Clashing Values Can Erode Trust

Why Good Jobs Go Bad (Part 2)

Effective leadership and shared values are key to building a healthy team and employee satisfaction.
Harvey Ramer
Harvey Ramer
3 min read (771 words) Subscribe Now!

Do you know what motivates your company’s owners to get up and go to work every day? If so, you’re part of a small-but-engaged minority. Gallup research reveals that fewer than half of employees can confidently say they understand what sets their company apart. Even more startling, only 27% strongly believe in their company’s values.[1] Without clear values and alignment, even the best job can go bad quickly.

Effective Leadership and Aligned Values

A strong, effective leader not only communicates a compelling vision but also connects that vision to the daily efforts of their team. However, even the best leadership can’t prevent conflicts and challenges. It’s crucial to realize that excellent leadership alone can’t build a healthy team. For that to happen, the mission must resonate with every team member, which is only possible when values align within the workplace.

Agree on the Mission, But Allow Tactical Freedom

While agreeing on the mission is crucial, it’s equally important to give team members the freedom to make tactical decisions. Micromanaging can result in chaos and decreased productivity. Visionary leaders often spot new opportunities and may pivot quickly, but such changes can come at a cost. Micromanagement can also lead to disengagement among team members, creating a toxic cycle of control and disengagement. The only way to break this cycle is for team members to set boundaries and openly communicate with their leaders.

Mission Alignment Doesn’t Guarantee Value Alignment

Even when team members are on board with the company’s mission and values, personal value mismatches can still occur. Conflicts often arise when personal values clash with actions. Leaders must remain vigilant about how their behavior impacts team engagement and make ethical decisions thoughtfully.

Consider a young, ambitious company trying to gain a foothold in a new market. The executive team was full of innovative thinkers determined to succeed. However, their ethical boundaries differed from those of some employees. In their eagerness for new business, they were willing to bend the truth slightly. While these actions seemed harmless, they bypassed the truth. For employees who highly valued honesty, this behavior became a reason to explore other opportunities.

“Personal leadership is not a singular experience. It doesn’t begin and end with the writing of a personal mission statement. It is, rather, the ongoing process of keeping your vision and values before you and aligning your life to be congruent with those most important things.”

— Stephen R. Covey, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

Conflict Is Inevitable

It’s important to understand that conflicts and value mismatches will occur even in the best organizations. We can’t escape every job or situation that conflicts with our values. Leaders should remain vigilant about how their actions impact team engagement. Every team member must commit to the mission, but for maximum impact, it’s best to choose a team whose values align with your own. Leaders have a significant influence on morale through their ethical choices.

Potential conflicts over issues like foul language, verbal abuse, negativity, and sexual harassment can contribute to a sense of futility in daily work. Effective leaders know when to curb behaviors that could trigger negative emotions, striving to bring their best selves to work each day. As team members, it’s our responsibility to hold leaders accountable, ensuring an emotionally safe and productive work environment for all.

How to Navigate Value Misalignment

Consider the following steps to evaluate the alignment between your personal values and your company’s values, and take appropriate action if needed:

  1. Self-Reflection: Take a few minutes to capture your personal values in writing. Then, compare them with your company’s values to identify any discrepancies.
  2. Evaluate Your Engagement: Assess whether these misalignments are affecting your engagement at work. If they are, consider initiating a dialogue with your team members and management to clarify the company’s values and understand how they resonate with others.
  3. Confront: If you discover that your core values conflict with your leaders’ actions, you have several options: provide anonymous feedback, engage in direct yet respectful confrontation, or consider a career transition.

While leaders hold significant sway over the company’s direction, your feedback can serve as a powerful indicator to those higher up. This is especially true if the company’s vision and values are not resonating with the workforce.

  1. Jennifer Robison, “The Future of Your Workplace Depends on Your Purpose,” Gallup, May 24, 2019, ↩︎

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