Giving Voice to Our Values the thought experiment Fundamental premise of many Eastern philosophies and martial arts is to move with one’s momentum and energy, rather than fight against them. The approach to voicing and acting on our values described in these pages a attempts to build on that same principle.
Rather than taking a preaching stance wherein we might try to count- term temptations with all the moral reasons why we should behave ethically, or taking a persuasive stance wherein we might counter those same temptations with all the Para- tactical arguments for ethical behavior, the approach here is to take an enabling stance. We try to identify both the times when we already want to act in accordance with our highest moral values and also the reasons why we feel that way, and then we focus on building the iconic- dance and skills and the scripts that enable us to do so effectively and with the least amount of angst.
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Rather than pushing or pulling ourselves into values-based AC- Zion, we try to grease the skids that might carry us there. One way that we try to work with personal omen- Tums, rather than fight against it, is by framing our disc- 1 Copyrighted Material Giving Voice to Our Values cushion here as a thought experiment. We are invited to consider how we might voice and act on our values if we were going to do so. In this way, we sidestep all the pre- emotive arguments and rationalizations that pop up naturally, about how difficult or even impossible it may be to do so.
We create a safe and enabling space, if you will, for experimentation and creative thinking. In the service of creating that safe space, we try to be explicit about as many of the working assumptions that underlie this approach to enabling values-based AC- Zion as possible. These assumptions are intended as the foundation for an exploratory rather than coercive stance. This explicit naming of our assumptions allows for a kind of informed consent at best, or at least for a Provo- signal consent as we embark upon this experiment.
Even if we are not entirely certain that we accept all of the as- assumptions, this provisional consent provides room for us to act as if we did, and to see where they might take us, thereby freeing us up to create scripts and implemental- Zion plans for values-driven actions that we might never otherwise develop. Then when we are faced with the AC- tall excision to act on our values, we will at least have a well-developed strategy to consider. In this way, the De- fault of non-action, or of Just going along with the course of least resistance, will have a worthy counter position.
So in the service of this informed or provisional consent, let’s consider the starting assumptions for Give- inning Voice to Values. These are twelve assumptions, or give- Copyrighted Material Giving Voice to Our Values 3 en’s, that form the story line behind this approach to values-driven action. Assumption One: I want to voice and act upon my values. As discussed in the Introduction, the fundamental as- assumption is that most of us want to find ways to voice and act on our values in the workplace, and to do so fee- get stuck on the idea that even if we want to act ethically, we assume that many others do not.
Therefore we conclude that our efforts will be for naught and, what’s more, that we will likely pay a price for trying. But why do we always focus on the folks who do not want to behave ethically? If we start instead from the premise that most of us would like to behave in accordance with our values, then it becomes less important whether everyone does so. Instead we only need “Just enough” folks to share this position; it becomes simply a matter of critical mass. It is a glass-half- empty or half-full kind of issue.
By starting from the assumption that most folks do want to voice and act on their best values, we begin to create that very possibility, because we eliminate one of the conclusions that prevent us from Joining this group. (We are putting aside for a moment the question of Copyrighted Material 4 Giving Voice to Our Values which values we, or others, want to voice and act upon. That question is addressed in Chapter 2. Another objection to this first assumption may be the protestation: “But I might not want to act on my highest values in all situations! However, Just because an idea may not always be true does not mean it is never true. For the purpose of this thought experiment, we suppose that there are many times when we would in- deed like to voice and act on our values, and by enabling that choice and learning to do so effectively, we are likely to expand the frequency of this choice. It becomes a gene- nine and even a realistic option for us. Assumption Two: I have voiced my values, at some points in my past.
Even though research and our own experiences reveal many individual and organizational inhibitors, most Poe- pile have in fact chosen to voice and act on their values on some occasions. In conversations and interviews with managers at all levels of organizations and in the class- rooms where this approach has been discussed, we have yet to find anyone who cannot think of times both when they have and when they have not done so. Typically this realization leads to a conclusion that no one is truly teeth- cal.
What if, as part of our thought experiment, we turned this around and concluded that no one is truly unethical? This conclusion can then be the foundation for building Copyrighted Material Giving Voice to Our Values 5 the muscle for more frequent and more effective values- driven actions. Assumption Three: I can voice my values more often and more effectively. We have the potential to expand our capacity, our effect- tipsiness, and our likelihood to voice and act on our vale- uses by acknowledging that we have such a choice, and by practicing what we would say and do if we made that choice.
The working metaphor for the Giving Voice to Vale- uses approach to values conflicts is that of an individual learning a new hysterical skill or sport. Not being an tat- Leticia type myself, I did once take a class in self-defense a number of years ago. The course was called Model Mug- king, and the idea was that instead of simply learning the basic self-defense moves (fist to bridge of nose, heel to instep, knee to groin, and so on), we would also have the opportunity to experience the feel of a full-on blow did- erected at an instructor who was dressed in an entirely padded suit, like the Michelin Man.
In this way, the stub- dents could practice delivering the various self-defensive moves full force, rather than simply alkali about what action was called for or miming the moves in the air without the in a support- Eve environment, we would have a chance to practice AP- Copyrighted Material 6 Giving Voice to Our Values plying them during a simulated full-speed “attack” as well, with the same padded instructor.
The thinking and research behind this several-stage approach was that muscle memory is linked to both the experience of full-force contact as well as the heightened emotional state of the simulated engagement, and there- fore, even if our brains are frozen or reacting slowly, our bodies would remember how to respond if e encounter- tired that same emotional state again in an actual real- time situation. There are several interesting aspects to this AP- approach.
Before engaging in the simulated attack, we first had to master the actual physical movements by breaking them down into their components and practicing them repeatedly, with full-force impact and with encourage- meet and feedback on our form. This is similar to the way a student of tennis or golf or any other sport might learn and practice the different strokes and positions and build the requisite muscle groups, as preparation or put- ting them together in actual play, or the way a musician practices playing or singing scales before attempting a complex musical composition.
Switch,thepremiseisthatvalues-transcripts and actions are a competency that can be learned, and that it is learned by both breaking it down into its com- opponent parts and by practicing the application of those componentsвЂ”scripts and action plansвЂ”in cooperative and lower-stress situations.
Both the cognitive aspects of the processвЂ”analyzing the arguments and creating fee- Copyrighted Material Giving Voice to Our Values 7 active scriptsвЂ”as well as the experiential aspectsвЂ”actually saying the words in concert with peers who stand in as prop- sees for eventual workplace colleaguesвЂ”are essential. In this way, we build the muscle and the muscle memory so that the approach will come more naturally and skillfully when we encounter actual values conflicts in real time.
Some might argue that this is simply an example of traditional role playing in the service of learning. On the contrary, although there is a value in the use of role playing, if we are immediately placed in a situation where we must ice our values in the face of an adversary who is primed to argue vehemently against our position, we may find ourselves unintentionally reinforcing those same anxieties and that same pessimism about our chances at success that we are trying to counter.
For example, too often participants in a role play of a values conflict will demonstrate their political astuteness, their savvy, and their experience with the so- called real world of business by assuming a skeptical, if not cynical, stance, pointing out all the reasons why a defense of ethical values is not realistic or practical. Such ole plays tend to send the signal that values-based actions are naive, at best.
However, if instead of adversarial role plays, we Cree- ate opportunities to practice our arguments in front of peers who assume the role of “coaches,” we can work co- operatively and constructively to simultaneously rein- force the best of our arguments, to revise the weakest of our arguments, and to experience the physical and memo- action act of voicing these arguments in public. Copyrighted Material 8 Giving Voice to Our Values unintended negative rein- forewomen of our own best intentions, they would be used only after we have first taken the time to craft and actually practice speaking our positions in a collaborator- dive context.
Assumption Four: It is easier for me to voice my values in some contexts than others. Developing the “muscle” for voicing our values does not diminish the importance of selecting and developing or- generational cultures and policies and incentives that en- courage such choices. In fact, our effort to promote the development of such cultures, policies, and incentives is, in itself, an instance of voicing values. And the more such organizational enablers are in place, he more likely it is that individuals will choose to voice their values.
It is a kind of virtuous circle. This is an important part of the puzzle, for there is much research that examines the impact for good or ill of organizational contexts that enable or disable “dissent” and that focus on narrowly defined versus broadly De- fined performance goals. We will discuss examples of this in subsequent chapters, but the important point here is to recognize that although the emphasis of the GO AP- approach is on the individual and his or her abilities and choices, the organization and its impact are not over- Copyrighted Material
Giving Voice to Our Values 9 looked. Although GO is an individual strategy, individual- LULAS operate within organizations that can limit or en- hence the options available to address values conflicts. Focusing on organizational pressures and norms is, again, not a reason to avoid voicing our values but rather another opportunity to airframe our choices and act on our values, this time by actually addressing the organize- action context itself.
As we will see, sometimes individual- alas can more effectively address values conflicts in the workplace by talking about what discourages ethical AC- Zion and engaging leagues in addressing those factors than by tackling the issue head-on. This becomes a kind of Jujitsu move, where colleagues are engaged in “fixing” the organization in such a fashion that, by the way, ad- dresses the values conflict itself. An example of this is when individuals focus on changing financial incentives and reporting systems that may not only enable, but also encourage, distortions in an organization’s internal AU- dining.
Looking for ways to fix the system in the service of more accurate planning and forecasting, along the way, addresses the distortions in reporting integrity. Assumption Five: I am more likely to voice my values if I have practiced how to respond to frequently encountered conflicts. There are certain frequently heard “reasons and rational- actions” for not voicing and acting on our values. But Copyrighted Material 10 Giving Voice to Our Values there are also possible responses or reframing that we can use to counter these reasons and rationalizations.
If we familiarize ourselves with these responses in advance, we are more likely to be able to access them when needed and potentially shift a conversation or change a mind. This is especially true when we begin to see hat the types of reasons that we hearвЂ”and even offer ourselvesвЂ”for not voicing our values tend to fall into a set of recognize- able and limited categories, and therefore the levers for responding to them, or entirely recasting them, are Simi- Larry recognizable and consequently learnable. Prior reflection on responses to values given decision situation.
That is, if we be- come “fluent” in ways to address the defenses of less than ethical behaviors, we will find ourselves more easily and more automatically doing so. Rather than experiencing that deer-in-headlights feeling hen we confront values conflicts, our muscle memory can kick in and the memo- seasonality of the moment is reduced. I learned this lesson firsthand a number of years ago. While teaching at the Harvard Business School, I launched a research and course development project on Managing Diversity in the mid-sass.
There was no other course on the subject at the school then, but I had both an intellectual as well as a personal interest in purr- suing this work. For a variety of reasons having to do with my own experiences and those of people I knew, I had always experienced significant discomfort when I Copyrighted Material Giving Voice to Our Values 11 witnessed unfairness or undeserved bias toward school or professional colleagues. Rather than anger toward the offender, however, I would tend to feel guilty and angry at myself for not being confident enough or skillful enough to counter the situation.
At some level, I believe I felt that the experience of researching, constructing, and teaching a course on diversity might enable me to learn how to handle such situations myself, even as I was try- inning to teach others. Although teaching the course was a very positive experience for me, at the end of the two years I felt that, sadly, I as no closer to that elusive sense of bulletproof confidence and skill that I believed I needed to be able to speak up when I witnessed unfairness in my professional life.
I moved on to other projects. Less than a year later, however, while working as a consultant, I was led to areas- sees the impact of the diversity research and teaching I had done. Two situations in particular caught me up short. In the first instance, my team was presenting a new piece of work to a potential client. The representative from the client’s firm was making small talk at the start of our meeting, and he engaged to make several Joking but disparaging comments based on ethnic and class stereotypes.
Although the comments were not specific- calla directed at me or any of my team membersвЂ”who were racially diverse and included my boss as well as seven- real more Junior managersвЂ”I was concerned about the tone that we set for our ongoing working relationship. I Copyrighted Material 12 Giving Voice to Our Values didn’t really think about it but I Just heard myself sue- getting, with calm but pointed good humor, that perhaps we should turn to topics about which we all were more informed.
There was a palpable sense of relief among my colleagues, especially the more Junior ones, and the CLC- .NET, unfounded, good-naturally turned to a more AP- appropriate topic. I was relieved, both because I did not want to lose the client but also because I did not want to bond with him on the basis of discriminatory humor. In the second instance, I recognized that the senior member of my consulting team had made some incorrect and negative assumptions about the writing ability of the sole African-American Junior member of our group.
I don’t believe this manager was intentionally biased, but his unconscious conclusion was barring the Junior cool- league from a plum assignment. I found myself in a car with this senior manager, and when the subject came up, I simply explained how impressed I was with the result, the Junior consultant received an attractive writing project, and I had the opportunity to work closely with him and benefit personally and profess- signally from the association. I mention these two examples neither because I be- live I handled them flawlessly nor to argue that I always counter bias when I see it.
I still struggle tit my desire to avoid conflict and with a certain natural reticence. However, I did manage to shift the behaviors and IM- pacts on my peers in these two situations (not that I have Copyrighted Material Giving Voice to Our Values 13 any illusions that I actually changed the attitudes of the client in the first example). And I did so with a mini- mum of stress and hand-wringing on my own part. In fact, in both instances, I heard myself making comments that I would never have made prior to my diversity course.
In fact, in the past, I would have felt horrible about both situations but would have likely remained tongue-tied. I have concluded that the experience of researching and talking about the many ways that discrimination and bias can occur in professional contexts, and especially the identification of the many arguments against this type of bias and the many ways of responding to these situations, had had a profound impact on me. Not only had I seen how common such situations are, but I had also Para- diced, unwittingly, all the ways that one might respond.
I was not shaken or put off my game when the circus- stances arose. I was able to react calmly, thereby without signaling to my audiences that this was a difficult” situ- action or that they were somehow “bad” people. The re- sponges were fact-based, good-natured, and appropriate to the context. Had I been taken off guard or less pre- pared, I would likely have telegraphed more stress, memo- Zion, and blame. But the funny part was, I had not known that I was so prepared until I was in these situations! So I revisited my assessment of the value of my research and discussions of diversity.
I believe it was more effect- dive than I had recognized. It was, in fact, a kind of pre- scripting. Copyrighted Material 14 Giving Voice to Our Values Assumption Six: My example is powerful. Just as we ourselves would like to be able to voice and act on our values, we can assume that many of our colleagues would as well. If we can demonstrate credible responses to frequently heard reasons for not voicing and acting on our values, we may encourage and empower others to Join us. An undergraduate business student I interviewed was working in a plum internship doing research for a consulting firm.
When her boss told her to lie about who she was to gain intelligence from a competitor, she ex- planned that she didn’t want to do so but that she would work to gather comparable information in other ways. Her boss, unconvinced by her ethical arguments, never- toeless indulged her alternative plan, and through hard work, the intern was able to generate a credible report without misrepresenting herself. It might be argued that she had had a very limited impact on the firm; after all, her boss was not likely to change his behavior going for- ward.
However, the intern reported that later she was surprised and pleased to see that other interns began coming to her, asking how she managed to complete her task without deception because they, too, wanted to take that road. Whether the organization was changed example. Additionally, rather than walking away from this internship with only a sense of distill- sentiment at what she had learned about how this rep- Copyrighted Giving Voice to Our Values 15 table firm did business, she gained a sense of efficacy and greater confidence in her own options.
In fact, she was offered an ongoing position with the firm. Assumption Seven: Although mastering and delivering responses to frequently heard rationalizations can empower others who share my views to act, I cannot assume I know who those folks will be. The responses we develop and practice to frequently eared reasons and rationalizations for unethical behave- IRS are intended to strengthen our own confidence in voicing and acting on our values.
Additionally, this Para- twice can influence others who share our values conflict but are unable to find a way to explain their reluctance. However, we cannot assume we know who feels the con- flick and who does not simply by observing their behave- ROR because, as we have already acknowledged, we all have chosen to suppress these “felt” conflicts at some points in our past. Thus, in the example above, the business student intern might eve thought she had failed if her goal had been only to change her boss’s behavior.
However, Unix- affectedly and without her conscious intention, her be- having was noticed by some of her peers and they were influenced by her. This is important because often we can become discouraged from trying to voice our values 16 Giving Voice to Our Values because we are not certain of our ability to influence our intended audience. The thing is, we will experience more satisfaction from our efforts to voice our values if we re- main open to the possibility of unintended positive IM- pacts.
This is not to say hat we do not design our scripts and action plans with a careful eye to having a hoped-for impact on a particular audience; rather it is simply to acknowledge and value the additional or alternative POS- dive impacts we may have. The only real and ultimate control we have is over ourselves, which leads us directly to the importance of the next assumption. Assumption Eight: The better I know myself, the more I can prepare to play to my strengths and, when necessary, protect myself from my weaknesses.
The greater our self-knowledge, the more likely we are to be able to anticipate and manage our responses to values conflicts. Prior reflection on our own personalities and behavioral tendencies under pressure enables us to play to our strengths: that is, to frame the challenge we face in such a way that it draws on the skills and arguments with which we feel most adept and confident. Rather than AC- accepting the challenge as it is put before us, we can take an active role in reshaping it.
This kind of self-assessment is not your typical values- Giving Voice to Our Values 17 clarification process. It is not about figuring out what is important to us; the Giving Voice to Values approach starts from the moment our values kick in. Instead this self- assessment is based on the observation that people who do act on their values often have found ways to describe the situation that give them power rather than ways as a prepare- Zion and trigger to consciously put mechanisms in place to protect us from our own weaknesses.
However, re- search tells us that often these “mechanisms” need to go beyond mere self-knowledge and become external tools (incentives, deterrents, automatic review processes, transparency requirements, practicalities networks of sounding boards, et cetera). Our own internal awareness of our biases and tendencies is important but not enough to prevent us from falling ere to them: we need to go beyond awareness to active preparation for values- based decision making, a preparation that includes the script- inning and action planning that GO encourages.
Assumption Nine: I am not alone. When we encounter values conflicts in the workplace, often we feel isolated and personally at risk. We may assume that our peers will not share our concern, or that to raise the issue will polarize our colleagues or expose us to greater pressure and vulnerability. This may actually be true. How- Copyrighted Material 18 Giving Voice to Our Values ever, interviews with individuals who have voiced their vale- uses in such situations veal that, in most cases, they did find and rely upon some form of external support system.
The challenge is to identify whom to speak with and for which purposes. There are many different sources of support, both inside and outside organizations, and there are many ways of gathering support, some more direct than others. We can utilize our personal support networks (family, friends outside the organization) as sounding boards; we can reach out to our colleagues in the firm to build a coalition of allies or to gather sup- porting information; and we can engage in strategic use of the managerial hierarchy.
However, we must consider carefully which approach is most appropriate in a par- testicular situation, keeping in mind the implications not only for ourselves and the challenge we face, but also for the individuals we engage. The examples discussed here show different ways that individuals countered the ten- Denny to feel isolated. Assumption Ten: Although I may not always succeed, voicing and acting on my values is worth doing. When pursuing our values, Just as with any other man- serial action, we do not always succeed at what we set out to achieve, et that does not necessarily prevent us and others from taking action.
There are no guarantees or Copyrighted Material Giving Voice to Our Values 19 reckless action plans, around voicing values or anything else, and GO does not claim that there are. Rather than backing off from our values because we can’t muster the words or the strategies in the moment, and rather than rashly voicing values in ways that belie the management sophistication and interpersonal insight we would exhibit in a less charged situation, GO is about providing the pop- opportunity to hone and reactive our approach, such that we feel greater confidence and can behave more skillfully.
In this way, the goal is to increase the likelihood of success. Additionally, we are more likely to voice our values if we have decided that the costs of not doing so, and the benefits of trying, are important enough to us that we would pursue them even though we cannot be certain of success in advance. In order to get to this place of clarity, we need to spend some serious time thinking about our own identity, our personal and professional purpose, and our definition of success and failure.
We will fleet clear-eyed upon the risks associated with voicing our values, so that we can be prepared to handle the possible implications. Assumption Eleven: Voicing my values leads to better decisions. It is often difficult to be certain that a specific course of action is “right” or “wrong,” but we are more likely to Copyrighted Material 20 Giving Voice to Our Values come to the best decision if we feel empowered to voice our concerns about values conflicts and discuss them with others.
In fact, one of the most common objections to the idea of voicing and acting on our values is the con- CERN that we may be wrong, hat our values might spring from a place of self-righteousness or incomplete under- standing. And of course, this is a valid concern. Unfortunately, too often this concern serves to is- lance us, preventing us from sharing our perspectives be- cause we assume that they are not valid.
If, however, we learn to examine our values-based position in depth and from multiple perspectives, as the GO approach out- lines, we not only will become more adept at presenting our values-based position, but we will also be testing it against the views of others and supporting it with the necessary information. Our own position will become richer. In addition, even if in the end we conclude that our going-in position was incorrect, the process of analyzing and sharing our concerns can improve our organize- action decision-making process.
In fact, one of the less- sons shared by the individuals interviewed for GO is that decisions are often improved if we do not assume that managerial directives are final and unquestionable, but rather view them as simply opening hypotheses. Take- inning this view can also help us to present our views with the calm confidence that comes room the belief that we are adding value by doing so. Copyrighted Material Giving Voice to Our Values 21 Assumption Twelve: The more I believe it’s possible to voice and act on my values, the more likely I will be to do so.
We are more likely to voice and act on our values when we believe it is possible to do so, and to do so effectively. If we pay attention to positive examples of such voice and action and spend time developing support Mecca- minims and practicing the development and delivery of responses to frequently heard reasons and rationalize- actions for unethical actions, we can expand our sense of what’s possibleвЂ”another virtuous circle. On the other hand, if we focus most of our time and attention identifying and bemoaning all the ways in which we are discouraged from voicing our values, we will be reinforcing that process.
This is not only common sense; increasingly it is a phenomenon supported by re- search in the fields of positive psychology as well as the cognitive neuroscience. L In fact, the GO approach described in these pages is more than a set of insights and tools that we can learn to apply; the very act of reading and reflecting upon all the ways that looks have voiced and can act on their vale- uses can change the way we experience reality. That is, rather than proving that we can act on our values, we are simply making it true.
And we do this by reframing the question from “whether to voice our values” to “how can we voice our values? ” Copyrighted Material 22 Giving Voice to Our Values Having now familiarized ourselves with the work- inning assumptions behind the GO thought experiment, it becomes important to ask: “What are our reactions to these informed, or at least a Provo- signal, consent to the GO project, then it becomes IM- orator not only to name and define these underlying assumptions, but also to reflect on both our resonances with them as well as our reservations or objections to them.
We might consider: A