Engagement in the Workplace: When Behavior Conflicts with Values.

During my 20 years of managing experience, I have learned this: Being a manager isn’t very different than being a father. Whether it’s engaging a household and empowering children, or increasing engagement in the workplace by inspiring employees – no matter how well you communicate, at some point there will be a break down in the representation of your values.


In an earlier post I expressed my family value of “Try.” I spoke about how I communicate this expectation so that my family upholds that value every day. But, what happens when they don’t? I assure you this occurs often, without fail. Whether it is because they started a new school and are being influenced by their peers, or they hit “that age” and something internal we don’t understand kicks into overdrive, inevitably their actions will fall short of the values I try to ingrain. It’s at those times that it is most important to fall back on three basic concepts – and sprinkle in a whole lot of patience.


   #1 Teach by Example


First, continue to make sure to teach by example. At home, I use every opportunity to explain how my children’s actions are good or poor examples of our value of “Try”, and its impact on our relationship. “Did you take the opportunity to retake the test you failed, if not you didn’t try”, or “Wow you picked up a new instrument and practice daily, but are struggling to mastered it. Way to Try!” If your CEO isn’t living out your company values, why would your employees? Their engagement in the workplace is strongly correlated to your leader’s alignment.


 #2 Positive Reinforcement


I look for every opportunity no matter how small, to show excitement and praise examples of “Trying”. A big thank you, a hug, a way to go, a Kudo or my personal favorite – do a little happy dance. It embarrasses her to no end, but always puts a smile on her face. And, who doesn’t love seeing their child turn red?


#3 Keep the Conversation Going


Finally, I keep the conversation going until the message is heard, understood, and put into action. It would be nice if after one lesson, our children and peers instantly understood. But the reality is, often times the individuals we are trying to imprint on or positively impact have values of their own; or worse, conflicting values of their own. That is why repetition is so important.


At this time, doing nothing is more important to my daughter than “Trying”, but it won’t always be like that. Like my parents and the parents before them will all tell you, one day my daughter will be expressing our family value of “Try” to her children (and sound like her father – I can’t wait for that day). Your employees are the same. It can be hard to help an employee understand your company values. Further, trying to grow those values into actionable decisions that align with the direction of the company can be hard. But, through leading by example, positive reinforcement, and keeping the conversation going, you are allowing a safe place for employee to try.  You are helping your employee manage the conflicts between what s/he believes, the company values, and how they act daily. That management will undoubtedly increase engagement in the workplace and individual performance.


What do you think? Are these three tips helpful in aligning your company values? Share your comments below!