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The Procrustean Syndrome at Work

Por: Dr. Roch, El 12 abril, 2023

What is Procrustean syndrome and how to deal with employees who suffer from it?

Procrustean syndrome is a psychological pathology whose name comes from Greek mythology. Its literal meaning is as follows: it is suffered by those who cut off the head or feet of the one who stands out.

Who was Procrustes in Greek mythology?

Procrustes, literally “stretcher” in Greek mythology, (from ancient Greek Προκρούστης “Prokroústês”, also called Damastes “overpowering” or “controlling”), Polypemon (“many harms”), and Procoptas, was a bandit and innkeeper from Attica (region in southern Greece or, according to other versions, outside Eleusis). He was considered the son of Poseidon and in some versions was a giant who took in lonely travelers and cut off their heads or lower limbs if they did not fit into the bed.

According to this legend and definition, it is obvious that this pathology makes the sufferer intolerant of the successes of others. Thus, people suffering from Procrustean syndrome detest those who stand out in any way and reject all projects and ideas they propose.

When a person suffers from it, he or she usually creates discomfort around him or her and causes disastrous results in any social organization.

This leads to situations of involution and lack of progress. Below, we will tell you exactly what it is and how to deal with it in a work context.

What is the profile of a person with Procrustean syndrome?

The main characteristics of people with Procrustean syndrome are:

  • Fear of being rejected.
  • Hatred of others.
  • Inability to recognize the virtues and/or accomplishments of others.
  • Fear of being surpassed.
  • Envy.
  • Low tolerance for frustration.
  • Feelings of inferiority.
  • Low self-esteem.

Those who suffer from Procrustean syndrome suffer greatly and feel bad when other people are right and they are wrong.

In addition, they are usually unaware of what is happening to them and may even think they are empathetic.

They are often afraid of meeting proactive, successful people or sharing space with colleagues who have more knowledge, initiative, or skills than they do. In fact, they feel so uncomfortable around these people that they focus their energy on limiting their abilities for fear of exposing their shortcomings.

What is the Procrustean bed?

The Procrustean bed is a proverbial expression referring to those who always try to make reality conform to their interests or vision of things. When objections are raised to their rigid approaches, they become annoyed and continue on their way, convinced that they are always right.

En este sentido, es común que acaben por intentar sumar apoyos dentro de su equipo para acabar con la gente que tiene verdadera iniciativa, lo que afecta al clima laboral.

Work Environment Consequences

The consequences of having people with Procrustean syndrome on your staff are many, as a variety of problems can arise.

See if you are experiencing any of these in your business or family… I list them below:

  • They create a bad environment where stress and tension reign.
  • They hinder progress and positive change.
  • If they are in a leadership position, they do not help to optimize work teams.
  • They put their biases before their performance.
  • They may distort data or reports to fit their vision.
  • They do not allow those who are better than them to perform tasks.
  • Boycotting and humiliating colleagues when they excel.
  • They hold others to standards they cannot meet.
  • They prefer conformity, mediocrity, and uniformity to striving for excellence as long as no one stands out above them.

Do you know any of these situations? I do, terribly!

If you want to improve these areas, I invite you to join us for the Leaders Summit, a three-day retreat designed to develop your potential and strengthen and enhance your leadership. Thank you for reading.  Dr. Roch.


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