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The True Values of a Company

You may have seen companies claim in their marketing material that they abide by a set of values; such values might look like: Kindness, Trustworthiness, and Listeners. Somehow, they disappoint you because deep within, you know they are operating under another set of values, or I’d dare to say anti-values.

Operating under a set of unidentified anti-values is a great way to destroy the goodwill built with customers and business partners and employee loyalty.

When you enter into a business relationship with a company, keep in mind its advertised values and exercise your ability to see through its actions.

Citing again my examples above:

  • Kindness may appear as “We care about you.”
    • In the Big Co world, most companies treat you like any other number in a spreadsheet. I’m not saying this means bad service; the service could be excellent. It’s just that there’s little flexibility for dealing with custom cases that’d suit you most, e.g., Try negotiating custom terms for an insurance contract. It’s a gamble; most numeric values can be adjusted, but changing the wording of some clauses is primarily inflexible.
  • Trustworthiness may appear as “You can rely on us.”
    • Suppose you’re a services provider to that company, and they wait until the very last day to pay your invoice or become delinquent. In that case, you can tell that slowness cannibalises the trustworthiness they advertise so much.
  • Listeners may appear as “We adjust to your needs” or “We are always seeking feedback.”
    • Providing feedback to a company nowadays also feels like a gamble. Your feedback may or may not be heard. It may be heard but not applied. They may intend to use it, but it could be impractical to implement. This is not to say you shouldn’t provide feedback; feedback is valuable and a great way to be grateful for the service provided. Always manage your expectations, avoid thinking your word is sacrosanct, and they must comply immediately with your advice. You may feel like you lost your time writing that email or review in Glassdoor or Trustpilot.
  • (Bonus) Ethics may appear as “We are governed by our human sense of acting in good faith.”
    • I could talk about this all day, but ethics usually goes down the toilet at tight times, and corner-cutting behaviour starts to appear. Upholding ethics at difficult times is for the brave enough to sacrifice the company to avoid any possible violation of the moral code or wrongdoings in general. If you see the top executives of your company engaging in morally questionable behaviour and if you care about your reputation, it might be the right time to jump ship.

Company values are for being implemented across the entire company, and the actions they engage in reflect the company’s true personality. Most companies don’t know they are missing the point; they have not carefully considered if what they say matches what they do. As hinted earlier, anti-values cannibalise the advertised values.

A gap analysis would be an excellent tool to explore the gaps between our current company culture and what we strive to appear. Still, I’ve seen executives too stubborn to acknowledge the existing company culture. In their defence, they may not have appropriate feedback mechanisms. Open-door policies often become breaking rank traps, where you get hammered if you go to your boss’s boss. Is this what they meant by “Always open to feedback”?

Pro-tip about anti-values: The more a company advertises their would-be values (both externally and internally, via HR), the more the company engages in anti-values, and it’s even a hint of high culture toxicity. These marketing efforts are a cover-up of what the company is. The campaigning of the would-be values gets stronger as a remediation measure taken to what is perceived to be happening at the company.

So, what are the actual values of a company? The ones they let slip through their actions, not with their words. If a company says it’s loyal to its customers, how’s that reflected in its products and services offers? How’s a company that claims to have the utmost integrity during business deals have the most obscure misleading legalese on the fine print of their contracts?

Keep in mind that a company is what they do, not what they say. Always be watchful, and remain transparent. Until next time.

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