The Huge Disconnect between Active and Passive Corporate Values
We define corporate values as the company-wide guidelines for desired workplace behaviors. How closely connected are the corporate values that you live (active values) with those that you promote (passive values)? And we know from our organizational culture assessment data that the bigger the gap between “what you say” and “what you do”, the more potential for an unhealthy culture, low performing culture, or strategically misaligned culture.
Here’s the problem: declaring values is easy but linking them to actual day-to-day behavior is not. And when the stated values of an organization are just empty words, they lead to employee confusion, lack of respect, disregard, and employee disengagement.
The Connecting Link
Think of your workplace culture as how employees think, behave, and get work done when no one is looking. Culture is the alignment of both intention and reality. The connecting link between active and passive corporate values is the behaviors that are consistently and visibly lived, encouraged, rewarded, and celebrated from the C-Suite to the frontline in its policies and practices.
A Closer Look
Best practices suggest that you regularly examine the behaviors you say matter in your published corporate documents (aspirational values) and the behaviors you see in your employees (actual values). Let’s say the organization aspires to a culture of diversity but hires with clear bias. Or the company promotes open dialogue but fires the employee who acts as a “devil’s advocate” by respectfully challenging the boss’ pet proposal. Or the company says it wants to innovate but, when push comes to shove, they reject change and retreat to the old ways simply out of a fear of the “new.” Or the sales team that wants to put the customer first but continually tries to push (and reward) self-serving deals at the end of each quarter.
In all these examples, the behaviors don’t match the espoused ways of thinking or behaving.
Questions to Ask
To see where you stand, ask questions such as:
3 Common Corporate Values Issues to Keep an Eye On
The Bottom Line
If you truly want to narrow the gap between active and passive corporate values, your leaders need to create clear and meaningful values, model and reward the desired behaviors, and have consequences for those who do not behave according to agreed-upon values. Otherwise, you are just wasting your time and shrinking your influence as a leader with meaningless values that have no accountability. Let actions, not words, define your culture.
To learn more about active and passive corporate values, download The 3 Levels of Culture that You Must Get Right to Create High Performance
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