Kanan Jaswal's Blog on Leadership

Monday, April 14, 2008

When your values are at variance with the organisation’s practices

More than a decade ago, as the branch manager of an important branch of my bank in the country’s capital I had refused some monetary reward to the staff for the simple reason that they had not earned that. The office bearers of the staff union met me and did their best to convince me about the validity of their claim but I had done my home work and was able to defend my position successfully. They conceded that the demand could be wrong but told me that at other similar-sized branches of the bank such payments had already been made. They wanted me just to follow the other branch managers and assured me that since the top management tacitly approved of the practice they would never question my action. My assertion that the decision not to make payment was a correct one and that it was for the other branch managers to follow my lead on this carried the day for me. I also told them that more than to the top management I was answerable to my own values and conscience.

But in today’s world of high ambition and success orientation would a similar adherence to personal values, even when they are in conflict with the accepted behavioural norms in the organisation, pay? Not really, and it did not pay me even then in terms of advancing my career prospects. There is a payment, however, in the form of an increase in self-esteem. One is able to stand erect with head held high and look the world in the eyes, is this in itself not reward enough? There is also a hope, howsoever fond, that the others too would follow their example and not compromise any more their personal values for narrow short term gains.

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