The Importance of Bringing Your Values to Work

I’ve been thinking a lot about how organizations can make it easier for employees (and potential employees) to know whether their values align with company values.

B Corps: A Force for Good

I’m working on a project for B Lab, an organization that provides a rigorous certification process for companies that want to become part of the movement to make business a force for good–a movement that encourages companies to base decisions on more than just shareholder profits.  “The B Corp community works toward reduced inequality, lower levels of poverty, a healthier environment, stronger communities, and the creation of more high-quality jobs with dignity and purpose,” according to their website.

To become a certified B Corp, companies must take a deep dive into their social and environmental impacts: Do they pay a living wage? Do they know their suppliers’ business practices? Are socially and environmentally responsible practices hardwired into company policies? Are employees evaluated on values-aligned goals? By measuring employee performance using social and environmental metrics, employees will have no question about whether their company is serious about these types of goals versus simply paying lip service to them.

Dare to Lead

Not long after I began my work with B Lab, I finished reading Brené Brown’s Dare to Lead. Brown contends that companies should choose no more than one or two organizational values and then share them clearly and consistently companywide. She compares values to priorities, saying that if everything is a top value/priority, nothing is. By narrowing company values to a core value against which everything can be compared or measured, it simplifies decision making. It reminded me of a hospital CEO who said, “Regardless of whether we’re making decisions about bed linens or expanding services, I ask one question: Is it good for our patients? If the answer is yes, we figure out a way to do it. If it isn’t, we don’t.”

Reassurance for CFOs

I can almost feel some of the finance folks out there cringing with all this talk of making decisions based on non-financial considerations. To be clear, none of the B Corps I’ve worked with or companies discussed in Dare to Lead ignore the numbers. They just put other metrics alongside.

When Values Align, Everyone Wins

When employees’ values align with organizational values, everyone wins. It feels good to be proud of the company you work for. It feels good to lead a company with a clear moral compass. When people are allowed to remain true to their values on the job, they are more likely to feel engaged or even passionate about the work they do.

My core value is to build connection. As defined by Brene Brown, connection is “the energy that exists between people when they feel seen, heard, and valued; when they can give and receive without judgment; and when they derive sustenance and strength from the relationship.” Good communication is an excellent tool to build connection, but it can also be used to do the opposite. If I do my job well, I can help counteract the divisive communication that creates false boundaries between people. This feels worthy of my best efforts.

What feels worthwhile to you? If you have to check your values at the door when you get to work, maybe it’s time to rethink your job. Here’s a list of values compiled by Brené Brown. It’s a great place to start as you define your core values and how they align with the work you do.