Your Company Is Putting Profit Ahead of People? Ask Madeleine

Dear Madeleine,

I work in sales in a large medical device company. I kill my numbers and have been number one in my region for the last six quarters.

I need your advice. My company continually makes errors in creating inventory of the devices we are selling. I just don’t think that I, in good conscience, can continue to sell my heart out when I know that the company will not deliver on its promises of continual customer service and care.

I am at the beginning of my career so maybe I’m just being naïve—but I would like to think that a company like ours understands that when it’s a life or death situation for our customers, keeping some inventory would make sense.

I mentioned this concern to my boss and she looked at me funny and said, “Well, I’m not sure everyone would agree with you.”

I understand that holding inventory is seen as a liability on the books, but it’s becoming clear to me that in the name of better quarterly numbers and shareholder value, the company is literally okay with putting lives at risk.

Am I being a goody two shoes? Should I look for another job?


Dear Outraged,

No, you’re not. Yes, you should.

Oops, I’m letting my own moral outrage color my coach approach here, so let’s back up.

The good news is that you’re killing it despite having serious reservations, so it sounds like you really could find a job elsewhere if you decide you can’t stand the situation you’re in. However, big public pharmaceutical and medical device companies have a fiduciary responsibility to their shareholders and must manage the numbers for the Wall Street optics—so I’m not sure you’ll find a different company with customer service as its honest-to-goodness number one priority. Exceptions might be found in privately held firms.

You could look for a company, a product, and a go-to-market strategy with less problematic integrity issues. Or, because your values are such a strong driver for you, you might think about how to apply your sales skill set, brains, and stamina to an organization that does something you believe in deeply.

What you’re seeing is probably the tip of the iceberg. Forgive me if I sound cynical, but I have been working in organizations for long enough to know that people at the individual contributor level only see about half of what’s really going on. So if you’re outraged now, you would probably be incensed if you knew everything.

You say you’re young, so maybe you’re not already wearing the golden handcuffs that come with a big mortgage and children who will require a college education—so the time to make the big decision is probably right now.

Nobody’s perfect and companies make questionable decisions all the time, so you’ll need to decide what you can live with and what is unacceptable. What I do know for sure is that people who spend too much time working in situations that force them to act in direct opposition to their own values eventually run out of steam. Somebody else might say, “Oh for goodness’ sake, grow up and get over yourself.” If you were supporting a family and had no other choice at all, I might say that. But it sounds like you do have a choice, and you have personal agency.

So here we are, back at the beginning. Yes. Get out. Go find yourself a situation where you can make a significant contribution to something great. You will never look back.

Love, Madeleine

About the author

Madeleine Homan Blanchard is a master certified coach, author, speaker, and cofounder of Blanchard Coaching Services. Madeleine’s Advice for the Well Intentioned Manager is a regular Saturday feature for a very select group: well intentioned managers. Leadership is hard—and the more you care, the harder it gets. Join us here each week for insight, resources, and conversation.

Got a question for Madeleine? Email Madeleine and look for your response here next week!

2 thoughts on “Your Company Is Putting Profit Ahead of People? Ask Madeleine

  1. Outstanding commentary and advice, Madeleine. I always enjoy your responses to real situations, however the values-led emphasis in this situation is spot on. As a leadership and business coach of many years, I am challenged by this type of conversation most weeks. It is in part, why I have ensured that a values assessment and related series of discussions forms a key part of my coaching and mentoring program for most clients. Through values understanding, we know what matters most; what we are prepared to compromise (or not); and ensure our decisions are better calculated in our own minds. ‘Outraged’ – go forit! It is too easy to believe that “my current situation is as good as it gets”. This mindset limits many people, however is not real and with your beliefs and values, will find a situation and organisation that is better suited to your needs. Good luck.

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