Should You Work For Someone Who Has Different Values?

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Are you moving in the same direction as your company?

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A brand-new job is up for grabs: how do you decide whether it’s the right move for you? There’s an in-office gym, monthly meetings where dogs are welcome… what else is there?

The Harvard Business Review states there are three main reasons people leave jobs: they’re not a fan of their boss, they don’t fancy their future opportunities or see room for growth and, they’ve been offered a better job, with higher pay. According to career management coach and author of Navigating Career Crossroads Jane Jackson, each of these reasons are inextricably linked to personal and career values.

“Values guide us – when we don’t acknowledge them and follow them, we veer away from the path to happiness and fulfillment,” Jane explains. “In the workplace, this is particularly important as research has found the average person spends over 90,000 hours at work in their lifetime. If your values are not in alignment with your organisation, boss or team members, you will experience chronic stress which will affect your mental and physical health over time.”

Take the anti-boss reason, suggests Jane. Not fitting in with your superior is generally down to a lack of respect or lack of open communication, which would only occur if you value those sorts of things and your boss doesn’t. If you can’t see a path for growth in a company, it’s clear that opportunity is of value to you, adds Jane. And finally, if you’re up for better gig (with better pay), you’re likely to be interested in career advancement and financial gain, which your current employer obviously isn’t.

While it’s all very well to seek out a company’s values and pick and choose future jobs accordingly, as Jane points out, many people have difficulty even identifying their personal and career values upfront – which makes value misalignment all that more difficult to judge. So how do you know when your values don’t align with your employer?

“You’ll know if your boss or organisation’s values don’t align with yours if you feel uncomfortable with what you are expected to do or you feel that the way you or others are treated at work is not acceptable,” Jane offers. “Often it starts with a feeling that something doesn’t ‘feel right’ or it goes against the grain. You may feel that what is expected of you is wrong. The problem in this case is that you may have to behave in a certain way in order to keep your job, or keep the peace, or avoid conflict or confrontation.”

Jane uses the example of a fast-paced sales environment where a company may place emphasis on longer hours, with employees under the pump: “this will suit professionals who place a high value on competition [and] challenge. These professionals will enjoy the thrill of the chase and will be energised in this environment,” Jane points out. “However, if there are colleagues in the same role who value security, work-life balance and family happiness above all else, then this high-pressure sales environment will go against their core values: they will feel stressed, unhappy and eventually burn out.”

Value misalignment doesn’t just happen at the beginning either: ever worked for a company that has great values stuck on office walls but does an entirely different thing in practice?

“Organisations often state their values and their leaders strive to ensure their employees embrace those values,” Jane says. “However, if there are employees or leaders who don’t subscribe to those values and don’t display this in the way they work or lead there will be discord and a feeling of mistrust will develop.”

“An open, honest discussion about your core values and what the different drivers are for both of you will highlight where your differences are so that you can work around [those] differences,” Jane suggests. “With most people, respectfully acknowledging differences and agreeing to disagree on the way things are done and accepting those differences will help towards a more harmonious work environment.”

If that comes to no avail, Jane suggests turning the questions onto yourself as to whether working in an environment that’s a mismatch is right for you.

“What will the toll be on you? Imagine yourself in ten years’ time in the same situation: what would you tell your younger self? Would you hang in there and compromise your values? Or would you make a move and find an environment where you will be working with people who live and breathe the same values as you and are working towards a common goal? If you are true to your values, the decision will be obvious.”

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