Perhaps I need to begin by clarifying that the "sick fishy syndrome" is distinctly different from being a sick fishy. Oh, you don't know what that is either? I will explain.
When my kids were little, they had goldfish, of course, in small glass goldfish bowls. Before too many days had passed, one of the goldfish would develop a definite list. The listing fish no longer swam quickly around the bowl, tail flashing as it dove deeper. Its scales lost their iridescence. It looked like a sick fishy. And although neither Tom nor Julie ever lost their iridescence, and almost never tilted to one side, still, there was a definite look about them when they began to feel sick. It was most noticeable around their eyes, I think, and in the way it seemed to take so much effort to hold their heads up straight. That was when we knew that we had a sick fishy on our hands.
The "sick fishy syndrome" is more about the reaction of the other fish in the bowl to their ailing companion. They know he is sick, indeed, they know he is dying. And they don't want anything to do with that. As the sick fishy swims listlessly around the top of the bowl, they all keep their distance from him. Maybe what he has is contagious.
Some years ago, Ben identified this tendency in the people he worked with when a co-worker had given notice. And we have both observed it many times since then. The soon-to-be-departed is given a wide berth by her co-workers. When she is spoken to, it is in hushed tones about general topics, designed to not upset. Although there are future projects to be discussed and deadlines to be met, she will not be there to meet them. Everyone is sad she is leaving, to be sure, but why delay the inevitable? Just get it over with!
I have often felt sorry for the"sick fishy" in the office as it swims through its final days. But, you know, its not so bad.