Corporate suicides highlight stresses at the top

Wed Aug 28, 2013 12:07pm EDT
 
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By Clare Hutchison

LONDON (Reuters) - The suicides of two top executives in Switzerland has prompted calls for greater support for boardroom highfliers.

Heavy workloads, frenetic schedules and extensive overseas travel has obliterated the so-called "work-life balance" for many bosses and the financial crisis has piled on the pressure with job cuts, firesales and the scramble to survive.

"It has always been tough at the top and it has always been lonely at the top and certainly since the global financial crisis, it's got even lonelier and even tougher," said Executive Mentor David CM Carter, author of self-help book Breakthrough.

"That's why it's really important that those people at the top pay attention to the need for balance," he said, pointing to entrepreneurs such as Richard Branson and Bill Gates, who have teamed glittering careers with a successful family life.

"They do hot air ballooning, they save the planet as well as running their fantastic empires. They have holidays and hobbies or they focus on their family and their relationships and on their health."

But career chief executives often face more pressure from shareholders and their boards than company founders such as Branson and Gates.

And while they usually have a coterie of staff running around them, chief executive officers often feel isolated by their position and the high-stakes decisions they have to take. The need always to present a "game face" can inhibit them from confiding in colleagues.

Zurich Insurance Group's Chief Financial Officer Pierre Wauthier was found dead at his home on Monday in what police said appeared to be a suicide.   Continued...