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Career Q&A | By Liz Reyer, Minneapolis Star Tribune

When employee values clash with employer

Q: My company has publicly supported a political cause that I deeply oppose. Although no one, including my boss or co-workers, has been in my face about it, it is bothering me a lot. What should I do?

A: Only you know what you can live with in terms of a clash of values. It's worth the effort to think it through.

You'll have more success assessing the situation from a place of calm reflection. So, settle in, take some deep breaths and relax. Let your emotions cool, and set an intention of gaining a deeper understanding of what is important to you.

Think about the values you hold. They'll likely include the cause that prompted your question; what others are there? They may include having a sense of community, behaving with integrity. You get the idea.

Consider the ways that you express your values. If you value honesty, you may return money if a cashier gives you too much change. A value of community may inspire volunteerism. Or you may be an activist for a cause you care about. Take a deep look at how much your values drive your behavior. For some people, values are informing day-to-day decisions about how they spend their time and resources. For others, they are more in the background. Which is the case for you?

Finally, assess the overall fit between your company and your values. It's never as simple as complete alignment or complete disconnect. Apart from the current cause, how well does your company fit in terms of other values, such as diversity, family-friendliness, giving back to the community, or other issues that may be important to you?

Focus on determining the actions you want to take, if any. You may choose to ride it out, particularly if you decide you can live with the company's stance on this particular issue, or if practical considerations such as a tight job market in your field keep you in place.

If you stay put, do so with good grace. Having accepted that you differ from your company in a strongly felt way, you could look for other ways to honor your principles. For example, you could volunteer or contribute financially to the side you believe in; this may help you feel more empowered. You also will want to focus on the positives about your current company so that you don't feel bitter; others will notice, and that can be career-limiting, to say the least.

If you decide that your values do not permit you to work for that company, take measured and careful steps to finding a new position. Network with people in companies that you feel more positive about and ask for leads. Treat it as you would any job search, looking for options while you're still employed. Keep in mind, though, that all companies have tradeoffs, so it's not likely that you'll find a firm that matches perfectly with your beliefs.

Be clear about your values, balanced with flexibility about other ways your company fits for you in order to make a good decision.

Liz Reyer is a credentialed coach with more than 20 years of business experience. Her company, Reyer Coaching & Consulting, offers services for organizations of all sizes.

When employee values clash with employer 09/01/12 [Last modified: Saturday, September 1, 2012 4:30am]
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