What to Do When Your Values Don't Align With Your Company's

Working for a company that has the same values you do, or at least respects your right to hold different values, can be a very big deal. The best time to think about this topic is when you’re applying for jobs.


Ask Questions

“The key is to ask good questions during your job interview,” says Sherri Thomas, CEO of Career Coaching 360 and author of "The Bounce Back" and "Career Smart." “You want to think deeply about what your values are and then frame questions during the job interview to help you get insight into whether your values would be aligned or not.”

Sample questions, Thomas says, might include: “I read on your website that the company’s mission is to value each and every patient. Can you share with me how your employees do that?” Or, “How would you describe the company’s culture and values?” Or, if you’re interviewing with the person who could be your new manager, “Would you say that your personal values align to this company’s values?”

By getting answers to those questions, you’ll have a good idea whether to continue seeking a job at that company. “One of my client’s core values is to have fun at work so she recently asked a hiring manager if he could describe a recent accomplishment from his team that how they celebrated,” Thomas says. “She realized by his less than enthusiastic response that she could never work for him and took herself out of the hiring process.”

Ignoring what your head or heart are telling you can set you up for unhappiness, and 9 to 5 will start to seem like a prison term.

“You may be able to get hired and be successful working for a company that doesn’t align to your personal values, but you’ll never be happy in your job,” Thomas says. “You’ll always be at odds with your surroundings and the people you work for. Your stomach will have a knot. You’ll feel drained and de-energized. On Sunday afternoons you’ll get depressed knowing you have to go to work the next day. You’ll detest Mondays and get sweaty palms and heart palpitations whenever you walk inside the building.”

Know your environment 

Do you value nature and the environment? If so, then you may want to think twice before applying to work at a fracking company, Thomas says. On the other hand, if you lean conservative, you might not want to sign up with a company that pushes the liberal view on every issue.

Something else to consider is that you may align with the company’s culture, but not the team’s culture within the department where you work, Thomas says. She ran into this situation earlier in her career when she landed a job in a small TV station. She dreamed of moving over to the news side and becoming a producer.

“During my first day, my boss gave me a tour of the station,” Thomas recalls. “Just as we walked into the newsroom the assignment director stood up and shouted, ‘Slaying at the courthouse. Two people dead!’ I gasped in shock just as one of the news producers yelled out, ‘Cool!’ I knew right then that everything I had worked for was never going to happen. I could never work in a television news department where my personal values were so misaligned with the team’s values.”

If you’re already in a job where the company’s values conflict with your personal values, weigh the pros and cons, Thomas says. Consider the positive things you’re getting in your current position. These could include a paycheck, a big job title, the ability to master or learn a new skill, working for a prestigious company, connecting with influential managers and leaders, growing your leadership skills and having a flexible job schedule.

Next, list the negatives, which might be the company doesn’t value the environment, my manager doesn’t respect diversity, too much stress, no work/life balance, job isn’t challenging and limited career growth.

Determine your top two or three criteria and then look at your list of positives and negatives, Thomas says. This will help you determine whether you should stay or jump ship and look for a new job.

For example, a beefy paycheck could outweigh that you’re working for a company that doesn’t value diversity. Or, having work/life balance because you’re the parent of a special needs child could outweigh that you’re working for a company that doesn’t model environmental values, she says.

There may be times in your career when you have to make hard choices because you can’t get everything you want. The key is to know what you're looking for and keep striving to find a job that matches what you need. Then you’ll be able to make smarter decisions about which company to work for, which job opportunities are best for you and where you want to invest and grow in your career.

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