one is the feeling of guilt. This guilty feeling is brought about by an individual’s feeling of unworthiness i.e. a feeling that he is unworthy to have the success he is currently experiencing.  What then happens, is that the sub-conscious mind will then seek opportunities to ‘sabotage’ the conscious self by creating situations where the individual can be ‘punished’ and even removed the source of his guilt - his successful career.

The Signs

     As human behavior is complex, exact telltale signs will vary. However, all self-destructive behavior will have the ultimate objective of hurting a person’s career. While not exhaustive, the following four telltale signs are the most common ones expressed by an individual who is on the road to career suicide:

 - Procrastination.  Procrastination is defined as the avoidance of doing a task that needs to be accomplished. In this instance, the individual constantly puts off doing an important task until the last minute. As a result of the now limited time, the individual then produces work in quality well beneath that of which he is capable of producing. A variation of this self-destructive behavior is when the individual in question, chooses to place his priority and emphasis on tasks of lesser importance. This will then once again limit the time he is able to spend on what really needs to be done. The results are similar. Work of diminished quality.

- Forgetfulness.  This second telltale is less obvious, but equally destructive. Here, the self-destructive behavior manifests itself in the individual “forgetting” to do things. From missing the deadline for an important report to failing to attend crucial meetings. According to Freud, the mind does not forget.  Forgetting is not an accidental occurrence. This self-destructive behavior is our unconscious mind’s way of expressing itself.

- Stubbornness.  When opinions differ from the boss and you have presented yours, what ultimately counts is the boss’ decision. In this telltale sign, the “stubbornness” of the individual to deliberately go against what the boss has specifically prescribed as the actions to taken is self-destructive. This “stubbornness” sets the individual up to be punished.

- Intentional inefficiency.  The fourth telltale sign is that of intentional inefficiency. In this case, the individual will appear to be complying with his boss’ instructions even to the extent of expressing commitment to the prescribed plan. What then happens is that he will then deliberately either perform the task too late to be helpful, perform it in a way that is useless, or otherwise sabotage the prescribed plan. Whichever way, he would have done what his boss has wanted, but not to the degree that is expected of him.


     Like physical suicide, career suicide occurs when we least expect it. Thankfully, it does not occur overnight without warning.  Clear and distinct telltale like the four described above will occur. It is thus important for us to be aware of them, so that we can diagnose ourselves early and intervene.

     Like physical suicide, career suicide is our unconscious minds way of crying out for help. Caught early enough, effective intervention can prevent its occurrence and in most cases, individuals will make a full and complete recovery.

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