Getting where you want to be in life in terms of your personal life and career is an interesting and challenging journey. The values that we hold close may not holdfast in times of conflict or stress, therefore we may find ourselves questioning whether a compromise of values is worth the end gain.
Recently, I saw a theatre production of The Blind Giant is Dancing at Belvoir Theatre in Sydney. The play by Stephen Sewell was described on their website as ‘an angry and tender depiction of an idealist who becomes so embroiled in a party power struggle that he loses sight of what’s at stake.’
What I saw was a play about a man who began his career with a passion for a cause, driven by his values and fuelled by a strong vision for social justice, who in the pursuit of his career goal compromises his values to gain power. In the end, he becomes exactly what he wished to see transformed.
It was a fast-moving and dynamic production, and even though it was set in the early 1980’s political climate it could just as easily have been portraying a more contemporary aspiring leader. Whilst it would be easy to venture into a discussion about politics, political power and manoeuvring, I think that it’s important to realise that whilst the ‘cut and thrust’ of political power is played out very publicly. Especially in the Western world where the media is fairly free to print what they like, however, the same ‘game’ is being played in organisations large and small, public and private across the globe.
So what’s the point I’m trying to make and how does it apply to individual leaders and organisations?
Very often, we start out in our careers with personal values we hold firmly; maybe we’re even a little idealistic, along with career goals we wish to for fill. Along the way, we may find ourselves in situations or work in organisations whose values conflict with our own, at which point we have a choice to make. Do we stay aligned with our values at the risk of compromising our career progress, within that organisation, or do we compromise our values to bolster our career opportunities?
In reality, most people do not articulate their personal values clearly enough to see the early signs that they may not be in the right organisation. When they feel uncomfortable about certain choices they are faced with at work, they don’t recognise the discomfort as a conflict with their own values. Secondly, the path to this conflict often starts with small concessions that don’ t seem like a big deal but over time each small concession builds on the next until we find ourselves in a position we barely recognise as one of our own makings.
So how do we avoid this situation?
As an employee, you have the opportunity to research potential employers, acquaint yourself with their values and decide if they are a good cultural fit for you.
Of course, you need to already know what your values are, what drives you, what your non-negotiable values are. After all, career goals can be achieved in a broad range of industries and organisations, private or public, not for profit, however, the true sense of fulfilment will occur when your goals are achieved in line with your values.
If you’re an employer, then ensuring your organisational values are clearly stated and truly reflective of your company’s practices means you’re more likely to attract appropriate candidates whilst behavioural and values-based recruitment procedures will assist in ensuring appropriate candidate selection occurs.
All individuals and organisations make decisions based on their values, however, not all individuals and organisations have clearly articulated their values. Being transparent and confident in your values is the key to ensuring that all values, decisions and actions are clearly aligned with employees and their organisation.