Part 10: The Meaningful Workplace – Values Become Feelings

“Feelings” are the new “values”

“People may not remember exactly what you did, or what you said, but they will always remember how you made them feel.” – Maya Angelou

The goal of employee engagement is to drive employee attitudes, behavior, morality and ethics in such a way as to improve their productivity, morale, satisfaction and usefulness within the organization. However, many companies have struggled with converting their proclaimed “values” into compelling, work-changing experiences for their employees. 

Often, the problems have been that the values are typically expressed with meaning-neutral (if not meaningless) corporate speak or that the values aren’t of a “first order” nature (that is, they don’t touch on what truly constitutes the “good” for people inside and outside the organization). 

As such, employees simply haven’t been able to internalize the values. If asked, they may be able to repeat the values verbatim, but their recitation will not be heartfelt. Furthermore, too often their conscious knowledge of the values does not lead to the desired changes in attitudes, behavior, morality and ethics.

There is a way businesses can get employees to live the company’s values. Ironically, it is by never using the word “values”. Rather, it is by bringing people to the company’s values through feelings. 

This is a new way of engaging employees in corporate values. It doesn’t ask employees to buy into potentially bland statements crafted in corporate speak. Instead, it prompts employees to think about how they want themselves, and others, to be left feeling by the business.

To make this work, the business determines a set of higher-order feelings based on their ambition. These feelings are selected based on their ability to help propel employees in their pursuit of the ambition and their ability to serve as an employee-friendly way of deploying values through employee engagement initiatives. 

The business then engages its employees around these feelings, using them to shape, change, improve and make more consistent, the employee’s attitudes, behavior, morality and ethics as it drives them forward toward the ambition.

For example, employees can be engaged in a process by which they explore how the business can better make them feel the selected feelings through changes and additions to the company policies and procedures. At the same time, employees can affect change within by questioning how they – and the policies and procedures they control – can be changed or added to in order to make their superiors, peers and reports more likely to feel the desired feelings.

By focusing on feelings rather than traditional value statements, a business instantly forges a fresh and new emotional connection with its employees. By using feelings as the platform by which it instills is values, businesses discover a better way to engage their employees and to get them to internalize both the business’s ambition (purpose) and its feelings (values).    


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