Every business or not-for-profit has its version of a value system. There are often two types of value systems—internal values to which the culture and behavior of the organization conform and external ones, which represent the unique positioning of the organization relative to its customers, clients, or members. Let’s concentrate on internal values in this article.

There are seven examples of internal values I’m most familiar with:

  1. Do your job well
  2. Take responsibility
  3. Show humility and respect
  4. Overcome challenges
  5. Know yourself
  6. Win together
  7. Have personal balance

A rather good list, right? It makes you want to be part of a business like this—especially when your personal values align with these corporate values.

Consider this interesting research on implementing corporate values from the Newport Board Group. Their research found that only 7% of corporate executives could express their own business’ values, but 86% of them expected every employee to know them. We might call that a big disconnect and a not-so-healthy environment.

Being able to learn and also accept and internalize the corporate values where you work are equally important because doing one without the other will always create a disconnect. Years ago, this reality solidified what I already knew—that I value people above processes. The CEO I worked for at the time had very different ideas and skill sets than those I had regarding how to grow a business. My ability to collaborate comes naturally because I see people as having value and worth. The CEO perceived collaboration as a threat. She thought it made it harder to hold people accountable. Instead of valuing people, she expected me to fire the bottom 10% of the workforce yearly because it fit her “good to great” approach.

This was a rift between her corporate values and my personal and professional values. It was also a rift characterized by two different world views of how to run a business versus how to treat people. My values came from the Bible. Her values came from a business book that was all the rage at the time.

I thought perhaps over time, this rift would be possible to bridge; but, as deeply seated as my values were, the CEO’s values were equally deep-seated. When she started to make her values more visible, the rift became wider, and frankly, my stress level went up accordingly.

A friend of mine who worked in human resources told me that a “values versus values” driven stress was the worst kind to have, and the only way to eliminate it was to leave the business. God gave me the same confirming message, and I never looked back. After trying your best to shape the culture you’re in and not being successful, sometimes leaving is your only option.

Is it easy for Christians in today’s workforce to stand firm in their beliefs? When you’ve been given specific skills that line up with your core values, believers can’t be disconnected from implementing what they know to be right. 1 Corinthians 15:58 encourages us to stand firm.

In the Bible, there are several verbatim passages about leaving a place when you are not supposed to be there. We are counseled to shake the dust off our feet when we leave, which means that we are not to take any of the bad experiences or rejections with us but to start fresh. This passage also implies that sometimes we just cannot connect with another person in spite of our best efforts. If you find that the values where you work or volunteer do not match yours, and you are certain you will not be able to bridge them, maybe it’s time to follow your heart and find a better environment where your God-given gifts can flourish.


Reference Readings

1 Corinthians 15:58

Therefore, dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourself fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.

Matthew 6:21

For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Luke 9:5

If people do not welcome you, shake the dust off your feet when you leave their town, as a testimony against them.