It’s June 1st, 2020. About this time last Monday evening, four Minneapolis police officers calmly murdered George Floyd in broad daylight. (I’m not going to provide a link because it is nearly impossible that you haven’t heard this news.) Protests and widespread unrest have captured our attention 24/7 since that day.
In my conversations with friends & colleagues over the last week, everyone acknowledges that something feels different this time. Different than Ferguson, different than Charlottesville, different than Baltimore. Our future as a nation feels more uncertain than ever.
We can’t know what the coming weeks & months will hold, but we do know it is critically important to examine our beliefs and our values. Last month, we noticed many of our fellow humans talked about the internal conflict they experience as a result of needing to separate their professional and personal lives. That approach seems less tenable than ever. So, this month we ask you:
What does it look like to go to work with your values intact?
Leave us a comment. 300 words or less. Speak from your heart.
4 thoughts on “Revolution is in the Air”
Maybe I am unclear by the question/prompt, but I can’t remember ever being in a place where I did not have my values intact at work. At least since I have done more professional-oriented work.
When I worked at a grocery store for nearly 11 years as I worked through high school and college, I had to be cautious about my values that conflicted with the corporate culture that was abusive to me and other employees. Expressing or acting upon my values would potentially lead to punishment or termination of my employment.
This is nothing new for anyone who is oppressed. When interacting with oppressors you HAVE to sublimate your values in favor of personal safety. Often it’s easy to think of my relative safety in expressing my views, and forget that not everyone has that privilege.
The one exception – when the oppression and violence toward you reaches the point where resistance becomes directly more important for your survival than sublimation.
This has always been true for victims of intimate partner violence, who are often blamed for “not leaving” as well as for resistive violence against their oppressive and violent partners. This has always been true for victims of racial violence, who are often blamed for not being peaceful or not taking the “higher ground” or are stereotyped for certain things that are used to justify the violence against them. They are blamed for fighting for their survival, when people in places of privilege have never had to sublimate themselves. It’s always socially acceptable to fit into the status quo, because that benefits oppressors.
If you have to sublimate your values at work, that might provide a place for reflection about you and your values, or about the environment in which you work.
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I’ve been wondering lately whether it might be easier for some of us who hold certain privileges (particularly in race (white), gender (male), sexual orientation (heterosexual), etc.) to navigate the world without critically examining personal values because those values are normalized through the society we live in. For those of us who hold more privileges than others, do our values “mirror” the general values of society? Perhaps this might help explain why confronting one’s privileges is so difficult, because part of it might mean examining one’s values and how they might be at odds from that of society’s general values or how they might not be the values one actually wants to have personally. Based on what cmhall8 mentioned in their previous comment, this might be true and worth exploring. Particularly useful to explore given our relative privilege of evaluators compared to the stakeholders/organizations we work with (i.e., we hold a lot of power as evaluators in the evaluation process).
Personally, I think it would be a useful exercise to critically examine my values and the principles I hold critically important. I think of a colleague who is explicit about their values/principles on their website, and I believe that would be the first step before seeing how they manifest in our work or how we “go to work with your values intact.” More importantly, given our profession’s focus on values–and our understanding of how stakeholder values interact with the evaluation process–it is critical we also examine our own values and they interact with the evaluation and stakeholders’ values. So before I can even answer your prompt, I will be spending time critically examining and writing down my own values so that I may examine how I stay true to them in my work.
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Thank you for this invitation to reflect.
I appreciate the use of the word “intact”. To me, it suggests that going to work can threaten or damage our values, which makes sense considering our personal values interact and develop in response to our environment. So, for me, going to work with my values intact means protecting the integrity of my values and reflecting them in my work, even if they are challenged by others. But clearly, that’s easier said than done.
I’ve been fortunate in my young career to mostly be around workspaces, co-workers, clients, etc. whose values align, or at least do not harshly oppose, my own. But there have still been times where I’ve let my values fall by the wayside. I can think of a time when, despite valuing responsivity and relationships, I failed to communicate evaluation findings to important stakeholder groups. I let a condensed timeline get in the way. There have also been small wins – valuing honesty and integrity, I’ve voiced my concern when a senior colleague asked me to ‘skip over’ unfavourable data for a stakeholder meeting. We ended up with wording that we were both happy with. But I’m still learning how to better ensure that my values hold at work.
Privilege is top of mind right now given current events, and it’s definitely been a barrier for me in upholding values at work. Dana touched on this already, but I’ll say too that growing up as a white, cis-gender male from a middle-class family, I never had to fight for my values or my needs. And I think I became pretty complacent from it. So, part of me going to work with values intact is continuously self-monitoring and reflecting on how I’m addressing this complacency and privilege and how to do better.
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I am struck by what danawanzer stated above: “Perhaps this might help explain why confronting one’s privileges is so difficult, because part of it might mean examining one’s values and how they might be at odds from that of society’s general values or how they might not be the values one actually wants to have personally.” When working for other organizations, it was always part of orientation to learn the organization’s values. Then there would always come a time when actions within the organization didn’t align with the supposed values and though it would get brought up, nothing would be done. I always felt powerless in these situations so when I started my own business, I felt strongly that my values would need to be a part of the business. Over the last six months, I have mapped these out and given them as part of presentations and in doing so, always felt very vulnerable because they were so personal to me as the sole proprietor of a business. It has been interesting to reflect on how starting a business has encouraged me going to work with my values intact. In some ways this has felt empowering. I also recognize the privilege I have in being new to the work of examining my values and how they interact with work. Thank you for the opportunity to reflect.
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