With an immediate family member passing through a very emotionally demanding chronic condition (persistent vegetative state: PVS. i.e., no evidence of self-awareness or interaction) that actually resulted from an acute event (stroke), I began to explore further on those two topics.
I gather that while acute illness, like influenza, a cut wound, etc., may be painful over a brief period, from which one may recover sooner with proper remedial steps, chronic diseases, however, are persistent—even lasting a lifetime—such as kidney trouble or diabetes.

Though both are abhorred, could one of them (acute or chronic) be easier to manage than the other?

While I was in school, a good friend suddenly lost his father who was the sole bread-winner in the family. His mother had to quickly take a job commensurate with her limited skills. Over the years, the family has recovered and done remarkably well despite the acute shock at that point in time.  

Returning to my mention of PVS initially, I feel that while acute illnesses inflict deep pains, they may be short-lived if dealt with proper remedial steps;  the chronic ones however, could last a long time and be onerous, not allowing for a normal life for years to come.

In our professional careers, if we are unfortunate to encounter certain situations (illnesses?) such as little visibility, stagnation, salary cuts, retrenchment, etc. that cause sufferings, it may be worthwhile looking at them in the frame of two types of illnesses.  

As in the symptoms, the causes could be quite different too—either having to do with purely extraneous factors such as economy, political or financial situations in certain geographies, or intrinsic such as one’s own attitudes, skills, capabilities, limitations, potential, etc.    

Regarding the extraneous factors, it may not be in the hands of the business or the individual professional to do much if those factors govern the downslides. They are mostly uncontrollables. Following business media would help correlate such factors in play.

Dwelling a bit on the intrinsic factors, there may be different approaches to identifying them. One powerful tool is the 360 degree appraisal. It calls for involving the right set of people around us and accepting their feedbacks with open minds. If done periodically (eg. Biennial), 360 degree appraisals may potentially be lead indicators of intrinsic factors as far as career progressions go.

Here is a thought on what we could do once we have a fair idea of career illnesses and their potential causes.

Chronic vs Acute Executive Career Illness Chart
If the causes are intrinsic, self development and seeking the help of expert resources could help manage, and may even flip, them into opportunities to spring-back colourfully.
If the causes however are extraneous, it is wise to re-equip or reincarnate ourselves to be prepared for the next haul.
Chronic situations usually require ‘medication’ or remedial action, whereas acute illnesses at times may not require any medication at all—just tiding over the phase without impulsive decisions may suffice.

In essence, there is an opportunity to avail some learnings from the medical fraternity on managing career illnesses too!

BlueSteps Executive Guest Writer

Kalyan VKalyan Vaidya is a global-minded international executive with Asia-wide, multi-industry experience - Computers, Healthcare, Auto-electrics, Aircraft engines, Chemicals, Pharmaceuticals, Trading - in various facets of business value chain.

He has led projects in Japan, China, South Korea, ASEAN countries, India, Australia, Europe and the USA, and applies his international experience to his writing and management consultancy. Connect with Kalyan on LinkedIn or email him directly at kalyan.vaidya@gmail.com.

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