The Stockholm Syndrome and your job…

The Stockholm syndrome, according to Wikipedia “is a psychological phenomenon in which hostages express empathy and sympathy and have positive feelings toward their captors, sometimes to the point of defending and identifying with the captors. These feelings are generally considered irrational in light of the danger or risk endured by the victims, who essentially mistake a lack of abuse from their captors for an act of kindness.

Few people want to admit that this syndrome applies to them and their job. At least three or four times a month, I personally, get calls from potential candidates who, upon listening to their story, convince me that they suffer from this syndrome. There are a lot of really goofy companies out there that are run by a lot of goofy people who border on abusing the people that work for them and with them. The abuse ranges from things like taking advantage of people and their willingness to help to verbal and even psychological abuse. Over the years I’ve even known some candidates to tolerate having things thrown at them by their immediate supervisors. (… Don’t laugh, there are still some idiots out there that do things like this and some people are too afraid to look for a job and put up with it.)

At least 50% of the time as these potential candidates tell me why they need to leave where they’re at, they mumbled something along the line of “… I can’t believe that I stayed here and put up with this for as long as I have.” They then proceed to justify their staying in an abusive situation by expressing their “empathy and sympathy and positive feelings toward their captors” even defending why the company and the people that run it do what they do. They just don’t want to admit that they work for idiots and they shall left a long time ago.

Often, these potential candidates have felt that they needed to stay where they were out of loyalty. Often their company is in terrible financial shape and they begin to look for a job way too late. We have to caution them to watch out saying in an interview, “I should’ve seen this coming year or so ago. I mean, the signs were there… I just didn’t want to see them.” A candidate’s business acumen is seriously questioned in a situation like this.

I realize that looking for a job isn’t fun. In fact it’s a job in itself and if you already have a job it’s like having two jobs. No one likes looking for a job. But staying in a work relationship like this is idiotic too. On top of that, it’s very hard to explain to a prospective employer if you stick around that kind of a relationship for very long.

So at the first sign of anything you think you have to rationalize about your employer start thinking about how you’re going to exit. Don’t get caught in the Stockholm syndrome.


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