What My Company's Values Taught Me About My Own
Written by Jessica Dunbar
For some companies, core values are total bullshit. They’re lip service, a box to check, a pretty set of canvases to hang in the lobby of their corporate offices. For others, they’re substantive. They’re the litmus test by which executives and employees make daily decisions; the backbone of the organization.
My company is the latter, and it has taught me more about my own personal values than I would have ever imagined.
Let me admit: I’ve never been one to buy into the “values” thing. My career—having started around the same time the Great Recession ended—was mostly a product of circumstance. Try as I might to design it, I was still bound by the constraints of a slowly recovering economy. Companies weren’t thinking about much other than bottom lines, and the people-first mentality that is so prevalent these days hadn’t quite taken hold yet. But I didn’t mind. I needed an income, and that was it. I hadn’t yet realized I could expect more than that.
I didn’t buy into the idea of company values until I interviewed with the organization I work for today. The CEO—who just happened to be my interviewer (no pressure)—always found a way to bring our conversation back to the company’s core values. When discussing their strategic vision, he’d mention how things like “great design” plays such an integral role in our competitive advantage. When we discussed benefits, he’d discuss the importance of “living balanced” and “pursuing growth and learning.” When chatting about what sets the company apart from other employers, he was quick to point to the value, “think green.”
After much consideration, I accepted the position. Now, after nearly two years as their marketing manager, I can safely say that the company is not bullshitting anyone when it comes to their core values; they’re the real deal. Every decision we make, from high-level strategic decisions down to what kind of toilet paper we buy (I’m not kidding) is all backed by a value. Spend one day in our offices and you’ll hear: That makes sense. And it aligns with [core value goes here].
For as much as I’ve learned to appreciate company values, I’ve also learned a thing or two about my own personal values. And yours, too.
Here’s the thing about values: you have them, whether you know it or not.
What you may not have is a set of defined values, meaning you haven’t put a name to them yet. To start identifying them, think very hard about your habitual actions, and then find the common themes from there. Sit down, grab a pen, and start writing. Be honest with yourself. For instance, avoid suggesting that one of your values is honesty if you just lied to a client about why you missed a deadline.
And don’t worry: If you don’t like what you’ve written, you can always work toward adopting different—even better—values as you go. Don’t borrow anyone else’s values because they sound good. Put in the hard work to bring clarity to your own.
Not all values are created equal. There are good values, and there are bad ones.
If you value honesty, you may be prone to telling the truth. If you value kindness, you may be prone to choosing your words carefully for the sake of empathy and compassion. If you value integrity, you may be prone to taking ownership of your actions. These are good values, and if they apply to you, bravo. You’re probably a fairly decent human being.
If you value self-importance, you may be prone to interrupting others or steering conversations back to your own personal anecdotes or objectives. If you value complacency, you may be prone to doing the bare minimum to get by. If you value intolerance, you may be prone to making homophobic, racist, or sexist statements.
Find people whose values align with yours.
The old adage that “opposites attract” is wrong. Your goal—whether you are searching for a new career, friends, or even a life partner—is to find others whose values align with your own. In psychological terms, this helps reduce what we call cognitive dissonance, or the stress that is a direct result of believing one thing and acting in a way that contradicts those beliefs.
I’m thriving in my current career because my values closely mirror those of my company’s. Because what I value and what my company values aligns so well, I’m able to make decisions with a high degree of certainty that I’m doing right not only by the company, but also myself.
Jessica has been a Jacksonville Beach, FL local for 11 years. By day, she works as a professional marketer/copywriter, and by night, she’s busy planning her next adventure. Having visited 23 countries in just a few years, this is her advice: travel far, pack light, and try everything.