Value Chain

Where are you going?

Arlo Guthrie once said if you don't know where you're going any railroad'll get you there.

The HR Practitioner needs to be clear on their personal values and take the road to cultures aligned with them in addition to being competent in the HR discipline.

What are values?

What you care about when nobody is looking. And when everybody is.


Sometimes we confuse values with morals and ethics assuming every HR person has the same core set. Not true. Ethics are mutable. Your personal set of ethics might hold that lying is in itself not wrong if it serves some greater good.

Situational ethics as they were.

Ethics are a moral code.

But values are constant. What we care about and what we still care about at the end of the day when our energy is spent. What still matters to us when everything else is done.

Your values might include developing others, egalitarianism, opening doors for the disenfranchised, honoring intelligence, attaining pre-eminence and so forth. Your values are up to you.


By default the HR pro will be immeresed in difficult situations. Layoffs, discipline, hiring, promotions, and yes the ultimate act, termination of employment. [Sidebar: we terminate employment – not people].

HR people are intimately involved with people at their the best – and worst – in the workplace. This is not a role for the weak of heart. Or the lost and rudderless, as in someone without values.

Don't believe me? See how well you sleep the night before you fire someone.

Our values are the constant refrain that we refer to, the guidance system that keeps us on the right railroad track. The internal compass that always finds true north.

In an emotionally challenging role like HR your values will spell the difference between competence and confusion.

The Fit

Whatever your values are you'll struggle to fully embrace them if your employer's set is different. This is the key. Your values shift little over time: they are by nature bedrock. So if they are at odds with your employers you have built-in trouble.

Believe in the constant development of others in a company focused on cost control to the point where T&D is not allowed? That's a value conflict.

Proponent of sharing responsibility at the lowest level while your environment rewards hierarchy? Conflict.

You see the point?

To be effective in HR, where so much of what we do is personal and can be emotional, our values have to be set and in alignment with our employer. Values are not so ephemeral they can be set aside and ignored in case of conflict.

So find the right railroad. Find employers whose core resonates with yours and debates in the workplace then are simply a matter of practice and choice, not values.

Get on the right track so you truly can enjoy the journey.



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