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A question

(Arising from work on a new novel ...)

There's a syndrome I've occasionally seen, whereby people who got hauled into research or tech management roles because they were good at actually doing research or tech jobs find themselves losing touch with their research or tech skills. At which point they begin to get jittery about it and try to put in some hands-on time. (This frequently happens to the folks who are better at working the coal face than working in the manager's office.)

This is definitely not the Dunning-Kruger effect at work; these are skilled, experienced competent people who have merely lost their edge in a field. It's clearly related to "regular" impostor syndrome, but it's distinctively different thing. In impostor syndrome, the competent worker feels like an impostor who's about to be exposed. In the condition I'm describing, the formerly-competent worker feels as if they're losing skills or going rusty because they've moved on to another role, and they respond inappropriately by trying to brush up their old skill set.

Example #1: A project manager who suddenly starts trying to write software for the project they should be managing.

Example #2: A senior military officer, supervising a large unit on exercise, who gets so involved in the minutiae that they start trying to micro-manage a much smaller unit (for example, a General focussing on a single platoon).

Does this syndrome have a name, and has it been well-characterised elsewhere?

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This page contains a single entry by Charlie Stross published on September 28, 2012 7:55 PM.

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