Using Values to Set Expectations
With the recent wave of Syrian migrants flooding Europe, there’s been a growing concern about how well they will integrate into local culture. While many are welcomed with open arms, there is an expectation that new arrivals will embrace European values – specifically tolerance and inclusion.
Austria was one of the first countries to educate migrants about their expectations, when many arrived from the West Balkans in 2010. Now various European countries plan to provide folders containing guidelines on EU values – written in Arabic – to ensure all newcomers understand these values.
A few examples of what’s included:
- Everyone has equal rights to education at every level (addressing the issue of young migrant girls being held back from going to school)
- Female Muslims are free to wear a headscarf, but only if they choose to (addressing the issue of migrant woman being ordered by a man to wear a burqa).
- Everyone must respect the police, regardless if they are a policeman or a policewoman (addressing the issue of migrant men viewing woman with little or no respect).
While some might not agree with this approach, I believe it makes perfect sense.
In numerous countries, a clear statement of values has been a part of their constitution for years. For example, the United States is well known for the phrase “Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.” And in many Commonwealth jurisdictions, such as Canada and Australia, it’s common to find the phrase “Peace, Order, and Good Government”.
Such statements make it clear what is expected of all people, both for newcomers and those who are well established.
This applies in business too.
Stating Expected Behaviors
When starting a new job, it’s not uncommon for new employees to receive a “Welcome” packet, particularly in larger organizations. This has been happening for many years in both the private and public sectors, in both for-profit and not-for-profit organizations.
What’s included in the Welcome packet?
In addition to outlining basic HR information, these packets include a copy of the organization’s Mission, Vision, and Values (assuming they exist). Ideally, the values are spelled out with great clarity, highlighting the behavior expected of every employee, regardless of title or position.
Such values might include: Collaboration, Quality, and Perseverance. Or Humility, Discovery, and Fun. Preferably, these values outline what makes the organization unique, and help define the organization’s culture.
Of course, over time new employees may discover others who do NOT act in accordance with the stated values. But that doesn’t exclude or negate the relevance and importance of these values.
Values are like the rumble strips along the edge of the road. They are designed to alert the inattentive (or careless) employee of potential danger.
When values are violated, the misaligned individuals need to be brought back on course. This is the job of a leader. But if leaders fail to do this, the organization will be exposed to serious threats, such as a damaging lawsuit, the loss of business, or the loss of good employees.
If left unchecked, an organization without values will lead to its own demise. This is what occurred at Enron and WorldCom.
Even the public sector is not immune to this issue. Consider the enormous debacle at the U.S National Security Administration (NSA), when Edward Snowden exposed the mass surveillance scandal. And this saga continues…. Or consider the ongoing scandals occurring within the U.S. Transportation Security Administration (TSA). When trust is broken, not only does funding become at risk, the agency’s mission is questioned and open for a complete overhaul.
A world without clearly defined values leads to chaos, anarchy, and the potential for a complete collapse. This applies to countries, cities, businesses, non-profits, schools, public utilities, private groups, churches, and even families.
The solution? It’s actually simple, though not easy.
Set expectations with a few clearly defined values. Then leaders need to reinforce them, acknowledge and reward good behavior, and correct individuals when they wander onto the rumble strips.