Wednesday, November 4, 2015

The Correct Interpretation of Core Values

By definition, the core values of an organization refer to the set of rules according to which the organization operates. Some of these rules evolve with time while others are put forward at the foundation of the organization itself. An organization is usually expected to abide by its core values at all times. However, is it always possible to do so?

If we consider the example of Oxfam America, we can see that it “believes in achieving diversity and gender balance at every decision-making, policy making, and operational level of Oxfam America;” The ideology that defines this principle is, no doubt, honourable. However, if a situation arises where all the decisions taken by OA go wrong, what should OA do? Of course, the right thing to do is to first evaluate the decisions and explore what exactly went wrong. But what if a clear disconnect between the opinions of the senior management and the employees is evident? What if this 'disconnect' appears to be the real reason why everything is failing and one of the parties is clearly wrong?

Let us consider the issue pointed out by a senior manager at Oxfam about their information system being insufficient to handle their information processing needs. The manager tried to make a point that the lack of expertise of the junior staff led to this failure. It does appear that if the senior management had just considered an expert’s opinion instead of the majority’s opinion, they could have saved a good amount of money as well as energy. Would it have been correct if they would have gone against the core values of the organization and overruled the majority’s decisions?

No, it would not have been correct.

The reason why this would have been incorrect is because it would have made many of the employees feel betrayed. Many of them probably joined OA in the first place because they felt that their views would be respected in such a place.

So what should senior management do while taking a decision? I believe that, again, they should stick to their core values! The principle allows for “diversity and gender balance”, which includes senior management as well. If the senior management cannot overrule the employees’ opinions, the same is applicable to the employees as well. A more integrative approach is advisable when a decision has to be taken. It is best to take into account everyone’s opinions, evaluate their pros and cons and try to find the most efficient solution. It is similar to a teacher - student relationship where a teacher allows a student to have an opinion but corrects him/her when he/she is wrong. This allows both the student as well as the teacher to learn.


It is, thus, necessary to first correctly interpret the core values of an organization and then follow them. They serve as building blocks that define the organization and often lead to their success. If the organization chooses to not follow them, it loses its identity.

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