Continuing to Make People Over Profits Decisions (Despite Recession)

Empty office due to layoffs. Photo by kate.sade on Unsplash.

People and Profits: The Pandemic Effect

Many companies used that PPP loan fraudulently, looting this fund while still downsizing staff and keeping millions of dollars in their own pockets. Total impact has been billions of dollars ($579 billion estimated) of taxpayer money stolen. As of March 2022 , 178 people were convicted so far, with thousands more prosecutions to come (Dilanian & Strickler, 2022). Unemployment still reached record highs.

With stimulus payments to almost every American, the PPP loans, and increased unemployment compensation, the economy swelled. Artificially bloated by spending, the economy boomed for 2 years. Now that the pandemic has reached a level of control and business has largely returned to normal, the economy is in a recession death spiral. Without artificial infusions of cash, profits are down. The stock market has shown steady losses since January 2022 (S&P 500 6 Month Return, 2022). Businesses are now feeling the pain.

The True Hero Companies

This decision is against the norm for a business in a capitalist society. It is viewed as charity by some. Those companies who make a people-first decision like retaining employees through a time of losses are making an investment in their people and valuing their people as core to their business.

Recession and new “People Over Profits” Decisions

As Milton Friedman, famous economist and capitalist reminded us: the purpose of any company, corporate leader, and employee is to make a profit. The only social responsibility of a business is to use its resources and capabilities to increase profits (Prevos, 2009). This mindset may not exist at the super-small local businesses which stood out as true heroes through the pandemic, that retained their employees despite their doors being closed and the losses that it would make. Those true heroes were human companies.

Those true hero companies that keep staff regardless of the economics are companies with a soul.

Corporations that are focused solely on profit and returning shareholder value, by their very nature, are soulless. Can they imitate humanity, though? Is there a path to redemption for a soulless corporation?

Seeing Staff as an Investment

Key to changing mindset at companies is seeing staff as an investment. Not only does an employee mean capacity to make money now, but institutional knowledge, skills, and relationships held by the employee are valuable in making more revenue and improving efficiency further down the road. In addition to reducing spend and effort on recruiting and training, retaining employees gives a company a cultural edge. The company is saying to the employees: You are our most important asset. Regardless of how we are doing, you are what defines us (you are our soul), so we won’t let you go. Creating a culture of valuing employees pays dividends in loyalty and productivity.

Remember how Peter Drucker said “Culture eats strategy for breakfast” and make decisions for your people first.

What About Survival?

When a company has cash reserves of $750 million but lays off 250 employees to save $25,000,000/year during a downturn, it makes me sick. Those cash reserves should exist for exactly this circumstance. Is there a profit this year? No. In fact, you reflected a loss of $25,000,000. Horrifying. All other factors being equal, that cash reserve could pay for those employees for 30 years. Would that decision result in more investment from shareholders? No.

Creating Fiercely Loyal Staff

Art Ocain is Field CIO and CISO at. a managed service provider that serves IT architecture, operations, and cybersecurity needs across all verticals. Art has been in IT for over 20 years and has been a tech in the trenches as well as a manager in web hosting, internet service providers, enterprise IT, as well as services for the SMB market. You can read more on his LinkedIn profile:


Dilanian, K. and Strickler, L. (2022, March 28). ‘Biggest fraud in a generation’: The looting of the Covid relief plan known as PPP. NBC News. Retrieved from

Ocain, A. (2020, November 8). Making “People Over Profits” Decisions. Medium. Retrieved from

Prevos, Peter. (2009). Milton Friedman on Corporate Social Responsibility. Retrieved from

S&P 500 6 Month Return. (2022, November). YCharts. Retrieved from



Art is a CISO and formerly held roles as a CIO, CTO, and President at managed service providers. He is experienced at leading IT ops and cybersecurity teams.

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Art Ocain

Art is a CISO and formerly held roles as a CIO, CTO, and President at managed service providers. He is experienced at leading IT ops and cybersecurity teams.