Executive Derailment: The Dark Side of Management

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Abigail Rozanas
Sales & Sales Management
September 30, 2012

Executive Derailment: The “Dark Side” of Management

According to Lambardo & McCauley (1988), the term derail is when a manager who has the ability and is expected to go higher in an organization is instead fired, demoted, or plateaued below the expected levels of achievement. Derailment is a metaphor for a train coming off its tracks. Shockingly, between 30-50% of high-potential managers and executives derail during their business career. There are shocking similarities between a successful individual’s career and that of one headed towards derailment, so this paper will help us have a better understanding of the derailment process, the signs that it is hitting an individual, and how it can be prevented.

There are clear indicators and patterns in a person’s career that point towards this downward spiral called derailment; however, their career starts our very similar to that of a successful person. The individual is usually very bright, holds and outstanding track record, identified early as a “high potential employee,” personable, ambitious, sacrificial for the organization, has been moved up in authority, and excellent at motivating and organizing. The differences between a successful individual and one headed towards derailment will show up in areas such as track record, interpersonal style, composure, handling of mistakes, and solving problems. For instance, an individual who is intelligent but headed towards derailment may be intellectually arrogant, putting down others whose opinions and ideas may not seem as helpful. Also, they may be a committed and focused person, but they are “workaholics” and close-minded. Another characteristic is ambition, but the individual may use manipulation to reach their goals. Sometimes, when an individual seems to have so much potential for the company, it is easy to overlook their potential faults. “These derailers are often noted in advance,...
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