Helping the Chronically Overworked Find Life Balance

Three Options If Your Personal Values Conflict With Company Culture

Chapter 9: Paint Your Environment Part 2

Your company has a value system, more commonly called a corporate culture.  And as I wrote in Chapter 6,  unless you are the CEO and have carte blanch from the board to clean house, your chances of significantly changing company culture are close to zero. It can be dispiriting to feel that one has no control over the environment, which is why the illusion of control is so prevalent in the workplace.  There is a solution.

Holocaust Survivor Viktor Frankl wrote that “Forces beyond your control can take away everything you possess except one thing, your freedom to choose how you will respond to the situation.”  Thankfully, the worst job imaginable is better than a concentration camp.  The lesson I take from Frankl is this: Having no control is not the same as having no choices. If your personal values are in conflict with the overriding corporate culture, you have three options:

  1. Change your values to match the corporate values. Remember, values are defined by how we act, not by what we aspire to.  Going along to get along equates to accepting the values of the organization.  I did plenty of this in my career, and wrapped it in rationalizations so that I didn’t feel guilty.  I don’t recommend this option, because eventually it will catch up with you.
  2. Leave the company.  Few people entertain this as a short-term solution, and often stay in unhappy situations longer than one would expect. I am lucky that I had the economic freedom to change careers.  The bills need to be paid, and leaving is not always feasible, and for many people is not the right solution.
  3. Use organizational savvy to force the organization to act in accordance with your values.  In other words, use the methods of power politics, financial forecasting, and alliance building to minimize or prevent actions that go against your values.

In the next post I’ll explain The Business Case For Good, which demonstrated how to use a forecast to make the company do the right thing.

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