Professional Suicide – How People Ruin Their Careers

A few common incidents on ruining your career

Of late, I am seeing many people committing professional suicide and I am sure that you might have seen or at least have read about it. What is this form of suicide is all about? Is it committing suicide at workplace or is it committing suicide for work related issues? It is neither. Professional suicide can be defined and understood as a series of demonstrated behavior, attitude, acts and actions of arrogance and any other activity that you wish you couldn’t have done or something that you regret doing, which ruins the career of an individual and stops his or her professional growth. Let me share a few common incidents and examples that you can relate to.

First Incident

In one of my previous associations, we had one employee by the name of VIKRAM SUNDER. He was a blabber, which was interpreted as good verbal communication skills and had some theoretical knowledge about the subject. In fact, two of the reasons for hiring him were his knowledge about the subject and the fact he was coming from one of the competitor’s camp. After his joining, he began to give excuses for his non-performance and most of the time those excuses were external, such as, reporting manager lacks the knowledge or the reporting manager was rude or personal issues or sickness or lack of proper and complete infrastructure or issues related to hierarchy and etc. The management of the company could understand the problem with the person and they developed a strategy and a way to deal with him. All his tactics or the so called art of not working were beginning to fall on deaf ears. He knew that either he needs to pull-up his socks and perform or else he will be out. Under the improvised and no bull-shit kind of work environment, he could only manage for only a few weeks and then he decided to abscond.

Upon absconding, he begins to write a pseudonymous BLOG against the company and its policies, which were framed to discipline him and others like him and made them work and deliver as per their roles and things that they said in the interview that they could do or perform. He was warned to rectify his acts and behave like a matured and educated person but he couldn’t understand. While we were handling him on the BLOG issue and helping him save some grace and reputation, he had joined another company and was repeating similar acts and activities that I have explained above. In the mean time, as VIKRAM refused to understand and was arrogant enough not to foresee what is coming towards him, the company used its right to file a defamation suit against him and involving his family and parents into the entire process. He had to cough out a few hundred thousand INR to save him and his family more moments of embarrassment. A Few months later, he met the similar fate in the other company. Soon he found himself out of job, out of industry and out of his domain. He became unemployable and was forced to change his profession.

Second Incident

ASHISH KANUNGO was working as a Head of the Department. He was a bad conductor of information. His approach towards work was that he should have access to all the information or be aware of everything that is happening in the company and yet not held responsible or accountable for anything. He was excellent in passing on the responsibility and the blame and keeps the credit. By behavior, he was an unsecured Manager and usually used to hop around companies with a bunch of his selected few favorites / sycophants. His work approach towards others was such that actually minimizes cross questioning or cross verification. For example, he will come to you and say that he has been advised by the CEO or CTO or CFO or any other C-level executive to get X information or get the Y thing done. Certainly he was not the one who could face a problem or a conflict head-on. Just like VIKRAM (as discussed above), he too had readymade excuses for his non-performance and he too had external factors to blame for. His reasoning and logic was very bad but was very convincing for ignorant bunch of people.

Because of his convincing skills and ability to present a lie as a truth, he was instrumental in planning and masterminding the exit of many people, who were more skilled and talented than him and he considered them as a threat or potential threat for his stay in the company. To counter such people either one must have thorough knowledge about the industry or domain; or one must play with the same coin. He was also countered by and then sidelined by someone who was even more convincing. He was ignored in all major meetings and his suggestions were avoided. His reporting structure was changed and he was asked to report to a person, who was hired as his junior. Message from the seniors was loud and clear, either you do whatever you are asked to do and the way you are asked to do and in addition to that face moments of embarrassment and insult for what you have done in the past (which is equivalent to committing suicide everyday) or resign.

How to identify prospective cases of “Professional Suicide”????

Whenever a person begins to think about committing suicide, one can notice various changes in his conduct and behavior, such as fear, anxiety, tension, lost in thoughts and etc. Those are warning signs for others to notice and take appropriate steps. Similarly, in cases of professional suicide one can notice a few visible symptoms. They are:

1. Body Language – Not many people are aware of it but the fact is that your eyes and your body movements speak faster and louder than what you could say. So, if your words, facial expressions and body movements are not in sync than it implies that something is really wrong with you. For some people it may only indicate your lack of confidence but there has to be a reason for lack of confidence. Either you are not sure about whatever you are doing or saying or you are engulfed by the fear of unknown and unseen.

2. Big Mouth and non-performers – Only talks and no action. There is this breed of people who talk a lot and talk loud but their talks do not hold any substance. Through their words they can build beautiful castles and do the impossible but when it comes to action or execution or performance, they don’t even get any closer to their words. They find excuses for their non-performance.

3. Lack of commitment and accountability – They are not willing to make any commitment. They prefer not to have deadlines or final dates for delivery or any targets. And when asked to finalize a date or an execution plan, they make an excuse that their work is difficult to quantify or control or their work is influenced by external factors. They believe in, “I will work and I want to work but I will work only then when India will become corruption free country”.

4. Unwillingness to accept responsibility (Blame Game) – “I did this or that because of X, Y or Z and hence I should not be held responsible for the outcome”. “I want to be a Team-Lead or a Department Head but I am no where responsible for the failure of the team”. “Reasons for my failure are out of my control”. These people do not accept responsibility and in a worst case scenario, they even blame external factors for their failure.

5. Lies and Dishonesty – They are chronic liars. They lie about anything and everything. They are fraudulent, deceptive, as well as corrupt. They cheat to get through their way. It doesn’t really matter what profession you are in or what you do but one needs to be honest and true.

6. Arrogant (I know everything) and Egoistic – Oh, then there is this breed of people who knows everything and everybody in all the industries. They pretend to have known everything. They find themselves to be too big to learn anything. And as they know everything, they have little scope to learn new things and because they cannot learn anything new, sooner or later they are likely to commit suicide.


This write-up is not revolutionary or any kind of break-through. Everything that has been discussed here is already known to most of the people. And although we know indicators of “Professional Suicide”, yet we cannot do anything to stop people from doing this. Every day we will see people committing this professional sin but cannot help them because only they can help themselves.

Your feedback and comments are very valuable and helps us to improvise. Feel free to write to us and share your thoughts and views.
Composed by: Sanjeev Himachali

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Jessica Miller-Merrell

Learn more about Jessica Miller-Merrell, SPHR, SHRM-SCP, the founder of Workology, a workplace HR resource, and the host of the Workology Podcast. More of her blogs can be found here.

Reader Interactions


  1. Samantha Joseph says

    Hi Jim, This post might be true for some people but still do you think that name calling on a public forum and a professional blog such as this is appropriate. If the person you are writing about is not what you have claimed him to be, do you think it would be fair to tarnish the reputation of a person like this. I personally feel that any opinion in professional front should be unbiased and not related to a person due to some personal enmity.


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