About a week ago, I met a long-time friend who works for a local human rights NGO. He looked really upset and admitted with regret he was disillusioned as, he explained: ‘…in our organisation, staff is estimated at20 people;50 % of them are trainees working without contracts… For over 5 years, many of them have not had social security, and in terms of salaries, payment is delayed 2 out of every 3 months, although our cash flow is regular… This situation appals me all the more because our internal values are equity –transparency-humanity- integrity’. It made me think about how we choose our values, what we mean by them, and the importance we attach to them, be it at personal level or for our organisations. How can we be more consistent with our own values?
For me, a value is something crucial, a guideline, a compass that I preciously keep in mind. It is like my identity and allows me not to lose myself; it guides my daily choices. It is like an alarm. How have I identified my values? I became conscious of them about ten years ago, during a training session. Naming and recognizing them transported me. What are they? Integrity, respect, commitment, and humility. Integrity: righteousness. Respect: Respecting myself helps me respect others. Commitment: Staying true to my word even when difficulties arise. Humility: Letting others reveal my own qualities. These values are my compass and prevent me from doing things I could later regret. They are part of me and I try to integrate them in my daily personal and professional life.
Is it easy to be in harmony with one’s own values? I wouldn’t say so, because not everything in life is black or white. Nuances exist and they are the ones that often make us go against our own values. Greed, temptations of all kinds, the desire not to appear weak, survival and domination instinct, wavering determination, the fear of other people’s opinions. As for me, my conscience is my daily ally. It helps me ask myself questions when needed. Sometimes, we silence the voice of our conscience so that we don’t have to ask questions. Don’t we say that the babies trying to bite the breast that feeds them know that what they are doing is wrong? This applies even more to adults.
What happens, then, when like my friend, we work in an organisation that flouts its own values? Should we stay and watch things happen, complain repeatedly in the back office and risk an ulcer? Should we stay and try to get things moving at the risk of losing our job? Should be stay and try to become the boss’ stooge? Should we simply slam the door before this situation transforms us and corrupts our values? What are we ready to do in order to be consistent with our values?
What about you? Are you conscious about your values? How important are they to you? How do you integrate them into your daily life? Do you think you are consistent with your own values at personal level? At professional level?