Value-driven job advertisements can come out as a little cheesy. Ads that gush about the corporate culture and emphasize the benefits of cultural fit and values have definitely made me smirk. Like, I’m applying to work for you, not dating you, right? But despite the self-parodying emphasis some firms place on culture above skill, culture and values do important. A lot. The last thing you need is a group of new hires who are uneasy with everyone else. Alternately, you don’t want your current employees to intimidate or exclude your talented new hires.
Why It’s So Important that Employees Share Your Values
But the value of values and cultural fit extends beyond the workplace. Employees shouldn’t be expected to live their whole lives in service of the firm, but it is reasonable to assume that they won’t harass women at networking events, pretend to be a racist internet troll in private, or behave badly on Facebook. Whether you (or they) want it to or not, when employees act badly in public—especially when that behavior involves discrimination against marginalized people—it reflects back on the company.While it’s not always possible to fire someone for being a jerk, it is possible to fire someone for being a monster on social media or in a semi-professional setting. Additionally, as a company, you can define your values and explain why they are so important right away.
An event involving the Canadian Forces earlier this month is what led me to thinking about this. Five service men who interfered with a Mi’kmaq ritual in Halifax, Nova Scotia, required a public apology.
The celebration was intended to draw attention to Cornwallis, the first governor of the city, who in 1749 issued a bounty on the Mi’kmaq people. Cornwallis is now recognized as one of the city’s founding fathers. Mi’kmaq protestors wanted to change the discussion surrounding him and other historical figures since the work he did to create Halifax was based on murder. Five service personnel who were also a part of the Proud Boys, a “alt lite” white supremacy organization created in Canada last year but with sizable chapters all throughout the US, went up to protest the protest, which led to the disruption of that event.
Those five service members will be facing “severe consequences” for their actions, possibly even dismissal.
Of course the incident sparked debate all over the country and even in the U.S. Is it ok for employers to censure or fire employees for sharing “controversial” views in public? Should members of the military be allowed a little more leeway in how they present themselves?
In a statement right after the incident, General Jonathan Vance, chief of defence staff, said that “we are the nation’s protectors, and any member of the Canadian Armed Forces who is not prepared to be the defender we need them to be will face severe consequences, including release from the forces.” All members of the Canadian Armed Forces are expected to protect all Canadians, regardless of their personal politics, and to honour the uniform even when they aren’t wearing – that has always been part of the job, and it’s a policy that I think serves the forces well. Unlike my job (or probably yours), being a member of the Armed Forces is a pure public service occupation and you really do represent the uniform at all times.
But that’s not so different from the private sector, is it? Of course I’m not out there everyday repping Workology but public outbursts of nastiness do reflect on my employer and her judgement. They make you wonder what it’s really like at that company. How sincere that corporate values statement is. How much they really care about you as a customer or client. And these questions, these inevitable hits to your employer brand, reveal why it’s not just about the worst case scenario; it’s not just a public blowup that you should be concerned about. When your employees cause people (customers or colleagues) to question your sincerity as a leader or that of the organization of a whole, I think that reveals a weakness that’s worth examining.
Why was that problem employee welcomed in the first place? Are they really so essential that their bad behaviour can be excused?