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Out With Meaningless Company Values

Updated: Apr 10

I have heard it all; Integrity, Respect, Come as You Are, Work Hard & Have Fun, Ownership, Teamwork, Leadership, Diversity, Trust......

The problem is that research indicates that values often don’t significantly impact desired behaviour. In an MIT Sloan study, researchers found no correlation between a company’s expressed values and how well employees felt they lived up to them. One of the reasons is that the highly subjective nature of value statements renders them nearly meaningless. Values are couched in the language of platitudes: respect, integrity, and even having a positive impact on communities mean different things to different people. For example, "doing the right thing" is highly personal and asks the question, the right thing for whom?

When assessing the values of Fortune 500 companies, it’s clear that many businesses have only selected politically “safe” values that completely fail the minimum requirement of its purpose. Values also fail to shape people's mindsets and core beliefs because they are meaningless prompts we have no idea what to do with. And this is why I have problems with company Values that say absolutely nothing!

 Last year, I had a conversation with a small company owner I have consulted for. He asked what Values I would have for his company, which is about to grow from 15 people to 100+. I sent him Jordan Peterson's 12 Rules for Life, saying that I would love it if people in my organisation lived up to these standards.


Why these rules? If you look at corporate challenges at a large or even small scale (within teams), these are the issues we all have:

·       People lie!

·       They think they are the source of truth and know everything. We don't listen.

·       We quickly highlight other people's mistakes only to cover up our shortcomings.

·       People are in their comfort zone, take no risks, and get away with the least they can. They don't address important things but small, comfortable stuff that makes no difference to anyone.

·       We hide from conversations, big or small. We ignore the small stuff that eventually grows into big monsters. We cannot nip things in the bud, but we are expected to address the elephants in the room.

·       We complain about how things don't work instead of taking the challenge on and fixing it. We don't see problems as opportunities for taking responsibility.

·       We fail to aim at one thing and do many things badly.

·       When things happen not to our liking, we easily become arrogant, deceitful, and resentful. Be honest with yourself here!

·       We go with the corporate flow, the assigned career path, the herd, and what corporations imagined for us instead of figuring out what works for us and following that path.

·       We do what we hate! Look at employee satisfaction data or TikTok videos.


So maybe companies should craft company Values that shape people's mindsets about themselves rather than giving us empty and subjective statements that are often not followed. Make Values personal! This is how you craft company values. Take the problems you face and phrase them in a way that impacts people’s way of viewing things. You don’t tell people, “Here, we believe in the value of Integrity”. Okay, Sharon, that’s going to work out well.

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