When the Bottom Line Becomes the Final Straw

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Everyone works a bad job at some point in their life; the vast majority of us work more than that. You know the kind of grind that makes you want to quit: long hours, low pay, demanding bosses, unhappy coworkers. Some would argue that none of that matters if those conditions accomplish your goal. They haven't seen the solid evidence proving that wrong.

In a forthcoming paper, researchers at Baylor University have laid out why the "bottom-line mentality" — a company culture led by profits and metrics above all else — is a losing strategy from top to bottom. By dismissing concerns about "employee well-being or environmental or ethical concerns," said lead author Matthew Quade, workers take a psychological hit. "This results in relationships that are marked by distrust, dissatisfaction and lack of affection for the supervisor. And ultimately, that leads to employees who are less likely to complete tasks at a high level and less likely to go above and beyond the call of duty."

Thanks to feedback loops between management and employees, the bottom-line mentality fuels a textbook vicious cycle. It's one thing to rescue burned-out high performers; it's another thing entirely to lose a workplace's respect and expectation of respect.

The study had one additional surprise. Even in situations where both managers and their teams subscribed to the bottom-line mentality, performance and outcomes still plummet. "It seems even if employees maintain a BLM," the researchers write, "they would prefer for their managers to focus on interpersonal aspects of the job that foster healthier social exchange relationships with their employees, in addition to the bottom line."