Management can take the following steps to reduce the incidence of professional suicide and increase the effective management of highly motivated employees

1. Establish specific organizational goals. This reduces the nebulous character of organizational objectives and establishes a framework against which personal goals can be set.

2. Develop a plan for meeting organization and personal goals and objectives.

3. Develop team building activities and manage by group commitment.

4. Implement formal and informal performance reviews at regular intervals. Initiate a reward system (merit pay) based on the achievements of the individual, thus avoiding rewarding psychological one-upmanship.

5. Implement training programs in interpersonal competence to improve communication and provide opportunities for more effective problem solving.

6. Executive management needs to assume responsibility for clarifying the rules of the game, the reward system and what it takes to get ahead.

7. Provide opportunities for decompression and periodic revitalization through sabbaticals, conferences, stress reduction programs and the like.

8. Reduce anxiety by goal setting and corporate clarity about purpose and function.

9. Establish skill inventory for each employee and maintain a workforce planning effort for career paths.

10. Conduct continuous studies to continually promote organization improvements and correct organizational deficiencies.

In addition to improving productivity and retaining highly motivated and talented employees, organizations can reduce the number of discrimination suits by taking these steps to prevent professional suicide. It has been established that the majority of discrimination lawsuits occur as a result of poor supervisor-to-employee relations. Poor relations derive from lack of communication, support, goal-setting and letting employees know they are valued. This being the case-corporate leaders are well advised to seek out, train, and reward those employees who have vision and can effectively communicate with their employees. Without this leadership we can only anticipate an escalation of professional suicide as we become more and more technologically advanced.

In looking for the signs of professional suicide one will often see nothing. It takes a keen eye and ear to detect the subtle behaviors that are the beginning stages of the suicidal process. These signs are often considered temporary and thus are not equated with the downward spiral of an individual's performance. When the suicidal process begins it's usually the little things that go unnoticed until the employee's performance has slipped dramatically. At this point management recognizes that something is drastically wrong and confronts the employee, whose self-esteem has already deteriorated. When confronted the employee responds defensively while feeling both neglected and unworthy of attention at the same time.

The subtle signs of professional suicide begin with minor infractions of the established norm of the department, workgroup or organization. These infractions are often contrary to the established norm of the individual as well. Any behavior change in the employee is significant and needs to be noted to determine whether it is temporary or the beginning of a suicidal process. If the employee has had personal changes or difficulties that would explain a change in behavior or work habits, and agrees that a change is necessary, management can assume that the current infractions are only temporary.

However, close observation is important to note whether or not, after a reasonable period of time, the behavior remains on a positive course. If the employee's behavior does not meet the established norm, then further discussion is warranted, for both the individual's and the organizations sake.

These minor infractions are not alarming unless they become habitual or chronic. Management needs to tread a fine line between being nosy and noticing the beginning of a trend. It's important for management to address reasons for the existence of minor infractions before they become habitual or chronic.

These bothersome and perhaps suicide indicative infractions include consistently arriving to work late with no explanation (or spouting poor excuses) long lunch breaks, coming late to or missing meetings, falling asleep during meetings, little or no participation in meetings, failure to return phone calls to customers, clients, or colleagues, missing deadlines, poor quality of work, and lack of enthusiasm and interest.

When management does not ask the employee what has caused his/her behavior to change, the employee may perceive that s/he's not important or respected. Otherwise, the employee reasons, why are these infractions unnoticed? Whether the infraction is due to a personal problem or burnout, the employee wants to be noticed. If the infraction is not corrected within a reasonable length of time it is important that management contact the employee again. Thus, the unacceptable behavior is corrected before it deteriorates further. If management fails to handle the corrective process adequately, the second stage of the deterioration begins-disruptive behavior, more serious infractions that are manifested as psychosomatic illness and deterioration in dress or appearance. The situation has reached a crisis, and the final stage of the suicidal process begins. This final stage is often manifested by severe self-destructive behavior, such as substance abuse, obesity, anorexia, accidents and inability to 'get along' wit the rest of the staff. In this last instance, the employee usually manages to find others to blame, therefore avoiding taking responsibility for their current situation. The final stage may last one to two years before the individual is fired, quits or succumbs to self-destruction.

The problem is often viewed as an individual's inability to conform to the organization, which leads management to attempt to get the individual to conform. While this may be true in part, management needs to look at the needs of the individual. For most people a sense of self-worth is a bigger factor than the job and the contribution to the world. People want to grow and develop and have a sense of self-actualization. People need a safe and secure place from which to view their present, past and future in order to be creative and productive. When the management meets the needs of the individual, the individual can better meet the needs of the organization.

If you believe you are in an organization which fosters professional suicide, the following steps can prevent you from becoming a victim:

1. Negotiate with management to develop organizational and individual goals and objectives.

2. Establish good communication with management

3. Initiate establishing formal and informal performance reviews and goal setting

4. Develop a plan for meeting the goals and objectives

5. Initiate team building activities within your work group

6. Attend training programs in interpersonal competence

7. Engage in activities that provide decompression and periodic release of stress and frustration

8. Reduce your anxiety by checking information, with, management. Avoid assuming the worse

9. Establish your skill inventory and plan to manage your career goals

10. Conduct ongoing evaluations of your organization and how you can improve and correct organizational deficiencies.

Dorothy M. Neddermeyer, PhD, Entrepreneur, personal and professional Life Coach has 25 years experience. She has consulted to Fortune 500 CEO's, Vice Presidents, business owners, and people of all walks of life.