The “Expert-Killer-Syndrome” in the White House

The “Expert-Killer-Syndrome” is spreading through the White House. No member of the government, neither the President’s Chief of Staff nor his spokesman can be sure to remain in office for the duration of the President’s mandate. This has always been the case. Still, the current inflationary staff turnover in the White House is fairly new. These dizzying turbulences may be due to the fact, that the successful real estate agent and television presenter Donald Trump, who is for the moment President of the United States and Commander in Chief of their armed forces, has no previous theoretical or practical experiences in the modes and arts of diplomacy, administration, and warfare. He relies on a great number of absolutely loyal and competent experts – but he replaces these experts ongoing. The President praises the dismissed consultants as well as the recruited ones in public, and on this occasion gladly welcomes their homages to him. Not long and the President starts eyeing them, and they start spying each other. It seems as if they do not work together but walk around each other – professionally.

Dieter Beck (1935-1980) was the first to describe systematically the dynamics of this process which he called the “Expert-Killer-Syndrome” (1977). The “Expert-Killer-Syndrome” (or “Koryphäen-Killer-Syndrom” in German language usage) is defined by the decay of a trustworthy relationship among guidance-seekers and consultants. The person seeking advice at first and for a short period idealizes the consultant. The relationship shatters as soon as the consultant does not meet all of their expectations. Then the consultant is fired. According to Beck, in the guidance-seeker’s view professionals like medical experts, hospital directors and professors lose their reputation immediately and entirely after he considered their performance as a failure.

The “Expert-Killer-Syndrome” proliferates in public space, but it is not an infectious disease. Like with the frustrating contact with “professional patients” who are the horror of all medical doctors, the relationship ends because of their enhanced claims and a variety of discomforts nobody can remedy. The exalted behavior of the guidance-seekers is not the result of individual disease, for as in this case it could probably be cured. Rather the “Expert-Killer-Syndrome” is rooted in an irreparable interpersonal relationship. The consultants are left at a loss, and the guidance-seeker remains in cluelessness, ongoing. There is a consulting-crisis in the White House, anyone can see. It might resolve itself due to the decrease of expertise in all respects.

Karl F. Masuhr

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