Catch 22

What is a Catch 22?

CATCH-22 is a useful description of bureaucratic dilemma.
It refers to a rule, regulation, procedure or situation that creates a predicament where no real choice exists. It describes a situation where a set of rules, regulations or procedures present the illusion of choice while preventing any real choice. It's like a damn-if-you-do-damn-if-you-don't situation! It is also made as a justification for choosing the lesser evil!

The conceptual and theoretical application of CATCH-22 is based on the novel written by Joseph Heller, which was first published in 1961 and served as a commentary about World War II. A movie was produced based on this novel and whose stories revolved around the many dilemma faced by soldiers as they made split-second decisions.

Catch-22 emerged as a general descriptor and critique of bureaucratic operation and justification of bureaucratic deadlock or stalemate. Resulting from its specific use in the book, the phrase "Catch-22" now becomes a common idiomatic usage to mean "a no-win situation" or a "lose-lose situation" or a double bind" of any type.

Some examples of Catch 22 situation:

  1. You are up for promotion that will double your salary and benefits. You have been waiting for this promotion to be able to bring your children to school. The catch is, you will be relocated to a far-flung branch office.
  2. Or will a battered wife report to the authority? If yes, she will put her family in shame. If no, she will continue to suffer.
  3. Will you rather annul a philandering husband and lose all the money to her mistresses?
  4. Will you tolerate a corrupt employee because he happens to be loyal to you and he performs very well? If you fire the employee, you will lose a lot in terms of your outputs and productivity.
  5. You see some injustice in your organization, but you are afraid to speak against it, otherwise you might also lose your job and all the benefits! So you keep a blind eye! Tragic!
  6. You are hampered to improve the systems in your office because your boss will be affected by the improvement. Want to earn the ire of your boss?

INSIGHTS: What is ideal is to open and explore many options and choices before making decisions. On how managers and leaders make decisions when caught in Catch 22 situations will greatly depend on their character and integrity! While we want to avoid a Catch 22, it is also a good test of our person!


Heller, Joseph. 1961. Catch 22. USA: Simon & Schuster.
ISBN 0-684-83339-5.

Catch 22 at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Catch-22.

Catch 22 at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Catch-22_(logic).

Dilemma at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dilemma.

Yahoo Answers at http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20080201105409AAFxOLG.