Prioritize Your Values

iStock_000017529275SmallWhen values are clear, decision-making is easy.

This week a Russian TV reporter quit her job over the coverage of the downing of a Malaysian Airlines passenger plane over war-torn Ukraine.

“It’s the level of disrespect for the facts that really bugs me,” Sara Firth explained. She described that reporters were ordered to cast blame on the Ukrainian government or other factors instead of on Russia.

“I couldn’t do it any more,” Firth said. “We’re lying every single day … and finding sexier ways to do it.”

Sara’s values include respect for the facts. When confronted with a job role that demanded disrespect for the facts, she chose to leave.

Once you clarify your personal purpose, values, and behaviors, you can see plans, decisions, and actions in a very different light.

That intense light enables you to see values gaps with greater clarity. That brings you to a “fork in the road.” Will you follow your values or will you discount your values, “going along” with mis-aligned actions?

Sometimes the choices we face regarding values alignment are not quite so simple. You may hold values that compete with each other at times. How can you resolve that conflict?

Let’s say that you hold these three values: stability, integrity, and family. You work hard to provide stability for yourself and your family while demonstrating integrity at the same time.

Your three values are “all tied for first place.” You strive to behave in ways to honor these three principles in every moment. No one of these values is more important than another.

However, real life (and work) causes a constant push and pull on our values. They’re in “dynamic tension” every day!

If you find yourself in a similar situation to Firth’s – your job demands behavior that is not aligned to your values – you must choose how to respond.

You could quit your job – but that would severely impact your stability value for you and your family.

You could engage in discussion about the values conflict. The best scenario would be that you help your team or company change their approach so the values disconnect is diminished or eliminated.

The worst scenario is that the approach does not change – and you still face the values conflict.

A third response might be to put your head down and do your best – while beginning a job search for a more values-aligned opportunity.

To make our values more actionable, I believe we need to prioritize them. Prioritized values lets us prioritize values conflicts so we can address the most important gap first.

If you evaluated your three values in order of importance, you might come up with family as your first value, integrity second, and stability third. (Some of you are already debating these priorities in your mind! You might have a different order than what I’m suggesting.)

With these prioritized values, your response to the sample values conflict might be easier to justify and embrace. The third choice would seem to be the most aligned, to me.

Are there additional choices you would suggest? I would love your insights – add them in the comments section below.

Add your experiences to two fast & free research projects I have underway: the Great Boss Assessment and the Performance-Values Assessment. Results and analysis are available on my research page.

My new book from Wiley, The Culture Engine, guides leaders to create workplace inspiration with an organizational constitution. Get your free sample chapter here.

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