What are the Career Blues?
The career blues are marked by a loss of enthusiasm for work, a loss of a sense of purpose in work, and an emotional flatness regarding work that affect the use of time and talents, energy and effort, and aspirations and attitude while at work. People suffering the blues have lost their desire to go to work, view work as drudgery, and have no clear sense of how work adds value to their lives. They are going through the motions at work, and are uninterested, unenthusiastic, and unengaged.
The opposite of the career blues is career engagement. People engaged with their careers are enthusiastic about their work, have a sense of satisfying purpose in what they are doing, and are able to draw on and continuously renew that sense. They effectively utilize most of their time, talent, and energy. They give an honest, focused effort in the pursuit of fulfilling personal aspirations. People engaged in their work enjoy it and invest in it.
Are the career blues different from depression? Clinical depression has become a major health concern, and is largely underreported in the workplace. As a significant contributing factor to lost work productivity, time, and even suicide, clinical depression is a health factor to which executives and organizations need pay more attention. One management observer recently reported that in a large high-tech company, "20 percent of the IT department showed signs of clinical depression."15 The article, "An Executive Guide to Workplace Depression," by Joseph Kline, Jr., and Lyle Sussman in this issue gives more insight on this challenging problem.
The career blues are not clinical depression; rather they represent a milder malaise in which one has lost one's sense of purpose in work. While the career blues may develop into depression, they are less severe and more easily dealt with.
Managing one's relationship to work can have a positive effect on the career blues, while clinical or biochemically based depressions need professional medical treatment.
Beating the career blues
James G Clawson, Mark E Haskins. The Academy of Management Executive. Briarcliff Manor: Aug 2000. Vol. 14, Iss. 3;
James G. Clawson is a professor of business administration at The Darden Graduate School of Business Administration, University of Virginia. He teaches in the MBA, doctoral, and executive education programs, and has published numerous articles and books, most recently, Level Three Leadership. He consults with a variety of organizations on leadership, careers, and leading change. He has a DBA from Harvard University. Contact: Jim Clawson@virginia.edu.
Mark E. Haskins is a professor of business administration at The Darden Graduate School of Business Administration, University of Virginia. He has worked for Arthur Young & Co. He is the coauthor of three textbooks and coeditor of The CFO Handbook. His interests include collaboration and international financial reporting. He has a Ph.D. from Pennsylvania State University. Contact: HaskinsM@Darden. virginia.edu.