Values – walked and talked, or just words on the wall?




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Do a quick search for ‘organisation values’ and you’ll strike a rich seam of carefully crafted words. No doubt much time and resource was devoted to their development, and much debate had over what should be included and left out. If you work at a larger organisation, there will probably be some values on a wall somewhere.

If you can remember what your employer’s values are, you’re off to a good start. If you can think of examples of how you and your fellow employees ‘live the values’ – give yourselves a big pat on that back.

For it seems you may be rare.

In Roffey Park’s latest ‘Management Agenda’ there are some interesting findings about values:

  • Across all (1000+) managers surveyed, 86% consider that ‘living the values’ is important to the success of their business.
  • This was highest in the not-for-profit sector (92%), followed by the private sector (87%), with the public sector last (82%).
  • At junior manager and non-manager level, ‘living the values’ is seen as important by over 90%.
  • At senior manager / Board Director level, ‘living the values’ is seen as important by more than 94%.
  • At middle management level, there’s a dip – to 83% saying ‘living the values’ is important. Still a high level, but significantly lower than the other two groups.

Why does this matter?

Because it suggests that middle managers may be finding it tough to walk and talk in alignment with those words on the wall. This could be due to factors such as workload, poor promotion prospects, and how they are managed. And that’s a great pity as it’s middle managers who are typically on the front line with an organisation’s users, suppliers and talent pipeline.

What’s more, Roffey Park also found that organisational politics is considered by most managers (except those at board level) to be a significant source of workplace stress. Hmmm… what’s going on here? Surely not board level managers saying ‘living the values’ is important for business success – yet not actually doing it, but playing organisational politics instead? Possibly.

When asked if their organisation’s stated values reflect the actual values practised by management, the more senior end of the spectrum perceive the greatest alignment. That perception drops with decreasing seniority. So it seems that how ‘living the values’ shows up, as espoused by senior management, may be very different to what is experienced by the majority of employees.

Roffey Park’s Management Agenda 2015 is well worth a read. You can access it via their website (registration required).

Dawn is the author of ‘How to be Zoomly at work’, available on Amazon.

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