I must admit I find it difficult to concentrate on writing this Saturday morning after the terror in Paris. However, my original plan was to write about values in the workplace, how to protect them and stay sane when you get intimidated. Maybe this could be my way to pay respect to the victims and their love ones in mourning. I have so many times enjoyed sitting at a café in Paris and watch people pass by. I want to treasure my ability to meet the world with curiosity; this is what I value. I also want to continue exploring relations at the workplace without fear of being intimidated.
Recently I talked to a young woman who felt intimidated by comments from her older male colleagues. They said it was just fun; shop floor language they called it. She had tried to neglect it, but she was increasingly annoyed by it and was not sure of what to do about it. Was she being too sensitive? Did she really have to put up with it? How would it affect the cooperation in the team if she talked back on her colleagues? Talking to others about it help her be confident that this was not ok. In a conversation with her manager, he asked her what she felt about working in the team. She could no longer hide her worries and told the manager about them. He was surprised while he perceived these men as kind family fathers.
- What would you do if one of your subordinates came to you with a problem like this?
Formulating company values
Now this is a company used the word “diversity” as a formulated value and you could expect everybody in the organization to live by them; at least at work. Who has formulated these company values? Sometimes a founder expresses her or his personal values and lead her company by them. Maersk did that. Values in a family owned company is very powerful as it can be difficult to separate the founder or family from the company and the founder has an obvious authority to do so. In other cases, values can be formulated from a bottom up or a top down process. One organization I was a part of, had a team of anthropologists to explore what values were exposed in the organization. This approach allowed values already there be part of top management discussion. In a top down process, it is a top management decision carried out by HR. I have met people who saw these company values as something others had formulated and they can’t see what relevance it has for them. It is just fine words. Words you rhetorically could not disagree with. As an example, I don’t expect you to say that you don’t respect women at the shop floor. So what does the value “diversity” mean for the employees?
- How is company values disseminated in your company?
Taking the company values in as your own
Sometimes I get the impression that values are something you can “implement” in the organization as if it was a IT-system. It is like a cohesive alignment of everyone into a certain way of thinking; changing our mental models. Implementation of values are organized in processes with discussions in groups, presentations by management, and incorporated in appraisal conversations or agendas at meetings. The more intensive the implementation is the more brainwashing it might be. The purpose behind formulating and “implementing” values can of cause differ but intention is to guide our behaviour. Can you continue working for the company if you say, “No, this is not my values”? Probably not. I don’t expect anyone to say it out loud. You might duck under the radar or find another place to work.
- How does values guide behaviour and decisions in your company?