Welcome to this month’s edition of the Business Performance Newsletter –and an especially warm welcome if you are a new subscriber. We are making the most of the opportunities presented by the new online social media to help us keep in contact with our customers. Be sure to follow our regular management and training tips on Twitter at http://twitter.com/leslieallan Our Managing Director posts a new tip every couple of days.
Our feature article this month on organizational values is very timely, given the current spotlight on financial institutions. Many of the lending institutions that led us down the path of financial disaster had enshrined values statements and ethical guidelines. However, how much of these exhortations had an impact on the behavior of their employees? And how much of these actually had a negative impact on employee behavior? Here are some valuable lessons on how to ensure that your organization’s values are not making you sick.
Warning! Values May Be Detrimental to Your Organization’s Health
Do your employees complain of favoritism, or inconsistency in decision-making, or lack of fairness? If so, the problem – and the solution – may be your organization’s values.
On its face, identifying values to guide workplace behaviors and decisions seems reasonable, productive, and highly desirable. Yet such values may, in fact, be detrimental to the organization’s health. In fact, unless managers go beyond merely identifying organizational values, unintended negative outcomes are likely to occur.
The fact that values are subjective is the reason they may be detrimental to organizational health. Let’s take the value of integrity as an example. Each of us has a “picture” of what integrity looks like. That picture varies from person to person – and in fact, often is very fuzzy. We tend to think, “I’ll know integrity when I see it.” That’s not good enough: when the pictures vary, so do the judgments of who is acting with integrity and who is not.
You and I could argue all day about whether someone has acted with – or without – integrity without reaching agreement because we’re arguing about a subjective concept. In order for us to resolve this argument, we have to agree on specific behaviors that demonstrate “integrity” so we have a more objective way of assessing the extent to which someone’s behaviors and decisions reflect this value.
There are very real costs to the organization when employees perceive a disparity between stated values and actual behaviors. Based on this discrepancy, employees might conclude that management is inconsistent, unfair, and shows favoritism. They may experience feelings such as disillusionment, anger, betrayal, disappointment, confusion, and distrust. An organization that articulates values sets the expectation that its managers’ behaviors and decisions will reflect those values. What if this can’t happen because employees and managers define values differently? In addition to the above negative outcomes, we can expect low morale, decreased trust, and increased cynicism.
We can maximize the likelihood that employees’ expectations will be met by identifying specific behaviors that indicate people are acting with integrity, having conversations around those behaviors, and distinguishing clearly between desirable and undesirable behaviors. For example, I would characterize people as acting with integrity when they engage in the following behavior:
Once we have identified and communicated the behaviors represented by the value of integrity, we can have a productive conversation. NOW we’re getting somewhere!
- Do what they say they’ll do.
- Tell the truth.
- Make decisions based on stated criteria (e.g., staffing, promotions).
- Hold themselves accountable for their behaviors.
- Hold others accountable for their (others’) behaviors.
- Admit their mistakes and take responsibility for them.
Here are nine steps to ensure that your organization’s values are not detrimental to its health:
© 2009 Pat Lynch. All rights reserved.
To read the nine steps, click here for the full article.
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Be sure to pass this newsletter on to friends and colleagues who want to stay up with what’s on. From all of us here on the Business Performance team, we wish you a productive month and look forward to communicating with you again soon.
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