How organisations can avoid a misalignment in values (part 2)
This is the second of a two-part Insight. I will explore why a misalignment of values is a problem, the impact a misalignment of values can have on an organisation and how leaders can respond.
In part 1 of this Insight, I outlined the ways an organisation can effectively embed core values. To learn more about the importance of organisational values and how your organisation may be missing the mark, take a look here.
Why does it matter?
Organisations who have invested in selecting core values must also embed these values into how the organisation functions. When people hear one message and observe another, conflict will flourish. Whether it is employees or clients, when people receive mixed messages that extend from misaligned values, a significant impact can be seen across an organisation.
In my experience, these scenarios often result in conflict between individuals or groups, and across the organisation.
Why? Because conflict is the most common outcome when values don’t align.
But responding to conflict caused in this circumstance is complex. Particularly when attempting to manage the conflict at an organisational level.
For example, a business identifies and promotes trust as a core organisational value. Yet employees are required to check external communication with a senior leader prior to being sent. An operating procedure like this suggests employees need a high level of monitoring. This could suggest a fracture in trust between employees and leaders. When a business process doesn’t reflect the organisation value, in this example the value of trust, the impact of this misalignment can be evident across the organisation.
The Impact of Values Misalignment
The impact of misaligned values in an organisation can show up on various levels.
Impact on the organisation (absenteeism, reduced productivity, performance concerns that require management)
Impact on individuals (reduced job satisfaction, poor engagement with the workplace, fractured trust, interpersonal conflict)
Impact on clients (delays, reduced quality of work, poor customer experience)
Let’s return to the previous example where emails must be approved by a senior leader before being sent to a client. Add to the scenario that the business has a significant volume of emails to be sent daily. Senior leaders struggle to keep up with this task amongst their other responsibilities. An employee is questioned by their manager about failing to meet timeframes. The manager feels frustrated by the employee’s limited productivity. The employee feels the process for approvals is onerous and slows them down. The employee resents having their work checked so closely. They worry their manager thinks they are incompetent. Interpersonal conflict occurs between manager and employee. The conflict impacts daily communication, which has now become strained. A client needs a quick response to a critical service question and emails the employee. The manager does not respond to the employees email until days after it is received. The employee makes a complaint about their manager.
When left unmanaged, the effects conflict can have ripple across an organisation. You may even recognise this situation as one you are currently facing, or have faced in the past. On the surface, this conflict may appear to be an example of commonly encountered interpersonal conflict. But first consider how the core value of trust could be influencing the situation. With this potential change in perspective, consider how you would manage this situation.
Over the past six years I have worked with more than 500 clients across a range of industries. Throughout this time, I have consistently found that conflict is the most frequently encountered challenge reported by clients.
When I reflect on examples of conflict shared with me, misaligned values often sit at the core. But it can be challenging to recognise and manage a value misalignment when you are in the midst of it. When values were misaligned, incidents occur repeatedly and it can feel like you are constantly putting out fires. You may be responding to the conflict each time, but without addressing the real cause of the conflict, there is no resolution. Each time another conflict occurs, the problem becomes more complex to address.
If this sounds familiar and you are facing yet another conflict in your workplace, rather than seeing the incident as a single event, consider what the root cause could be. When people hold opposing views to a situation, consider the influence of values on the presenting situation – but also consider other incidents which may play a critical precursor to this situation.
I invite you to critically reflect on the example above.
How might you respond to this situation?
How do your own values influence your response to this situation?
Would you advocate for a process change?
Might you consider this as an example where a system within the organisation does not align with its core values?
Think about the organisational factors that could be at play.
What is the purpose of this process? Are employees clear on this purpose?
Is this process manageable? Are there enough senior leaders to meet the demand?
Do employees have an opportunity to provide feedback for process improvements?
How does the organisation demonstrate employees are trustworthy?
How are employees being trained and supported to master their tasks and perform?
Being aware of the ways in which the organisational context is contributing to challenges will strengthen the efficacy of the response. Use curiosity to explore potential connections between different challenges and design response strategies to tackle any misalignment you can identify.
When organisations align their processes and systems to align with core values, the impact can be overwhelmingly positive. Yet consideration is not always given to how the organisational values can be embedded. This can result in misalignment and negative impacts on the organisation, employees and clients. Managers must dig a little deeper when faced with conflict in the workplace to better understand whether a misalignment in values is at play.
Take action to make sure organisational values exist beyond a marketing strategy.
Are you currently experiencing challenges within your organisation that could be attributed to a misalignment of core values? Get in touch to share your thoughts or share this with a colleague who may find this Insight valuable.
If you are experiencing challenges in your workplace with conflict and would like to engage my services, book an introductory call with me to explore how we can work together.
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