My Friend Shot Himself, But His Job Took His Life

This has been a tough weekend. Early Saturday morning, I received word that one of my good friends had passed away on Friday. The dismay and despair that I felt was overwhelming, and I was suspended in disbelief wondering what disease had taken him, or if an unfortunate accident had caught him in its snares. It became clear rather quickly that he in fact committed suicide in a very violent and absolutely uncharacteristic manner.

Why? The facts are preliminary and still sketchy, but it seems like he was under tremendous pressure at his gig for a decision he made that went wrong, and cost his company dearly. Let me be clear...it would be disingenuous to hold any of his co-workers responsible for his death. That is complete nonsense. But the job took his life. That is for sure.

If there is one thing that I do not miss from the corporate world, it is the mean spiritedness of the politics and ambition that permeates the culture of chasing success. What turns a relatively decent person into an attack machine with a singular focus on destroying another one’s career? Look, I am an astute and aware individual, a cool but tough guy. I get that there is combat in office politics, that is just the nature of the beast. In fact, it has nothing on the more common and more nefarious arena of family politics...I get it.

However, I can vividly recall times when I would head to the company garage at the end of the day at my last gig, get in the car and sit for about fifteen minutes to detox from the intel I received that my SVP had systematically dismantled the international gig that had been lined up for me by senior leadership. Or the time when my boss at the cable co literally ran out of the room and left me hanging as I took the hit from our Chief Strategy Officer on a miscue on division communications. I coined an unoriginal term for this type of scenario - getting your legs taken out - as I would experience or witness good people being maligned, discredited, taken apart just so the next manager or EVP role could become the domain of others.

Business is a rough and tumble world, and thick skin is a key component especially if you are in the management or leadership ranks. It gets ugly quick. No doubt. However, I have always used the approach of being blunt without being unkind, tough without being disruptive, decisive without being destructive, providing critique but with encouragement. That is just me, and the best leaders in my opinion don’t have to resort to board room MMA flying head kicks to get things done and be successful. We’re dealing with our fellow human beings here, people...and when they leave the job at the end of the workday, they go back to their families, and God knows what happens when the madness of the gig comes back home with them. My twin daughters still recall that moment on a beautiful Saturday at a red light at the intersection of Paces Ferry and Cumberland, when I abruptly burst into tears, scaring the heck out of my wife and kids. The craziness of the job just reached out and smacked me in the jaw. Can you imagine seeing your big burly unshakeable uber-daddy sobbing uncontrollably with the car sitting there as the light turns green and cars are honking incessantly behind you?

It gets like that. And so many are suffering in silence getting rocked from all directions, as they battle on a daily basis the balance between the need to eat, the need to provide, and the need to be fulfilled in their careers. Yes, ambition is good, it is necessary, but when you go for your colleague’s legs, their livelihood? Man, the consequences can be traumatic. On both ends. Maybe not immediately for the perpetrator, but karma is definitely Athena the Goddess of War in all her devastating glory. 

PTSD from office politics is for real.

Like my Movement partner in crime who decided to take the ultimate out. He supposedly made a mistake, and I wish he didn’t have to despair that deeply about it to rob us of his huge smile and energy. You know what, though? As I think of his beautiful wife and child, and his distraught family and friends...I’m sorry but I am putting this squarely on his damn job.

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