Career suicide is much in the news of late.
A few weeks ago disgruntled Goldman Sachs executive Greg Smith bid farewell to his job and his career in a New York Times op-ed. Sounding more like an Occupy Wall Street protester than a banker Smith let fly with a brutal attack on his former colleagues at GS.
They were not working for their clients. They did not even like their clients. They were working to enrich themselves. They referred to their clients as muppets.
Commenting in Forbes Susan Adams suggested that Smith had committed “career suicide.”
He would never have lunch on Wall Street again.
Reportedly, Smith then landed a $1,500,000 book deal to write his memoirs. Not really his memoirs, but trash talk about Goldman Sachs.
Presumably, he has a Michael Lewis complex.
Some years ago Michael Lewis became famous by describing his sojourn on the Salomon Bros. bond trading floor in a book called Liar’s Poker.
The rest is history. Lewis went on to write a multitude of best sellers, from Moneyball to The Big Short.
Of course, a Michael Lewis is really one-of-a-kind. How many bond traders have morphed into successful writers?
If you think Greg Smith is now rich and famous, keep in mind that what with agents fees and taxes, to say nothing of the ghost writer he will surely have to hire, his fortune will become smaller and smaller.
He will be lucky to end up with $500,000. If he tries to survive on the interest, he will be living well below the poverty line.
But then, after Goldman Sachs does he have another story to tell?
If Smith did it for fame and fortune, for now he seems to have miscalculated. Maybe that’s why he wanted out of finance.
Within the last few days Smith has been joined by Joe Muto, a former associate producer from Fox News who recently began writing a column on Gawker under the pseudonym, Fox Mole.
For whatever his reasons, Muto took it upon himself to give Gawker some material that would embarrass his employer.
Within a few dozen hours the Empire struck back. It unmasked Muto, dismissed him from his job and turned the matter over to its lawyers.
Commenting in Forbes J.Maureen Henderson declared that Muto had committed “career suicide.”
We are now waiting to see whether Muto can land a book contract for his memoirs: An Associate Producer’s Eye View of Fox News.
The whole world is waiting.
Everyone knows that you shouldn’t make a ruckus on your way out the door. When quitting a job you should try to leave on good terms. Your career may depend on it. Better yet, your career prospects do depend on it.
Both Forbes articles make the same point. They make it clearly and cogently and persuasively.
If you blow up your reputation; if you demonstrate disloyalty; if you show that you are untrustworthy… no sane employer will hire you.
Will any company take the chance that a disgruntled Joe Muto might turn against them.
Everyone should know that Smith and Muto, among others, are playing a very dangerous game.
And yet, people do it. People who know better end up yielding to temptation.
If you ask why they did it, the answer is fairly obvious. They wanted to score political and cultural points. They were martyring themselves for a cause.
People commit career suicide because they want to become culture heroes.
In psychiatry this is called the Sandra Fluke syndrome.
Of course, Fluke is a professional activist. She will surely go to work for an abortion rights’ advocacy group. She might even get into politics. She is not going to be working for a law firm.
Smith and Muto traded a job for notoriety and celebrity. If Greg Smith had calculated correctly he would have seen that he had a much better chance of becoming a Managing Director at Goldman Sachs than of becoming Michael Lewis.
Celebrities are one-of-a-kind. Even celebrity writers are sui generis. For all we know Smith might become a passably successful writer. But he is not going to morph into Michael Lewis.