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Stockholm Syndrome and your career – can you really love your job?


Wow, what a strange topic to discuss, however, recently I saw a post where a comedian who liked to “debate” for a living posted a sign saying “everyone who loves their job is an example of Stockholm Syndrome. Change my mind”! Needless to say, being a career coach, that trigged a “that is absolutely not true” reaction in me and I would have loved an opportunity to have debated that notion with him and change his mind! Since I could not, I thought I will reach out to you, dear reader, and explain my professional and personal view on why you can honestly and purely love your job.

Before we get into it, let us first define what Stockholm Syndrome (SS) is. It is when a victim develops positive (love like) feelings towards their abuser(s) or captors. It is considered as a coping mechanism for the victim. The victim does not realise that their feelings are not genuine. So in this particular argument, we are then saying that our employers are abusers, our captors and we; are the victims.

Well, I have done some research on other peoples opinion’s on the topic, and they suggest that an employee can indeed get SS from an abusive manager and stay due to fear of loss of income, for example. However, to me, fear does not sound positive, in fact it is very negative, which then is opposite to the notion of what SS represents.

Ok, get comfortable, because I am now about to go through my various arguments for why there is no SS when it comes to work, that instead, people stay and endure negative, toxic environments for different reasons*.

*But before I do get deep into it, this is based on professional HR and Career Coach experience and not science. 

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Toxic work environments

I have written a blog in the past about toxic work environments, how to recognise the signs and the negative impact is has on the individual working there.

In most cases, toxic work environments lead to high staff turnover. Everyone has a breaking point and eventually, even the most loyal employee will meet theirs and resign.

But then, why do some people stay longer in a negative workplace than others? I assure you, it is not for the love of their manager or company. It is indeed fear, not SS. But what kind of fear you ask? Good question, thanks for asking.


Here is a list of reasons why one would fear resigning from their jobs:stressed worker

  1. Loss of income. This is a very real and valid fear to have, especially with the increase of living expenses. This fear may be even more amplified if your income is the source of finance which supports a family.
  2. Confidence. Lacking confidence in oneself and their abilities can hold so many people back. Believing they are not good enough for a better position, they feel there is nothing more out there for them, so they are stuck doing the same job for the same horrible boss.
  3. Management. Some may fear their manager so much, they are too scared to tell them they are moving on. This is not SS, as the idea of SS is based on loving your position in the company. Rather, this is fearing the confrontation and a “scary” conversation. After all, a ‘mean’ boss can make your life harder if given a good enough reason.
  4. There may also be concern of a negative job review in the future because of the toxic nature of a manager, so it may feel easier to stay where you are than deal with the drama.
  5. Big risk. Changing ones life can be scary, especially if there are no other roles lined up before resigning. It may seem that a negative job is still better than no job because at least you are employed and bring home a steady income.
  6. Resume. Often, people who have big career plans worry how their resumes may look if they do not stay in a place long enough. The idea of leaving a company after a short period of time may look bad in ones resume and hard to explain.
  7. Failure. Individuals may feel like they have failed somehow by not being able to manage and stay in an organisation for an extended period of time. A time that seems respectably ‘long enough’ in their eyes and perhaps, in the eyes of the community.

Why love

The fear outlined above are all valid reasons and are understandable. This article, however, is not about how to deal with these fears (but stay tuned for future pieces that will address it). This blog is about why people can truly, honestly, whole heartedly love their job without any agendas, stigma or syndrome associated to it.

happy workersHere are the reasons why someone can honestly love their work:

  1. They are in an industry that calls to them, that is part of them, an industry that they feel is significantly and positively impacts the community/world/themselves. They have found their true passion and even if they were not paid to do the work, they would still want to do it in some way, shape or form. For example, I know a number of retired pilots who in their free days mentor and train the next generation of pilots (for free).
  2. The company they work for supports their individual needs, such as organised spaces for religious or personal reasons such as breastfeeding mums. An example we can share with you is when an employee felt very self-conscious over their heavy European accent and their employer paid for speech therapy simply because they wanted them to feel confident and happy in their own skin. There was no benefit to the company for doing so, they just wanted to support their employee.
  3. Working conditions are great, such as good pay, extra leave time, high super, flexible hours, added benefits and more.
  4. Some companies can make the working environment fun and relaxing. For example, one company offered free yoga classes to all staff, another got a physical therapist in to help with any back pains from sitting too much at a desk.

But this only works if the management are supportive and provide positive leadership. If you make work a place where someone enjoys going into, coupled with passion; you can love your job. The conditions need to be right, you cannot be happy if the organisation you work for treats you like garbage, nor can you enjoy your work where you feel your contribution is worthless. However, striking a balance between supportive companies (not captors) and a role you find fulfilling, you can truly wake up on a Monday morning, jump out of bed and think to yourself “yeah, I am happy to go into the office today!”


Before anyone tells me that this is an adults version of Santa Clause, that something like this does not exist, I am here to tell you not only is that not true, but that I myself have personally experienced this a number of times. I have been lucky enough to work for some companies that have been like a social day out rather than feeling like ‘work’. I have also worked for organisations that made me feel like I was indeed captured by some horrid monsters…however, never in that time did I falsely love my job.

We at MCA hope that you can find your dream job and company to boost it…your next happy place. If you feel you need assistance in making that happen, we are always here to support and guide you through it. Simply check out our coaching packages or send us a request to call, we will give you a free call to discuss how we can help you.


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