We all have values that we hold close to our hearts.
Some individuals feel strongly about fairness; others care deeply about work-life balance. There are no right and wrong answers to this. But we face a dilemma when our values conflict with our employer’s — should we compromise our values to follow the organisation’s directions or should we throw in the towel and resign?
Ms Evelyn Tay, a senior career coach at Woodlands Careers Connect centre, shares some tips on how we can manage this disconnect so that we can still find satisfaction in our careers.
Why a misalignment of values occurs
According to Ms Tay, a clash of personal and organisational values can occur when there is a change in perspective or situation in the individual or organisation.
For instance, experiencing a health crisis or becoming a new parent might cause an individual who is previously career-driven to prioritise work-life balance. Misalignment of values with the organisation happens as the individual is caught in the middle of the organisation values achieving results at all costs, including pulling late nights to hit key performance indicators.
Another reason could be because an organisation is forced to change its business directions to survive. However, an employee who values stability may be resistant to change to adapt to the company’s new business directions.
Regardless of the reasons for change, Ms Tay notes that employees often feel disconnected from their organisations when their values conflict with the former.
“While some employees might voice out to their reporting manager or share how they feel through the grapevine, others might prefer to stay passive and silent,” said Ms Tay.
The employees who consult their managers about their dilemma may receive some form of understanding or closure. But those who remain silent and leave their issues unaddressed may experience a lower sense of commitment and satisfaction at work.
Their motivation and engagement levels may also drop. Eventually, their productivity and work performance may suffer, and they may decide to exit the organisation, said Ms Tay.
Identifying your values
Before you start dealing with the clash in values, it is important to clarify what your values are first.
Explaining the rationale for this step, Ms Tay said: “Knowing our values is critical for achieving job satisfaction. It helps to clarify how we are motivated and why decisions are made.”
According to Ms Tay, individuals can look for a list of core values online such as this one.
Think about the following questions and pick two to three values that resonate the most with you for each situation.
Situations to consider:
- What has been your life motto or what represents you and your way of life?
- When are you most motivated or fulfilled and what value/s resonate well with that experience?
- When are you most stressed or frustrated and what value/s had kept you above that situation then?
After going through all the situations, you will end up with a list of 8 to 10 values. Rank these selected values from the most to least applicable to you.
Review the list again to reduce the values to six.
After three days, look through your list and rank them to see if there are any changes. Ask yourself if you are happy with the final list. If not, repeat the process. The final 6 values that you end up with are the ones that are your core values.
As life events or new situations may change our perspectives and values, try to review the final list every 6 months or as needed so that you have a clear picture of what your values are.
Alternatively, speak to our career experts who can guide you through this process.
Managing a difference in values
Once you have completed the values discovery process, you can identify the personal value that conflicts with your organisation.
Evaluate your reasons for joining the organisation and see if these reasons still hold true in this situation.
Then, evaluate the importance of that value to you versus that of the organisation.
With all these in mind, adopt a positive mindset and have an open discussion with your supervisor to discuss some possible solutions.
During the discussion, convince your supervisor of your viewpoints and present possible work alternatives or practices that might support your values without compromising your organisation’s performance. Also, consider if it is possible to transfer teams or departments.
If the discussion does not lead to a favourable outcome, consider the current economic and job market situation, as well as your financial obligations before deciding if you can leave your job.
It is distressing when your values clash with your organisation. However, all is not lost as you can take these action steps to try to reach a consensus.