The value of having values
Published: 7 January, 2019
There is a close link between the values of a workplace and how individual's perceive their own place in the bigger picture. Marian Spencer, Head of Operations, People and Culture discusses the connection between worker and organisational values.
Establishing a set of workplace values that your team lives and breathes is incredibly important for creating a harmonious and productive working environment. It is vital these values are not just a list of lovely words decided upon at a strategy day, existing only in documents just to be forgotten - they should underpin everything an organisation does.
As individuals, our values are what we believe to be important in the ways we live and work. They influence everything we do.
Similarly, an organisation's values should set the tone for the company's culture. They identify what the organisation collectively cares about.
Culture is a bit of a buzz word often bandied around in relation to workplaces. But what is it, really?
Workplace culture is the environment that surrounds you at work and shapes your enjoyment of work, your working relationships and your work processes. It is the personality of the organisation and encompasses values, beliefs, underlying assumptions, interests and experiences that are shared by the group. It essentially creates the social etiquette of working together.
When ways of working together are value-based, people understand one another, everyone does the right things for the right reasons, and this common purpose and understanding helps people build great working relationships and trust. Value alignment helps the organisation achieve its core mission.
Mental illness is now the leading cause of sickness absence and long-term work incapacity in Australia.
When a workplace is mentally healthy, we see enormous benefits to individual employees and to the business itself, such as enhanced performance and productivity, improvements on a company’s bottom line, faster recovery time after physical illness and reduced staff turnover rates.
Research from the National Mental Health Commission found “every dollar spent on effective mental health action returns $2.30 in benefits to an organisation.”
If you have values that foster open, adaptable and transparent communication, decision-making and work processes, you will have a culture of trust, confidence and positivity. On the other hand, if your values foster a competitive, covert or rigid workplace with a lack of clarity as to how things are done, you are likely to experience a culture of fear and insecurity.
When values are out of alignment, people work towards different goals, with different intentions, and with different outcomes. This can damage work relationships, productivity, job satisfaction, and creative potential.
Values and culture come from the top, so it is essential that organisational values flow from the top down. If the leaders of an organisation have healthy habits when it comes to work, it lessens the chance of unspoken pressures stressing out workers. For example, if a manager consistently goes home on time rather than working late, employees are more likely to follow suit and have greater work-life balance. On the other hand, if managers are consistently working late or sending emails on the weekend, employees may feel this is the expected way of working.
The Black Dog Institute, for instance, focuses on five values that are practiced at every level of the organisation.
They may mean different things to different people, but the best organisational values are ones that are positive no matter how they are translated.
It’s important to ensure your individual values align with the values of the organisation you work for. When the things you do and the way you behave match your values, life is usually good – you're satisfied and content. But when these don't align with your values, things can start to feel wrong. This can be a real source of unhappiness.
If you value family, but work 70-hours a week in your job, you will likely feel internal stress and conflict. If you don't value competition, and you work in a highly competitive environment, you are likely to be unsatisfied with your job.
As organisations change over time, values can shift too, so it is important for business leaders and HR specialists to regularly review organisational values. This is to ensure they are still aligned with the way the business is working and match the values held by workers. The benefit of having strong values should never be underestimated.
For further information about workplace wellbeing and how you can contribute to a professional culture of respect and openness, please visit the Black Dog Institute’s mentally healthy workplace guide sheet.
If you or someone you know is in crisis please call one of the following national helplines:
LIFELINE COUNSELLING SERVICE - 13 11 14
SUICIDE CALL BACK SERVICE 1300 659 467 (cost of a local call)