So my wife and I were just having a conversation concerning a situation at her work, and I was trying to think of a term to describe the GM's approach but it's eluding me. Here's the context:

Background: Newly opened hotel restaurant, all hands on deck including my wife (who was hired as a Sales Manager, not a server/buslady), situation has devolved into chaos

Conversation: I asked my wife who was responsible for hiring staff for the new restaurant, and she said ultimately it would be up to her boss, but her boss was given explicit instruction by the GM NOT to hire any additional restaurant staff, and simply make do with the existing skeleton crew.

I asked why the GM wouldn't hire any additional staff, and she said -

"Because [NAME] doesn't want to hire any additional staff until our numbers are up (sales numbers), but we can't get our sales numbers up until we hire additional restaurant staff to get us off the floor"

The term I'm trying to think of would describe the situation in which A cannot exist without B yet B cannot exist without A ad infinitum. Almost like an infinite feedback loop? But that doesn't seem to be an appropriate term just given this has nothing to do with computers/software.

If this isn't clear just let me know. Thanks for any and all help!

  • 8
    Any number of terms, but Catch 22 is probably the most popular.
    – Dan Bron
    Commented Apr 27, 2016 at 0:39
  • 1
    BTW, a way out of that catch 22 is to hire temporary staff. Either that close up sections of the restaurant until you're only serving what the skeleton crew can handle. Let service quality slip and it takes a long time for customers to come back. Commented Apr 27, 2016 at 1:54

7 Answers 7



To use it in a sentence, "It's a catch-22" or "It's a catch-22 situation"

From Google's definition of Catch-22:

a dilemma or difficult circumstance from which there is no escape because of mutually conflicting or dependent conditions. "a catch-22 situation"

(Paraphrased very slightly) from Wikipedia's Catch-22 (logic):

A catch-22 is a paradoxical situation from which an individual cannot escape because of contradictory rules.

An example would be:

It's a catch-22 situation: To apply for a job, you need to have a few years of experience. But in order to gain experience, you need to get a job first.

Origin is from the book, Catch-22 by Joseph Heller.
From the Wikipedia page for Catch-22 (book):

The phrase "Catch-22" has since entered the English language, referring to a type of unsolvable logic puzzle sometimes called a double bind.

From the Wikipedia page for Double Bind:

A double bind is an emotionally distressing dilemma in communication in which an individual (or group) receives two or more conflicting messages, and one message negates the other. This creates a situation in which a successful response to one message results in a failed response to the other (and vice versa), so that the person will automatically be wrong regardless of response. The double bind occurs when the person cannot confront the inherent dilemma, and therefore can neither resolve it nor opt out of the situation.

  • ah, oop, I just saw I was already beat to it in the above comment! Well having the information on this page will help + be useful to future browsers. Sorry to hear about your situation. Commented Apr 27, 2016 at 1:36
  • 2
    It would appear better if you use bold instead of code block.
    – NVZ
    Commented Apr 27, 2016 at 4:40
  • 4
    You might add that the original Catch-22 arose from the supposed Army Air Force regulation in World War II that the insane did not have to fly combat missions and that the top brass understood that it was clearly insane to fly these dangerous missions. However anyone who tried to invoke this regulation to get out of flying combat missions, ran into Catch-22: anyone who recognizes and wishes to avoid such a danger is sane and therefore is eligible to go into combat. Upvote in any case.
    – deadrat
    Commented Apr 27, 2016 at 6:01

This sounds like a chicken and egg situation.

a situation in which it is impossible to say which of two things existed first and which caused the other It's a chicken and egg situation - I don't know whether I was bad at the sciences because I wasn't interested in them or not interested in them and therefore not good at them.

Cambridge Idioms Dictionary, found at thefreedictionary.com

  • 1
    reptiles existed before chickens, and they laid eggs, so it is pretty easy to determine which actually came first Commented Apr 27, 2016 at 17:58
  • one could argue the full name of the problem is chicken and chicken-egg
    – jdero
    Commented Apr 27, 2016 at 18:18
  • @USER_8675309 Ah, but which came first, the dino or the egg?
    – bib
    Commented Apr 27, 2016 at 20:10

As you noted, "infinite feedback loop" is not the right term (and not just because your situation has nothing to do with software). That sounds more like a runaway success story, which is quite the opposite of your situation.

If you wanted to borrow technical jargon from programming, it would be deadlock:

In concurrent programming, a deadlock is a situation in which two or more competing actions are each waiting for the other to finish, and thus neither ever does.

Further down the page, the equivalent terms used by non-programmers are mentioned:

Any deadlock situation can be compared to the classic "chicken or egg" problem. It can also be considered a paradoxical "Catch-22" situation.


circular dependency

a relation between two or more modules which either directly or indirectly depend on each other to function properly. Such modules are also known as mutually recursive.



Perhaps you are looking for "mutually inclusive". Mutually inclusive means "neither may exist without the other".


It's a paradox. An infinite looping event. As bib said, a chicken and egg situation.


Deadlock situation?

Coming at it from a computer science perspective, here is the definition.

  • Please quote the definition here, with the relevant citation. Commented Apr 28, 2016 at 7:40

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