HBR - Can You Handle Failure

 Managing Yourself: Can You Handle Failure? - Harvard Business Review, by Ben Dattner and Robert Hogan, comes from the April 2011 issue of the Harvard Business Review. The issue itself is a special on failure - the "F" word.

To prevent failures, inevitable at some point in everyone's career, from derailing or even destroying your career, you have to recognize whether your reaction to failure is "dysfunctional", and if so, which of the 11 types does it fall under. These types "represent roughly 70% of the U.S. population". These 11 types can be divided into three categories - "Denies Blame", "Blames Others", and "Blames Oneself" - proposed by the psychologist Saul Rosenzweig in the 1930s.. The cynic in us would like to be in the first two camps - to deny blame and then to blame others.

The 11 types listed are:
Blames Others
1. Excitable: “Volatile Guardian”
2. Cautious: “Sensitive Retirer”
3. Skeptical: “Wary Watcher”
4. Leisurely: “Rationalizing Blamer”

Denies Blame
5. Bold: “Big Person On Campus”
6. Mischievous: “High-Wire Walker”
7. Reserved: “Indifferent Daydreamer”
8. Colorful: “Thespian”
9. Imaginative: “Assertive Daydreamer”

Blames Oneself
10. Diligent: “Micromanager”
11. Dutiful: “Martyr”

 HP's former CEO and one-time gubernatorial candidate for the state of California, Carly Fiorina, is singled out for being a blame-denier:
One well-known executive who has been accused of this sort of behavior is Carly Fiorina, a past CEO of Hewlett-Packard. Disgruntled former subordinates have described her as a self-promoting attention seeker who ignored integration challenges and day-to-day operations
following HP’s 2002 merger with Compaq and took no responsibility when the combined company failed to live up to its potential. When the HP board suggested that she delegate greater authority to her team and more power to the heads of key business units, she refused and was  subsequently dismissed. (When HBR contacted Fiorina’s chief of staff about this article, she declined to comment.)
Carly may be an atypical example, since the author says that "Because of their socialization and other
cultural influences, women are more likely than men to be intropunitive.
The key to learning and changing your response to failure is to be "self-aware". A personality test can help you assess what your personality type is. Myers-Briggs Type Indicator and Big Five are two such models. You also have to be "politically aware", which "involves finding the right way to approach failure within
your specifi c organization, department, and role
". It is possible that different types of people may be successful at different companies - big or small, private or public sector.
An obituary published on the Washington University in St Louis web site had this to say:
Saul Rosenzweig, Ph.D., professor emeritus of psychology in Arts & Sciences and an internationally recognized expert on psychoanalysis, died Monday, Aug. 9, 2004, in St. Louis. He was 97.

He made his mark on the field in the 1930s with a publication outlining common factors underlying a range of popular and competing approaches to psychotherapy. He dismissed the contentious contemporary arguments about which approach was most effective, arguing that all methods of therapy — when competently used — could be equally successful.

His premise became known as the "Dodo Bird Hypothesis" — a reference to Lewis Carroll's 1865 book, Alice in Wonderland, in which a dodo bird declares: "Everybody has won and all must have prizes."

Rosenzweig's study of aggression led to the Rosenzweig Picture-Frustration Study, a test of latent hostility.

© 2011, Abhinav Agarwal. All rights reserved.