Hieronymus Bosch or the «Seven Deadly Sins» in Career Planning

Hieronymus_Bosch-_The_Seven_Deadly_Sins_and_the_Four_Last_ThingsLet’s jump into the Early Modern Times, the end of the late Middle Ages. In this time of change fall the discovery of the New World (1492), the gradual emergence of nation states or the appearance of new economic systems (e.g. banking in Italy, or the Fugger family in Germany). Around 1450, the Dutch Renaissance painter Hieronymus Bosch is born. Bosch is making himself a name with paintings, which fundamentally criticized the then ruling stands.

His work “The Seven Deadly Sins”, today at the Museo del Prado in Madrid, is considered a major example of the urge for religious and moral renewal. By the term “mortal sin” were designated in the Catholic catechism particularly serious sins, including murder, adultery or apostasy. Sins incurred by classical theology of seven bad character traits. Common is the name of the main vices as “Seven Deadly Sins”, which we hereafter consider under the aspect of career planning:

Superbia: pride (arrogance, vanity, vainglory). Superbia is the habitus of persons perceiving their own value, their rank or their skills unrealistically high. This includes especially the “multiple three-year wonder”, as mentioned by Fredmund Malik. These subjects are working successfully for three years, they renovate, build on, but won’t see the consequences of their errors, according to Madame Pompadour’s famous dictum: “Après nous le déluge!” The current economic history is full of examples of supposed manager luminaries, their deep fall can be read at Ulrich F. Zwygart’s enlightening book: Leaders. How to Avoid Failing, How to Develop, How to Stay on Top.

Avaritia: avarice (greed). The greatest form of human avarice is not the withholding of material benefits, but the failure of individual appreciation. Executives are specifically in charge, because managing cross-generational teams is linked with different expectations: While for Baby Boomers and the Generation X the subject may be less important, the consistent praise is indispensable for the performance of Millennials and members of the Generation Y. However, the maxim of Paracelsus is valid as well: the right dosage is key!

Luxuria: hedonism, debauchery (sensuality). Already the German dictionary of Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm of the 19th Century criticized wasteful and thoughtless actions. Managers should remember that they are always rated in their activities, regardless of whether they take action or refrain from something. Just in case, neat understatement is always advantageous, since neither customers nor employees appreciate car excesses or exalted watches fetishism. When in doubt, it‘s best to park your new car around the corner, Google Maps knows exactly where!

Ira: anger (rage, retribution, revenge). A popular minefield that can damage careers persistently, are the Digital wailing walls of the 21st century, namely corporate review platforms such as Glassdoor or Kununu. The supposed anonymity sometimes tempts to a relentless settlement with the former employer and may backfire: Especially in SMEs, the “Deputy Head” who has left the company in “March 2015” can be deduced directly: Remember, the digital universe will never forget!

Gula: gluttony (intemperance, self-indulgence, selfishness). The supreme discipline on the Parquet are invitations to business lunches, dinners or balls with “Black or White Tie”. Those who still speak the cutlery language of the Neolithic in the 21st Century, have already lost. Unforgotten is the manager who finished his sumptuous, delicious five course menu with an order of fillet Stroganoff. Such culinary “no goes” have huge anecdotal potential and may turn into a perfect career blocker.

Invidia: envy (envy, jealousy). Of all mortal sins, envy is the best entrepreneurial management tool: It’s absolutely precise and completely free as well. But watch out, who does not know how to transform envy into a productive driver, is in the long term on the losing road. Envy as inspiration to perspiration does have a future, for all others I can highly recommend Paul Watzlawick’s evergreen “The Situation is Hopeless, But Not Serious (The Pursuit of Unhappiness)”.

Accidia: inertia of the heart / spirit (laziness, cowardice, ignorance). Finally, the Allegory of laziness completes the “Seven Deadly Sins” of Hieronymus Bosch. After all, people who like working in a “stand by-mode” will not fit in any sustainable companies. The most important formula for all companies is expressed by the equation “Power equals work over time”:

Because this formula is a general rejection of any presenteeism at work, but the perfect booster for your own career!

Epilogue: Hieronymus Bosch died on 09 August 1516 at the age of 66 years. Even 500 years after his death, researchers are still puzzled about the incredible creativity and the origin of the artist’s innovative imagery. The German TV contribution “Hieronymus Bosch ‒ Visions of a Genius” attempts to shed light into the darkness. Click here for the German video (link available until 14 February 2017).

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