Summit syndrome is the act of chasing an “unattainable corporate high.” Spawned from imposter syndrome in the workplace, it looks like the unnecessary acquisition of advanced degrees and board-memberships and self-destructive behavior. It’s looking for a rush for pushing yourself beyond your limit.
Unfortunately, the rush never manifests, and in extreme cases, can derail promising careers and lead to burnout. The World Health Organization classifies this as an occupational phenomenon. Summit syndrome can deprive organizations of talent they’ve banked on for the future.
The Content Advisory
Robert Rose is the founder and chief strategy officer of The Content Advisory. He has worked with more than 500 companies, providing content marketing and strategy advice. He provides an example of how summit syndrome presents itself for millennial professionals-
“You launched it. The thing. It’s one of the most amazing things your company has done in years. It was a huge success. There’s only one problem: You feel kind of empty about the whole thing.”
The “trophy generation” is now the largest generation in the workforce. They are now shifting from entry-level to mid and executive-level management. Despite chasing the “high,” they are the least engaged generation in the workforce and change jobs frequently. This generation struggles with perfectionism more than any other generation.
Summit syndrome is frightening – an advanced string of imposter syndrome. There are no quick tips to overcome it. All too often it results in an escalating pattern: feelings of emptiness followed by disorientation.
Simply put, it’s the answer to the question: “Whatever happened to Jane Doe in accounting? She was forward-thinking and showed so much promise.”
Perhaps the cure for summit syndrome is one not identified when dealing with impostor syndrome: self-acceptance. The cure is to realize that this emptiness arises because the “summit” isn’t the point. Our self-worth must come from the fact that we are already deserving of the summit before we reach it.
Whether most millennials are experiencing imposter syndrome or summit syndrome, we must realize that the possibility of success is not the point.