Skip to Page Content

Two-Faced Values at Your Company?

    2 Faced

    Is there a gap between your stated corporate values and reality? Do managers say one thing but then do the exact opposite? It’s hard to have a productive workforce when employees don’t believe what management says.

    Many good organizations have their corporate values prominently displayed in their front lobby or on their Web page (New Era’s corporate values can be seen on our website at  But I wonder, really, how close do we hold these words as “valuable”?  After all, the true test of a corporate value is whether or not you place more value on the behaviors that reflect these values, as opposed to those behaviors that don’t. In other words, do I place higher value on an employee that embraces change, as opposed to someone that resists change?  Will I promote an employee that demonstrates the ability to treat other employees with fairness, dignity and respect over an employee that does not treat employees with fairness, dignity and respect?  When push comes to shove, will I stay committed to my stated values?  Is there an actual alignment between what I say I value and what I actually place value on?  If not, we have a huge opportunity!

    You will know that there is a gap between your espoused values and your values in action by the amount of “eye rolling” in the organization.  When people roll their eyes it is typically an indication that they are thinking “here we go again”!  They are feeling that they have heard all of this before and just like before, nothing will ever actually get accomplished.  Does any of this sound familiar:                                                     

    • “People get promoted based upon their effective use of leadership skills.”
    • “Our pay practices reward the best performers.”
    • “We hire the best talent and offer continuous training to keep them sharp.”
    • “Our employees’ safety is a priority among everything we do.”
    • “Our customers come first.”

    Can you picture the eyes rolling?

    The Truth Can Hurt but It’s Less Confusing

    Not only are there eyes rolling but, there are probably a lot of heads spinning too;spinning with confusion. Telling your employees that you believe in one thing and then doing the opposite is confusing and builds resentment and cynicism. We would be better off telling them nothing than to tell them a lie.. Better yet, why not get very, very honest with the employees. They might have greater respect for a company that is honest with them, even if it makes them sick! Imagine being honest and making these values clear to the employees:

    • “Getting the orders shipped is more important than employee safety or product   quality.”
    • “When it comes to promotions and pay raises, what matters most is who I like.”
    • “HR policies are only meant to keep the company out of legal hot water; we only follow them when we have to.”
    • “We are not an equal opportunity employer—certain people are not welcome here.”

    No eye rolling now! But these statements, while maybe true, do not make us feel very proud or good! An organization would ever make those kinds of public statements; they would rather lie to their employees and then cover up the fact that they are lying to their employees. This phenomenon is akin to what Chris Argyris (author of Flawed Advice and the Management Trap) calls “Model 1 Behavior.”Argyris says, “Espoused theories often represent our ideas—indeed, our ideals— about effective action. Theories-in-use are what produce real, concrete actions.” It is easy to spot the inconsistencies or gaps in others but nearly impossible to see the gaps in ourselves.  Management actually believes they are acting consistently with their values and will argue vehemently if ever challenged.  This defensive routine will act as a “sealing mechanism” to ensure that no one in the organization ever brings up the inconsistencies.  To do so would cause embarrassment and result in what would feel like retaliation.  But the leaders won’t think of it as retaliation because they didn’t see that they were being inconsistent in the first place.  They’ll think that the employee trying to discuss (the undiscussible) is simply a malcontent.

    The gaps between what we say we believe in and what we actually do can be reduced without the harshness of the “honest” statements above. But what has to happen is that leaders must understand the stated values on behavioral terms and then be trained, coached and evaluated based upon their consistency. Furthermore, leaders can actually be selected based upon their consistency of behaviors to values.   For example, if our stated value (from New Era HR) is “we fix problems, not blame. Learning is paramount.,” Then my leadership effectiveness can be determined by how well I do that. If my leadership behavior is all about tagging some individual for the mess they made, then it would reason that I would be ineffective as a leader and probably confusing to my team. So, by “walking the talk,” not only am I not confusing my employees, I am also leading in the direction that we want to go.

    “Discuss the Undiscussible”

    Using the corporate values statements as tools to select, promote, evaluate, reward and lead the workforce is powerful and cheap.  This also ensures that the governing value system is evenly applied and part of the culture.  When HR systems are designed around the value system, true alignment can take place.  When employees are not rolling their eyes and not being confused by the gap between what management says it believes in and what it actually does, we can begin to unlock the potential of any workforce.  The first step in values-based leadership is for management to be willing to discuss the undiscussible.

    by Harry Franzheim,