Wake up and smell the ROI, or else

Dr. Goulston's work with CEOs has given him insight into their thought processes. If you aren't thinking about your relation to the bottom line, they are.
This is a photo of Mark Goulston, M.D.
Mark Goulston, M.D.

This will be a departure from many of my blogs at least with regard to tone. In those, I have often been empathic and compassionate towards workers struggling to survive the daunting challenges of automation, AI and technology and to their families who try to support them.

In this one, I am not intending to be insensitive as in intentionally wanting to hurt or kick anyone when they’re down, but I may come off as not sensitive as in giving you some “tough love” in the service of a reality check.

It’s the same POV of many CEOs who are shrinking their human workforce as AI and technology become more efficient, less error-prone, can work 24/7 and won’t sue you. Those CEOs are not insensitive to their workforce being displaced, they are just not sensitive.

What they are sensitive to is the pressure to produce an increased return on investment (ROI) to satisfy shareholders and investors. What further insulates them from the angst of their people are HR departments and COOs who are between a rock and a hard place in that they are focused on what’s in the best interest of the company even if it’s at the expense of the employees.

What this means is that if you are a worker, displaced worker or a family member of either, don’t look for compassion from companies or try to reach them through your pain or to lay a guilt trip on them. It just won’t work.

You may cry out, “That’s not fair!” “I’m hurting!” “I’m scared!”

Sorry, all of that will just land on deaf ears.

Or an HR representative will talk sympathetically with you, but you need to realize that although that person has the responsibility to provide you with some modicum of compassion, they have little authority to do much else if you’re wanting something that hurts ROI.

So what should you do?

Realize that although you have some control over what and how you say something, you have little control over how it’s heard.

What you want to do is get into the listening of the people who make decisions over your career, job or lack thereof. If you listen for what’s on a CEOs mind which then filters down to everyone below him or her, it’s ROI.

The more any or everything you do can be tied to the ROI, the easier your boss can see your value and communicate it upstream all the way up through senior managers, vice presidents, the COO and eventually the CEO.

It all reminds me of what one of my late mentors, Ward Wieman, a key management consultant for Peat Marwick (predecessor to KPMG) used to tell me, “The CEO cares about ROI and everyone else cares about looking good to the CEO.”

What looks best to CEOs even if you’re an internal person is business development. Wherever you are in your career, work on your interpersonal skills especially the ones that will cause others to be increasingly interested in your company. A great resource for that is Keith Ferrazzi’s classic book, Never Eat Alone. And when you then get with people using that resource my book, Just Listen, will help you to open people up and get through to them.

Join the Conversation: What are the ways you can communicate your value through the chain of command and become an indispensable member of the workforce? Share your thoughts on our Facebook page.

Dr. Mark Goulston is an award-winning business psychiatrist, a consultant for Fortune 500 companies and the best-selling author of seven books. His latest book, Talking to Crazy: How to Deal with Irrational and Irresponsible People in your Life can be found on Amazon. Catch up on Dr. Goulston’s previous articles here.

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