Even when parties do have a formal contract, we often find that little thought has been given to the “termination” clauses of the contract.
A well-crafted contract that addresses issues of ter-mination can streamline the process for getting out of a bad deal. For instance, whether or not the contract can be terminated (eg “without cause”), what the respective rights (and obligations) of each party are upon termination, what rights (if any) survive termination, what hand-over (termination) steps are required, including what payments (if any) must be made at the end of the contract. It can make a significant difference to have agreed these procedures before relations between parties have soured.
As parties have typically invested emotionally in the outcome of a contract, early termination may signify failure. Fear of failure can lead to different consequences, depending on how we deal with failure – and indeed with fear itself.
Fear of failure, according to Malcolm Gladwell (www.gladwell.com/pdf/choking.pdf), can have different consequences depending on whether we “choke” or “panic”. Choking is about thinking too much – losing instinct. Panicking is reverting to instinct and thinking too little.
By way of example, Malcolm Gladwell describes the fateful final journey of John F Kennedy, Jr. Without any visual cues to rely on, JFK Jr made a series of manoeuvres suggesting that he panicked, reverting to instinct to fly his plane “blind” (in poor visibility at night). Had he “choked”, writes Gladwell, he might have reverted to the “mechanical, self-conscious application of the lessons he had first received as a pilot” – to concentrate on his instruments, rather than instinctively relying on (looking for) visual cues.
Mostly, the consequences of fear are not quite so dramatic. As part of the Berghs’ School of Communication Exhibition ’11 (http://berghs.exhibition11.se), famous creators were asked to share their views on the fear of failure. Celebrated designer Milton Glaser’s response was to explore first the idea of professionalism and how being a successful professional can stymie our personal development. Glaser’s view is that this is because in professional life we hone our skills and become specialists in our own particular way of doing things. We become recognised, perhaps lauded, for our way of doing things and people come to us seeking our expertise.
But, according to Milton Glaser, developing our own specialisation is antithetical to personal development. This is because becoming a specialist involves working in the same narrow area over and over. This may lead to success in that narrow area. However, notes Glaser, it is through moving to failure (things we are not good at) that we discover things and that we learn. Thus, professionalism trains us to pursue success through narrow specialisation, rather than to pursue personal development by abandoning what we know in favour of something new.
In this way, professionalism can cause us to fear failure and to suffer the consequences of fear. Fear of failure can inhibit us from going forward – because of a fear of being judged a failure by others. It can also cripple us as a result of self-criticism – our own self-acknowledgement that we really don’t exactly know what we are doing.
The only way out, according to Glaser, is to embrace the fear rather than allowing it to inhibit us.
As painful as the process may be to extricate yourself from a bad contract, it is also an opportunity for an objective analysis of what went wrong and what could be done better next time. Paving a path for a clean exit (next time) allows resources to be spent on preparing for the next project and putting the past behind us.