Beware of Terminal Seriousness

by Karl Rohde — Get free updates of new posts here. Photo Credit: Karl Rohde.


Seriousness at work is essential especially when one wants make a big impact and take calculated risks. When you face your fear or try something new it’s good to be serious minded as you contemplate the ramifications and mitigating actions to make your endeavors a success.

When your boss considers your career path and remuneration you would hope it carries a good measure of seriousness. When you're about to sign a 3 year service contract with a new vendor you better be serious. When you hire your next specialist, taking it seriously is probably a good idea as you consider team fit, impact, genuine competencies and unique value beyond the resume. Seriousness is a good thing as it indicates care, professionalism, focus and thoughtfulness.

Closely related to this is something you have to be aware about. It's called terminal seriousness. This is seriousness gone wrong.

Terminal seriousness is the type of seriousness that never stops. It points to deeper underlying issues. Seriousness that does not go away is toxic stuff. It's virtually an illness. It's rooted in things like fear, resentment, anger and helplessness.

Terminal Seriousness Poses Some Notable Risks.

  1. It kills relationships. People want to enjoy their work and interactions with their boss. Being a stiff plank all the time creates a barrier to free talk and openness. If people don't feel positive and empowered around you, the all-important human connection is nigh on impossible.
  2. It demoralises. Terminal seriousness clouds any appreciation or recognition you may have for your people. We all want to be recognised and appreciated for what we do. If the leader allows seriousness to reign, resentment is imminent.
  3. It stops innovation and creativity. Awesome work happens when we feel great. Great ideas don't materialise under a cloud of terminal seriousness. (There is a caveat to this: you can be serious about creativity.)
  4. It kills culture. Happy feelings die under terminal seriousness.
  5. It encourages murmuring. Innately people want to share their experiences and if they can’t share it with the leader they'll share their experience with someone else and tell them how the boss was not there for them.
  6. Its bad for your health. Enough said.
  7. It feeds fear. Self-expression is the last thing on people’s minds if seriousness shrouds all interactions.
  8. It’s a sign you don't really like your work. It shows that your work gives you very little pleasure. It demonstrates your work is just a means to an end and that you'd rather be doing something else. This in itself is uninspiring.

This is a friendly reminder to keep work real and happening by making sure you use seriousness for what it’s worth but know there is a time to stop the seriousness. Keep it in its proper place. No more and no less. Seriousness out of control is a signal you're working in the wrong place. Work should be fulfilling and meaningful. That's the objective here at WorkLikeAnArtist.

Thanks for reading another WLAA blog post. What are your thoughts on terminal seriousness? Leave a comment, email me (karl [at], connect on Google+, Twitter - @krohde, LinkedIn and if you liked this please share on your social networks.

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Photo Credit: Karl Rohde