Date of Award

Spring 3-30-2020

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


Organizational Leadership

First Advisor

Myrna Coté, Ed.D.

Second Advisor

Marilou Ryder, Ed.D.

Third Advisor

Linda Scharpenberg, Ed.D.


Purpose: The purpose of this explanatory mixed methods study was to identify and describe self-sabotaging behaviors experienced by female county government executives and to explore the impact these behaviors have had on their career development. A secondary purpose of this study was to identify strategies employed by female county government executives to overcome self-sabotaging behaviors.

Methodology: An explanatory mixed methods research design was used to explore the use of self-sabotaging behaviors of 9 female county government executives in Southern California. A 10-item survey instrument was administered to participants, followed by a semistructured interview consisting of 13 scripted questions. Data collected from the qualitative interview instrumentation explained and expanded upon the data collected from the quantitative survey instrumentation.

Findings: Twenty key findings were identified. Fear and worry, thinking too small, and holding back were the most referenced self-sabotaging behaviors. All participants perceived self-sabotaging behaviors to have an impact on career development and lead to other self-sabotaging behaviors. All strategies were perceived as useful in addressing more than one behavior. Building a power web was the most referenced strategy.

Conclusions: Seven conclusions were derived from key, major, and unexpected findings. Awareness is paramount—self-sabotaging behaviors create personal and professional consequences and can perpetuate other behaviors. Moreover, female county government executives must increase their awareness of external barriers, gender bias, and upbringing to better understand the origins of the self-sabotaging behaviors they experience. Female county government executives are most likely to experience fear and worry, thinking too small, and holding back; however, they are less likely to self-identify behaviors if required to attach labels. Confidence is gained throughout the career; nevertheless, women should not wait to overcome the behaviors. Energy should be invested in developing capacity in 5 core strategies to mitigate effects of self-sabotaging behaviors as early in their career as possible.

Recommendations: Ten recommendations were identified including conducting a meta-analysis, replication studies by exploring other roles, changing qualifying criteria and demographics, and incorporating the intersection of gender, race, and culture. Additionally, a comparison of strategies used by men and women as well as antecedents of self-sabotaging behaviors should be explored.