5 Common Myths About Organizational Values

3 min read
Nov 6, 2014

Screen_Shot_2014-11-06_at_8.10.27_PMGood ol’ organizational values. We hear about them a ton, and we think we know what they are. But stop for just one second. If you had to recite your organizational values at this moment in time, could you? Our research finds that more than 50% have no idea what they are. Most likely, you and your employees are part of that group.

There are so many myths running around about them and we’re here to call them out.

Myth 1: You can post them on the wall and walk away.

Think about what’s on the wall in your workplace. A clock, a painting, maybe an exit sign. You don’t know, do you? No one really notices what’s in their surrounding environment. And the more frequently someone passes something, the less likely he or she is to take notice of it.

Affixing your values to the wall is really just a throw away. You may be able to put a check on your to-do list, but you haven’t really allowed your values to permeate your organization.

Myth 2: You never have to talk about them.

Out of sight, out of mind. Or should I say out of discussion, out of mind? If you never talk about your values, no one will even know they exist.

Start with the decision-making process in your organization. What benchmarks or standards do you use to make those decisions? Values are actually a great standard to use. Let’s say you’re deciding whether or not to make a change to your invoicing process. A few customers have made this request, but it’s a hassle to execute. If one of your values is “Delight our customers,” then you seriously consider making the change. This choice, after all, conforms with your values.

Actively talking about your values brings them to life. And it actually makes decision-making a heck of a lot easier too.

Myth 3: You don’t have to think about them during the hiring process.

Imagine the most skilled developer you’ve ever met walks through your door and wants a job...but he’s anti-social and can barely handle a conversation. Do you give him an offer?

If you don’t care about your culture or your values, sure, go right ahead. But if one of your core values is “Increase communication with open engagement,” (which is one of our core values) you should think twice. If you want people to live up to your values, you need to probe for those values during the interview process. And if a job candidate doesn’t live up to them, put him on the chopping block.

Myth 4: They’re fluffy and offer no real bottom line value.

This is just plain wrong, and we have evidence to back it up. Parnassus Investments created The Workplace Fund, a fund comprised of American firms proven to be outstanding places to work. The fund has consistently offered strong returns. More remarkably, during the height of the Great Recession, The Workplace Fund generated 10.81% returns vs. 3.97% for the S&P 500 Index.

Jerome Dodson, founder of Parnassus, explains this phenomenon better than we ever could in a recent interview. "I think what happens when you have a contented workplace, people are willing to put out more effort to improve operations during really difficult times. While I think every organization has their ups and downs, the downs are not as pronounced because everybody pulls together to try to get through the crisis. And, of course, this consistently more engaged performance inevitably reveals itself in the firm’s bottom line."

Take heed you culture and value naysayers. Values matter!

Myth 5: Job candidates don’t really care about them

In today’s increasingly Millennial-filled workplaces, this couldn’t be more wrong. According to the Cone Millennial Cause Study, 79% of Millennials want to work for a company that cares about a bottom line other than profit, such as social responsibility or sustainability. And 78% believe companies have a responsibility for making a difference in the world.

Your job candidates really do care about your values. They’re looking for them on your website, and will likely ask about them during the interview.  Don’t you want to have a solid answer?


Organizational values are a living, breathing thing. Feed them and nurture them, and your team will embrace them. You’ll find candidates are easier to hire, employees will be more engaged, and your bottom line will actually improve.

But if you ignore them, they will wither and die....and so will your company culture.



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