More than 1 in 6 discharged managers are starting their own businesses now, compared with only 1 in 14 as recently as 1985, claims a recent survey by Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc., a Chicago-based international outplacement firm. James E. Challenger, the company's president, blames at least some of the rise on corporate programs designed to promote entrepreneurial attitudes among employees. The experience of feeling that a particular job function, responsibility, or department is all theirs, he says, "has given many people the realization that they can run a company."

What else provides the entrepreneurial push? Shock, says Challenger. Before dismissal, most executives still believe they are with a "forever company," he says. The emotional shock of finding otherwise is so deep, and breeds such insecurity and instability, that many managers turn to entrepreneurship in order to avoid being fired again.