06 May #015 – Blue Pill Brokenness – Business As Usual – Self Interest
In addition to Profit as Purpose and Scarcity, another aspect of “business as usual” that leads to brokenness is “Self-Interest“–the assumption that people are self-interested and will act in their own self-interest. This is closely tied to the scarcity assumption. In fact, Adam Smith described self-interest combined with competition as the “invisible hand” that guides economic activity. About self-interest, Smith said “It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker, that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest. We address ourselves, not to their humanity but to their self-love.”
Whatever the goal of an organization, its achievement requires aligning people’s interests with that goal. The goal of Profit as Purpose requires aligning people’s interests with the goal of profit maximization, which itself aligns with Smith’s market economy. It is based on the assumption that appeals to self-love rather than humanity will align behavior to the organization’s goal. There is a fine line between motivation and manipulation. In a blue pill organization conducting business as usual, with Profit as Purpose and the self-interest assumption, people’s behavior will likely be motivated/manipulated through mechanisms of reward and punishment. For example:
- Morale problems will be “solved” with money.
- People will be motivated by creating a sense of competition within the organization–pitting co-workers against each other.
- People will be motivated through fear tactics.
- People will be motivated through bonuses, commissions and the prospect of promotion.
- People will be provided benefits only to the extent necessary to motivate the desired behavior toward the goal of maximizing profit.
Managing to self-interest reinforces people’s work as usual inclination to operate out of the related scarcity assumption–scarcity of customers, internal resources, opportunities, pay, bonuses, promotions and jobs.
It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker, that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest. We address ourselves, not to their humanity but to their self-love. (Adam Smith)
Using the self-interest assumption to motivate/manipulate people will work–at least for awhile. But it can have unintended costs and consequences. Here are a few quotes from a Wall Street Journal article about the self-interest sales culture at Wells Fargo:
- “Ms. Kamar says laggards were threatened with termination and sometimes criticized in conference calls.”
“Mr. Holbrook says missing targets meant working extra hours when the branch was closed to make more calls.”
“Mr. Schrodt says he decided to leave Wells Fargo because the sales pressure was too stressful.”
“Bankers in branches who hit sales targets could earn bonuses of $500 to $2,000 per quarter, while district managers could get $10,000 to $20,000 a year, according to six Wells Fargo employees. Bonuses made a big difference in the paychecks of branch employees, whose base salaries often were about $30,000 a year.”
SPOILER ALERT: While it might work to motivate/manipulate people to an intended goal through reward and punishment, we at Integrous believe it is dehumanizing and not consistent with Biblical principles–such as treating all people as created in the image of God and deserving dignity. In his book Connection Culture, Michael Stallard shows that healthier motivation, and a healthier culture of connection, comes by creating an organizational culture that meets people’s need and desire for Vision, Value and Voice. That is business a better way consistent with Integriosity®.