To read this content please select one of the options below:

Executives and career shocks: observations from coaching practice

Konstantin Korotov (ESMT Berlin, Berlin, Germany)

Career Development International

ISSN: 1362-0436

Article publication date: 22 June 2021

Issue publication date: 6 October 2021




The study provides practice-based vignettes describing career shocks as experienced by executives. It also offers a brief description of the approaches taken by the coach in helping executives to cope with their initial reactions. This work informs the readers about examples of career shocks in the executive population and provides access to normally rarely available information about sensitive aspects of psychological life of executives.


This paper is a qualitative exploration of managers' career shock experiences reflected in executive coaching interventions. It takes an anecdotal look at how executives react to shocks of various valences, and how coaching attempts to assist them by processing their first reactions and choosing a response. The paper particularly looks at managers' responses almost immediately following a shocking event triggering their request for coaching help.


Coaching conversation serves as opportunities for handling immediate emotional reactions to career disruptions. Even shocks with positive valence can cause ambivalent reactions. Processing of career shocks through coaching conversations can activate agency in dealing with abrupt career events. Coaches can offer further support in career deliberations. In one of the cases, an instance of anticipation of a negative career event was associated with positive hopes, and the non-occurrence of the event led to further elaboration about one's career options.

Research limitations/implications

This work is based on a small sample of executives experiencing career shocks.

Practical implications

This work informs executives about opportunities provided by executive coaching in handling difficult reactions to external career events. Coaches or coaches-in-training receive an overview of coaching requests associated with career shocks.

Social implications

With the increasing instability in careers the paper draws the attention to the helping potential of coaching to those experiencing career shocks. It also contributes to normalization of turning for support in psychologically burdening situations.


This work is a trigger for further consideration of the experiences of career shocks by business executives. It provides a first look into immediate reactions of this career population to unexpected external disruptions. It also offers opportunities for further exploration of the role executive coaching can play in career deliberations.



Korotov, K. (2021), "Executives and career shocks: observations from coaching practice", Career Development International, Vol. 26 No. 4, pp. 582-595.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2021, Emerald Publishing Limited

Related articles