If you had to list your top values and how describe how each one is being met at work, could you do it?
Most people can't.
Think about a time something at work didn't feel right -
- A colleague threw you under the bus in order to take the credit on saving a big account from cancelling
- Your boss didn't recognize you for the revenue-generating project you spent months leading
- No one on your team collaborates, instead preferring to work independently and in a silo
- Overtime is often expected, and it comes at the expense of missing important family events
Why are some situations bigger triggers than others?
This is where values come in.
Our values are our personal bottom line.
They are our parameters for decision making and the principles by which we operate (I wish I could take credit for this line, but it's from The Leadership Challenge, which every manager should read).
When we don't know our values, we say things like "I'm unhappy at work but I can't pinpoint why" or "I don't know what would make me happy." We wallow in self-pity because we aren't empowered to change the situation. We job hop because we can't define exactly what we want, but maybe the next job has it. Guess what? It never does.
When we consciously know our values and someone acts with low integrity, or we don't feel needed and appreciated, or don't feel like part of the team, we can pinpoint exactly what's wrong.
Knowing personal values can help articulate why we stay (or leave) a job. It improves communication with our manager about how we want to grow (or explain why we don't want that promotion, because not everyone values growth). It identifies what we will (and won't) put up with at work.
There are a lot of great online resources to help determine personal values. A favorite of mine is from MindTools and can be found here. After going through this exercise, code each value with either a red, yellow, or green highlighter:
- Red - this value is not being met and probably will never be
- Yellow - this value is not being met but there's hope
- Green - this value is being met
Then, let it marinate.
Why do you stay at your job? Why are you happy? Or are you unhappy? Why did <insert latest annoying behavior from a colleague here> get under your skin so much last week?
Let your values be your guide.