Monday, March 04, 2024

What are Your REAL Values?

Lila Maclellan has written an important story for Fortune titled "The recent debacles at Boeing and Meta highlight the dangers of shrugging off employee concerns."  Boeing, of course, has been saddled with product quality and safety troubles for several years, including two fatal crashes of the Boeing 737 MAX, about which I wrote a case study.   Meta has had repeated instances of internet safety and privacy issues, for which senior leaders dismissed or downplayed employee concerns.  

In this article, Maclellan cites Ann Skeet, senior director at the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics at Santa Clara University.  Skeet says, “When people bring things to your attention, it’s an opportunity to reset expectations and to clarify culture.  But if the leadership says that we can continue even when people are surfacing things they feel are inconsistent with the organization’s espoused values, it suggests there is another set of values that are actually being applied.”  

Skeet makes an important distinction here between an organization's espoused values and its values-in-use (a concept first articulated by Chris Argyris).  The espoused values are those that we find on the placard posted on the wall, or articulated by senior leaders when addressing employees and other stakeholders.  The values-in-use are the REAL values as identified by the ACTIONS of the leaders in the organization.   When employees perceive a serious disconnect between the espoused values and the values-in-use, then disenchantment and disengagement rise.    Some people stay silent in the face of serious problems.  Others simply exit the organization.  Leaders at all levels need to constantly ask themselves: Are we walking the talk?  Are we living up to our espoused values?  Or, are employees perceiving us as disingenuous?  If so, why has that perception arisen?

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