Values in the Workplace

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What are values in the workplace and why are they important?

To answer this we need to start with a definition of corporate values. Corporate values can be defined in much the same way as we defined individual values:

A corporate value is an abstract concept that a corporation is willing to embrace at the expense of corporate comfort.

Essentially, corporations set their values with the expectation that their leaders will model the values and their employees with buy into the value system and use the values as a vehicle to travel towards the company’s mission and vision. In doing so, they must ensure that the values they pick are truly the values that will be modeled in every circumstance. Any deviation from these values by the leadership in the company can have serious short term and long term implications.

Essentially the corporation’s values are its very foundation.

Companies having shared values that are consistently modeled within the organization results in:

  • Employees focused on what is important to the organization
  • Less stress on individuals
  • Less tension between individuals and departments
  • Enthusiasm in the workplace
  • Pride in work
  • Direction in the workplace
  • Less bureaucracy
  • Positive attitudes
  • Positive momentum

One does not have to look too far to find examples of companies that did not have proper alignment around a value system and paid the price in the marketplace;

  • WorldCom
  • Enron
  • Bre-X

Fortunately there are many examples of companies that have built themselves around their values;

  • Disney
  • Home Depot
  • Walmart
  • Starbucks

According to William C. Taylor and Polly LaBarre in their book Mavericks at Work, companies should use values to help define a corporate purpose because “high minded values can drive cutting edge corporate performance“.

They went on to say that “Great companies are built on genuine passion, plus a day to day commitment to great execution. Employees won’t feel the passion, and can’t maintain the operating discipline, unless they feel good about what the company sells and the values that it stands for.”

I recently heard of an excellent example of this from a friend of mine. He told me that they had a client that was calling into their customer support center and was very abrasive and abusive to the staff that he was talking with. As a result there were a number of staff who refused to talk to this client when he called. On one occasion this client called for technical support and was so abusive over the phone that the customer care representative was reduced to tears.

My friend is the head of this customer support group and he told me that his company values their employees and that they state this as one of the company values. When he was made aware of this situation and the fact that it had been going on for some time, he set up a meeting with this abusive client and gave him his money back for his customer support contract and told him that he did not want him as a client any longer.

This is a great example of a company and its leadership modeling the values that they state. Many other companies would value the revenue more than the employees and would try to find ways to keep this abusive client at the expense of their employees and at the expense of their own reputation.

Employees immediately take note when positive actions of the corporation align with the stated corporate values. This provides positive energy and motivation for employees.

William C. Taylor and Polly LaBarre go on to say that …But they {great companies} understand that what it means to be great is as much about values as virtuosity, as much about what makes people tick {individual’s Strength Zone} as how much they know. and that …the most powerful way to create economic value is to embrace a set of values that goes beyond just amassing power, and that business, at its best, is too exciting, too important, and too much fun to be left to the dead hand of business as usual. (Bracketed text is my insertion.)

John C. Maxwell takes this concept one step further and indicates that in today’s high paced, high stress, high stakes world, ONLY companies that are firmly founded on a value system that is properly modeled and adhered to can be successful. He stated;

The only way you can increase speed and stay on course, is everyone knowing and living the company’s values. John C. Maxwell

So we can see that it is extremely important for leadership in an organization to always model the values that they state. Failure to do this will results in the employees losing confidence in the organization and its leadership. As Ralph Waldo Emerson says ‘Your actions are speaking so loudly, I cannot hear what you are saying“.

This alignment around corporate values empowers the employees and the corporation as a whole to drive forward towards the achievement of their goals using an agreed upon and consistent vehicle for their progress – this vehicle is Corporate Values.

Don’t forget to register at www.strengthzone.ca and take the free online Values Strength ZoneĀ® profile.

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