Previous writers have suggested that a major psychological consequence of job loss and unemployment is a lowering of self-esteem, although there has been little contemporary investigation, particularly at the managerial and professional level. The empirical validity ofthe proposition was assessed through the comparison of 87 unemployed middle and senior managers with 64 employed managers, and through both longitudinal and cross-sectional analysis ofthe relationship between level of self-esteem and length ofunemployment at the time of research contact. Self-esteem was assessed through a self-report questionnaire and through interviews with some ofthe managers and their wives. The results failed to support the proposition: self-esteem was not lower amongst the unemployed managers and did not decline with longer unemployment. The qualitative analysis suggested a variety of reactions, in terms of self-esteem, to unemployment. It would appear that a more complex understanding of the psychological processes in unemployed managers is needed. In particular there is a need to use the term self-esteem in a more discriminating manner; to recognize individual differences in circumstances and reactions to unemployment; and to acknowledge the assumptions and values attached to the concepts of work and unemployment.