Last week I listened to a radio article where a woman shared her account of how in 1984, while on an anti-hunt demonstration, she met and fell in love with an undercover police officer posing as a long-haired Greenpeace radical. They subsequently set up house together and had a child, all while he himself was married and had a family. A damages settlement of £425,000 was reached by the Metropolitan Police as compensation for ruining her life.
As I considered this situation it raised key questions around the importance of articulation and alignment of organisational and personal values, and while this is an extreme example, I was particularly shocked that neither individual nor organisation found it inappropriate to act in such a way.
I was recently visiting the site of one of our clients in Australia when a pull-up banner arrived espousing the corporate values and was promptly stood up in the corner of the conference room for all to see without any other communication on their importance or how they might be used. The banner was greeted with a mixture of scepticism and confusion at what they were supposed to do with the message that it was supposed to send.
The creation, sharing and alignment of values is something that is often seen as trite; however, cases like that of the woman above helps us to understand why it is important for organisations to articulate what is and isn’t acceptable behaviours and for individuals to be able to consider the alignment of their own personal values before they find themselves placed in a situation in which their values are threatened or compromised.
If you have not already embarked upon the journey of creating and sharing organisational values it is never too late. Here are a couple of pointers for their creation:
- Make them as inclusive as possible. The more feedback that you get into the creation of the values the better; however, also recognise that, at the end of the day, that they have to be owned and lived by the head of the organisation, or they will stand for nothing.
- Cascade them down through the organisation in order to get ownership at each level. Don’t just send the pull-up banner. Provide direction to each manager on how to introduce the values and help each individual come to terms with them in alignment with their own personal values.
- Live and share evidence of how they are being lived within the organisation. As examples are given where employees have used these values to guide their decision making so this will bring credibility to the values that will embed them even more.
It may seem trite; however, as this case highlights, values are important to organisations and individual as they set our moral compass and help steer us from issues that may indeed come back to bite us in future years.
This is an extreme example of where the articulation and sharing of values at a corporate and personal level could have avoided the destroying of a life, or as the woman put it “I feel that I have been raped by the state. Nothing in the last 30 years of my life has been real.”