Panic buying toilet paper is an easy way to exert control, to exercise our agency, in the face of an uncontrollable situation.

Many of us live and work in comfortable societies, where we don’t desperately want for, at least, the basics. When a significant uncontrollable situation, like a pandemic, occurs, it can trigger a substantial amount of irrational fear. The loss of control in a usually-under-control society is distressing.

Panic-buying toilet paper is an easy soothing activity. The outlay is not high, and the outcome is very tangible.

In a business context, we see similar self-soothing behaviours in management decisions when the organisation is faced with difficult challenges. Common distractionary self-soothing behaviours are rebranding and social-progress initiatives.

Instead of dealing with difficult operational or technical challenges head-on, management will decide, instead, to engage in a rebranding or social-progress exercise.

Solving operational or technical challenges can often be invisible and rather boring. They can have poor boundaries. Working on one problem can often reveal other problems. They are hard and have poor or negligible optics.

Engaging in rebranding or social-progress initiatives are relatively easier. Clear boundaries can be drawn. The outcomes are clearly visible and tangible. They have great optics.