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How profit maximization makes you anxious

How Fear Cripples Profit-Obsessed Organizations... And What CX & EX Professionals Can Do About It


Perhaps you recognize the symptoms:

  • Constant financial anxiety within the organization

  • Quarterly closing requires an extreme amount of time and energy

  • Despite profits, even with marginally disappointing results, immediate tightening of the reins


Organizations fixated on profit maximization tend to sound the alarm bells at the slightest sign of trouble, turning the organization upside down.


Let's take a step back. What do we mean by fixation here? Simply put, when the means (profit) becomes the sole purpose. In other words, when it's all about achieving maximum profit, often for shareholders.


These organizations often exhibit multiple fixations. Think, for example, of an obsession with achieving success and short-term thinking. Teams are collectively held accountable for short-term success or failure, without any consideration for what previous teams may have contributed. A lot gets lost in this approach, but that's a topic for another time.


When top management is fixated on maximizing short-term profits and thinking in quarters, even minor financial setbacks can trigger a strong fear response. Fear, after all, has an important function: to ensure the perceived catastrophe doesn't happen.


When this fear reaction also leads to a short-term result, the top brass becomes convinced that what worked once is the recipe for the future. Classic conditioning. Before you know it, the organization's antennae are so sensitive that it regularly goes through this emotional rollercoaster, with all the consequences that entails.


What can you do as a CX or EX professional to dampen this effect?

By highlighting the weak signals, both internal and external, that demonstrate this is not a sustainable strategy. Think about:

  • Employees becoming change-fatigued, only doing the bare minimum, or at risk of leaving

  • Customers leaving due to the negative effects of decreased investment in innovation and quality

  • Declining agility because there's no more "fat on the bone"


Having this conversation requires empathy and tact. There's a reason the top manages the organization this way. It's the system they operate in, making it seem perfectly logical. In fact, if we were in their position, there's a good chance we'd exhibit the same behavior.


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