"Mid-Life Crisis" Coiner Dies at 86

Bapopik at AOL.COM Bapopik at AOL.COM
Tue Mar 18 06:56:51 UTC 2003

   At least he didn't die young.  The revised OED has this from 1965.  I
assume that's JSTOR's earliest.  From Tuesday's NEW YORK TIMES:

Elliott Jaques, 86, Scientist Who Coined 'Midlife Crisis,' Is Dead


r. Elliott Jaques, a psychoanalyst, social scientist and management
consultant who coined the phrase "midlife crisis" and urged companies to
adopt hierarchies that reflected employees' abilities to handle long-range
assignments, died on March 8 in Gloucester, Mass. He was 86.

Dr. Jaques, who graduated from the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and
earned a Ph.D. in social relations at Harvard, began developing his
management theory in 1952, when he was hired by the Glacier Metal Company in
England to help improve worker involvement.

A company supervisor asked him if it was significant that lower-level workers
were paid by the hour while executives were paid an annual salary. The
question "was the finest gift I've ever been given," he told The New York
Times in 1985. "That's when I started examining the significance of time."

Dr. Jaques investigated what he called the "time frame" of the individual. He
found that some workers are capable of planning and carrying out tasks that
take three months to a year; those people, he said, are suited to the role of
manager. A smaller group, capable of one- to two-year assignments, should
serve as department leaders. General managers should be able to handle 2- to
5-year projects and division presidents 5- to 10-year strategies. Corporate
chiefs should be able to think in terms of 10 to 20 years.

Dr. Jaques, who contended that a person's time frame could change over a
career, developed a process to test employees' capabilities and likelihood
for progress. He also worked with companies to determine the types of
judgment needed at different levels of management.

His goal was to create organizational structures that allowed employees to
work together effectively. While he was aware that quantifying worker
capabilities raised social and ethical questions, he argued that his
organizational structure made more sense than one layered with managers who
had no real authority. "The system we have now is much more crushing to the
individual," he said.

Dr. Jaques, whose clients included the United States Army and the Church of
England, was a founding fellow of the Royal College of Psychiatry in Britain,
a founding member of the Tavistock Institute of Human Relations and the
founder of the social sciences department at Brunel University in London.
Dr. Jaques introduced the phrase "midlife crisis" in 1965 in a paper on the
working patterns of creative geniuses. Examining the careers of a number of
composers and artists, he found abrupt changes in style or declines in
productivity around the age of 35. Gail Sheehy popularized the phrase 10
years later in her book "Passages," giving Dr. Jaques credit in a footnote.

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