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Career derailment: burnout and bullying at the executive level

McCormack, Lynne; Abou-Hamdan, Sleiman; Joseph, Stephen


Lynne McCormack

Sleiman Abou-Hamdan

Stephen Joseph


Executive derailment refers to unexpected and unwanted changes in the trajectory of an executive career caused either by factors within the person or by organisational factors external to the person, or a combination of both, leading to loss of identity. This phenomenological study explored subjective experiences of four high functioning professionals who had experienced executive derailment. Semi-structured interviews were conducted and data were analysed using Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA). Results showed four superordinate themes that encapsulated a trajectory from severe loss of identity, integrity, and livelihood, to newly defined authenticity following derailment: (1) Self-doubt and blame; (2) targeted bullying; (3) psychological vulnerability and distress; and (4) Meaning-making and personal growth. The first three themes highlight varying levels of psychological distress and burnout and the vicarious impact on family life. The fourth theme involved a redefined self-integrity where forgiveness and psychological recovery could emerge and allow for a reconsideration of career pathways. The recognition that personal and professional growth can arise following executive derailment is a novel finding with important implications for coaches. A positive psychological and growth-oriented mindset may be helpful in harnessing change with executives following derailment.

Journal Article Type Article
Publication Date Mar 1, 2017
Journal International Coaching Psychology Review
Print ISSN 1750-2764
Electronic ISSN 1750-2764
Publisher British Psychological Society
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 12
Issue 1
APA6 Citation McCormack, L., Abou-Hamdan, S., & Joseph, S. (2017). Career derailment: burnout and bullying at the executive level. International Coaching Psychology Review, 12(1),
Keywords Derailment, burnout, bullying, psychological distress, growth
Publisher URL
Copyright Statement Copyright information regarding this work can be found at the following address: http://eprints.nottingh.../end_user_agreement.pdf
Additional Information This is a pre-publication version of the following article: Career derailment: Burnout and bullying at the executive level
Lynne McCormack, Sleiman Abou-Hamdan & Stephen Joseph. International Coaching Psychology Review. Vol 12, No 1 March 2017.


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