As a therapist I talk to people on a daily basis who suffer from anxiety, depression, and general stress. Often this stress is related to work. According to statistics from the last decade and a half, the vast majority (about three quarters) of employees report experiencing some level of disengagement from their job. I believe that much of the disengagement and stress people experience at work is rooted in our assumptions and beliefs about the nature of business. 

In my latest article for elephant journal I discuss these assumptions and beliefs, and their negative impact on our mental and physical health, our society, and the environment. In a nutshell, the way most people currently view business is that it is all about profit. This is what I call the Profit-Centered Paradigm. For the past thirty to forty years, a belief has developed that the sole responsibility of a corporation is to maximize shareholder value. In order to maximize shareholder value in the short term, decisions are often made that undermine the real value and success of the business in the long term. One of the ways companies often attempt to maximize shareholder value is by cutting costs.

When companies are cutting cost, often what really matters in business—relationships--suffer. Employees are laid off or wages and benefits are cut, hours are increased without an increase in pay, mandatory unpaid overtime, working almost but not quite enough hours to receive benefits, all these circumstances result in resentment and a damaged relationship with employees.

The profit-centered paradigm also often includes a highly competitive work environment with steep hierarchical power structures. These competitive work environments cause much stress and undermine trust and collaboration. It also undermines a sense of purpose and forces workers to act only in their self-interest, rather than in the interest of the company as a whole.

Coupled with these types of work environments you frequently find a very authoritarian management style, which, in psychology jargon, is referred to as Type X management. In a Type X environment, it is assumed that employees are not really motivated to work, but need to be coerced, and constantly monitored. The lack of autonomy workers experience in these types of environments is lethal to their intrinsic motivation to give their best work.

It does not have to be this way. There is a much better way to do business. I describe an alternative business paradigm in this article in elephant journal. When companies focus on relationships instead of profit, they tend to thrive and profit tends to take care of itself. These types of companies are often horizontal in their power structure and foster autonomy and collaboration in their workers. Employees feel more fulfilled and aligned with the purpose of the business. Because of this, they feel engaged and give their best work. Not only does this type of business benefit the employees, it is also better for the company itself. It is a better business model overall.