How Grandiose CX Delusional Disorder Hurts Your Health Club

Health club owner

In our business, we run into the Grandiose CX Delusional Disorder (GCXDD) often and have found ways to cure it. Left uncured, this disorder can have devastating effects.

First, let me explain what GCXDD is. An organization suffering from this type of delusional disorder has an over-inflated sense of worth, power, knowledge or identity. It generally manifests first in the company leaders who might believe they deliver a great customer experience or even are at the peak of customer experience in their industry.

GCXDD is a type of serious business-related cultural illness called “organizational psychosis” in which an organization can’t tell what is real from what has been imagined by their marketing departments, motivational posters and website verbiage. These delusions usually involve the misrepresentation of customer perceptions or customer experiences. In reality, however, the situations are either completely untrue or greatly exaggerated. This leaves the afflicted living in a world completely separated from reality.

“Organizational altitude” seems to be an accelerant to the severity of GCXDD, meaning that the higher up the org chart, the worse the condition is. Close inspection also reveals GCXDD “enablers” who maintain roles in the organization by outwardly supporting leaderships’ delusional state. Enablers are not delusional themselves but seem to want to keep afflicted leaders in a delusional state until they are able to source a new “host” with an updated resume.     

But how can you tell if a leader, team or an entire organization is afflicted with GCXDD?  The symptoms include ignoring customer complaints, arguing away negative online reviews, making statements such as “we deliver exceptional customer service” or “our people are our greatest asset” followed by actions that do violence to the customer experience and to employee engagement. Leaders also will demonstrate a complete lack of curiosity about the reality of what the customer and frontline staff feel and think. Curiosity is replaced with a satisfaction of their own opinions about customer experience.

If GCXDD is left untreated, it can lead to more serious problems, which, to the organization, seem to manifest independently although they are most commonly interrelated symptoms of GCXDD. This is known as the GCXDD Complex, and it includes Employee Disengagement Disease, Member Disloyalty Malady and the deadly Revenue Shrinkage Syndrome.

We estimate that seven of every 10 health club owners suffer from GCXDD, affecting more than a half million employees and nearly 30 million members in the United States alone. 

But you can help. First of all, don’t be an enabler. If you are an owner, a CEO or a COO and you are aware of an owner or your CEO being afflicted with GCXDD, we recommend a strict four-step intervention proven effective in clinical trials. The method is as follows:

  1. Sit in a chair facing the afflicted with no table or desk in between.
  2. Be sure the chairs are the same height and that your knees are almost touching. Although uncomfortable at first, this breaks down boundaries.
  3. Next, lean forward while simultaneously placing your left hand on the right side of their face and your right hand on the left side of their face.
  4. Now lean in and say “Wake the *&^% up!”

This can be done by anyone on the team or in the organization as long as they have enough relationship capital to get on the afflicted person’s schedule. Oh, it is also a good idea to have your resume updated or plans for buying a new club in place as a precursor to the intervention in the instance that it doesn’t “take.” 

But because you are an owner, CEO or COO, we recommend that you get tested for this disorder immediately. Testing involves collecting the voice of your customer at volume, gauging the employee experience and consulting with a certified CX therapist. Your test results must capture multiple customer touchpoints and include the entire battery of metrics (i.e. friendliness for each member-facing role, cleanliness, equipment condition etc.). With the right tests completed, real treatment can begin, allowing your club to live a life with a strong and more profitable future.  


Blair McHaney is a teacher, student and practitioner of operational customer experience management (OCEM). He spent two and a half years at Medallia as vice president of strategic initiatives. He is currently president of MXM, a Medallia partner company specializing in OCEM for the fitness industry. McHaney also is president of Confluence Fitness Partners Inc., operating health clubs in Central Washington since 1983.   

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