Shifting Foundations: What to Do When Your Company’s Core Values Change

“Values are like fingerprints. Nobody’s are the same, but you leave them all over everything you do.” – Attributed to Elvis Presley, King of Rock and Roll.

In a healthy company, everything flows from core values; however, as the world changes, your organization’s core values may change to keep up. Consider Oneida, Ltd. Originally a commune-owned silversmith in 1850, it branched out to tableware, silk, chains, and steel leg-hold traps for the fur trade. As each line became less profitable, the company evolved, eventually producing first silverware, and then flatware of all kinds as it currently does. That clearly required multiple core-value shifts.

In our current business world, you’ll likely face similar shifts as the world changes, no matter what you do or provide. If your personal values aligned perfectly with your company’s, that would be the best of all words; however, that’s rarely the case. So here are some basic tools to survive these changes.

  1. Mindfulness. Pay close attention not just to your tasks, but to the overall nature of the organization itself. It may not announce its core-value shifts overtly, unless they’re the result of a specific change initiative. Even then, a shift may only show in your organization’s annual reports; so, keep up with them. Otherwise, check your company Intranet, or just ask HR. Even if no obvious changes have occurred, keep an ear to the ground and prepare to shift when you see a new wave coming your way. If procedures, workflow, management, and the like seem to be undergoing quite a bit of alteration, your organization’s core values have probably changed, too.

  2. Flexibility. A willingness and ability to roll with the punches has always been important for the modern worker. Changes associated with core values may occur suddenly and painfully. Think of it in terms of an earthquake. It all starts when geological movement along a fault line sticks, allowing pressure to build. When the pressure releases suddenly, you get a jolt. It may prove minor, or it can knock down buildings. If your business’s core values become a sticking point as the world moves on, then when they fail, the jolt may rock everyone. Like one of those punching dolls that pops back up when hit, be flexible enough to wobble rather than break.

  3. Review. Once you realize the values-shift has occurred, stop long enough to check all your projects and regular tasks to see if they’re still aligned with your business’s new values or goals. Are they still valid? If not, discuss with team members and superiors whether to drop them or hand them off to another team. If so, decide how and how much to reorient them to fit the new reality.

  4. Reassess. It’s not always possible to bridge the gap between your core values and your organization’s core values. While many people take jobs they don’t enjoy out of necessity, we usually don’t take jobs with organizations with whom we share opposing values. But if your employer’s core values can shift, then they can shift out from under you. So, determine if the new values mesh with yours, once you become aware of them, and decide what to do if they don’t. It’s better for everyone for you to find work elsewhere if you disagree with your organization’s values so much it interferes with your job.

Maintaining Equilibrium

Core values form the foundation of corporate culture, and culture is rarely static; so, while those values are important, they’re not sacred. Most businesses exist to make money, so their core values are malleable, able to change with the times. Even if your organization isn’t a traditional business, its core values can still change. So rather than take a tumble when the jolts come, prepare for them. Keep your eyes open and catch the change wave.

About Laura Stack, your next keynote speaker:

© 2019 Laura Stack. Laura Stack, MBA, CSP, CPAE is an award-winning keynote speaker, bestselling author, and noted authority on employee and team productivity. She is the president of The Productivity Pro, Inc., a company dedicated to helping leaders increase workplace performance in high-stress environments. Stack has authored eight books, including FASTER TOGETHER: Accelerating Your Team’s Productivity (Berrett-Koehler 2018). She is a past president of the National Speakers Association, and a member of its exclusive Speaker Hall of Fame (with fewer than 175 members worldwide). Stack’s clients include Cisco Systems, Wal-Mart, and Bank of America, and she has been featured on the CBS Early Show and CNN, and in the New York Times. To have Laura Stack speak at an upcoming meeting or event, call 303-471-7401 or contact us online.

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  1. Good reading! Thank you Laura, I was working for a company for over 7 years and saw exactly that, change of core values, for the last 2 years management kept changing and some how the comfort of working there was gone, I had nobody to look up to or trust. So I ended up leaving, with experience of course.
    Thanks again for sharing your know how!