How to Uncover Positive Shadow Values
How do we know if we have positive shadow values? Really, the only way is to talk to your team members.
- Ask for stories about when they’ve been most proud to work for the organisation
- Provide them with a list of values and ask them to tick what they think best describes the business
- Use anonymous staff surveys and ask questions around ethics and behaviours.
- Look at psychological safety and how do you embed that into your organisation
Ask for stories about when they’ve been most proud to work for the organisation
There are lots of resources on Google’s Rework website to help team members bring up ideas and issues, problems and mistakes. Of course, this all takes time. In the meantime, while we’re working through those processes, how can we encourage conversations about values and behaviours? The way to approach this is to show by doing. Behaviour speaks much louder than words.
Although you should be speaking about the positive shadow values and acknowledging any negative issues, you must gain commitment from the leadership of the business to change behaviours.
Dealing with Negative Shadow Values
If you have a larger organisation you may embark on an internal campaign, or in smaller organisations it may be the Founder or CEO speaking to all the employees at a team meeting. Either way, the purpose is to explain that the behaviour that was occurring is not acceptable. It should say, we’ve taken this action to send a really strong signal that we’re not that kind of business anymore. And this is what we value, this is how you go ahead with whistleblowing.
However, if the management of the organisation, the leadership teams, are not demonstrating the behaviours that they’re talking about in those comms, no one’s going to believe it.
Behaviour is very important. And it’s important to get all of the leadership team and all the managers in your organisation on board to demonstrate that behaviour.
We need to listen when people are speaking, and we need to encourage them to speak up. I once overheard a manager say to an employee, ‘but what did you do that for?’. Using that kind of language i’s immediately judgmental, it puts the person on the defensive.
It’s far better to say, ‘can you tell me a bit more about that? I didn’t know that that was occurring.’ It’s quite different. Sometimes it is really just about being aware of our language, as well as a way to encourage people to speak up.
It’s important not to walk past unacceptable behaviour. If we see something, then we do something about it, if it doesn’t match with our company values. And often in workplace behaviour investigations such as around bullying, the person who’s been complained about is completely blindsided.
In many cases, this is because the behaviour has been left unchecked. People will just say, ‘Oh, it’s only so and so, it’s just the way that they are’. And the person has no idea that their behaviour isn’t acceptable. Until one day, someone says, ‘enough is enough’ and puts a complaint in.