Make The Pieces Fit: Solving The Puzzle of Misaligned Organizational & Employee Values
Organizations are powerful structures reliant upon individuals that serve its needs. At heart, individuals are dynamic, diverse, social creatures. We tend to enjoy participating in a collective in one form or another. The workplace is no exception to this rule. Employees seek out employers whose values align with their own (and vice versa). When an employee feels that their personal values are aligned with the organizations, a productive and mutually satisfying working relationship emerges. Conversely, if an employee feels that their values differ from their company’s, they are likely to disengage from their work due to a lack of alignment. Employees can avoid this career-stagnating situation by taking some time to learn about personal values and how to handle misalignment.
Identify Values Clearly Before Deciding on an Action
The values of companies and the individuals within them are not always known or understood. This is often what makes public modeling of desired behaviour so challenging for organizations. A value statement is in essence a belief system of behaviour that employees are being asked to buy into, model and uphold. Once employees feel that these values conflict with their own, or that the organization has made these declarations in name only, they can quickly become cynical, frustrated or disengaged. Inevitably, when values come into friction, the productivity falls. An unfulfilled employee is then left with three options: 1 and 2 involve improving their situation: confront and resolve the issue (if possible) or move on if the value breach is too severe to overcome; option 3 involves remaining mired in the mess of misalignment.
Option 1: Rock the Boat
At times, confronting the problem of differing values is about challenging the status quo in attempt to realign them. An employee who feels particularly passionate about this might want to kick-start this process by attempting to change the culture in which they operate. The only way to make this solution work in a healthy, productive and respectful way is to engage with multiple people in the workplace who believe change is required.
The problem of differing values occurs when many are meant to be working as one, and so it will take the involvement of several individuals to correct this issue. If an employee feels that management is attentive to their concerns and ready to participate in a dialogue about which values they want to sponsor, then there is a good chance that the working relationship between the two parties can be salvaged and even strengthened. On the other hand, if the employee feels their concerns will be ignored, or that the gap in values is too large, then their best option may be to move on.
This is one risky approach and an individual first must reflect on and self-evaluate their personal motivation or reason for desiring this change; is this really about the organization or more about themselves?
Option 2: Abandon Ship, Set a Course For Similar Values
While it may not seem like a productive solution, opting out of a conflicting situation may be the best career choice for some employees. Working under the strain of divergent values not only causes personal stress but also leads to lower productivity. For an employee to be fulfilled and productive, they need to be able to take pride in their work – something that rarely happens if that work doesn’t align with their personal values. In this circumstance, there’s a good chance that both parties will benefit from a split.
Personal and professional values vary greatly from one individual or organization to the next. It’s hard to pinpoint the tipping point where an employee is better off looking elsewhere for professional fulfillment. While that point is different for each individual, the real takeaway is the importance of finding or creating a workplace where the individual’s values reflect the collective’s. An employee’s performance is tied to their immersion and satisfaction with their work environment; aligned values contribute significantly toward the productive energy of any workplace and the credibility factor of its people.