Some may find it tough to muster sympathy for the Wall Street players whose jobs have been threatened or lost in the mortgage mess. But there's a lot to learn about the emotional pressures on executives—and not just those at the top—during such corporate crises.
Not surprisingly, CEOs of companies in turmoil often feel helpless, deeply anxious, and—especially if they're likely to be fired—ashamed. (Yes, despite those huge pre-negotiated severance packages. Some even feel guilty about such payouts but fear that refusing them would be admitting culpability.) Add to this the role-induced isolation of many a CEO. As things fall apart, it can intensify and spread to senior managers, who may feel unable to approach the boss.
If you're an executive in the C-suite, or at any level, you may also feel a sort of guilt by association from working at a company in trouble—especially one that's making headlines. It helps to find a trusted confidant, preferably outside the workplace, to talk with you about this. Meanwhile, brace yourself for lots of unsolicited advice—suggestions about how to save the day or well-meaning encouragement to quit. It's normal to feel torn between these two extremes. But resist the heroics. And give yourself time to reflect on whether leaving is the best course. (It may be.) Finally, while it's adaptive to protect oneself in times of trouble, try not to become distrustful and suspicious. Blame-throwing is inevitable, and organizations in a tailspin love to find scapegoats. But a bunker mentality undermines the managerial—and emotional—skills you'll need to get through the crisis.