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Giving Voice to Values

Giving Voice to Values: How to Speak Your Mind When You Know What’s Right

Copyright Date: 2010
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 256
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  • Book Info
    Giving Voice to Values
    Book Description:

    How can you effectively stand up for your values when pressured by your boss, customers, or shareholders to do the opposite? Drawing on actual business experiences as well as on social science research, Babson College business educator and consultant Mary Gentile challenges the assumptions about business ethics at companies and business schools. She gives business leaders, managers, and students the tools not just to recognize what is right, but also to ensure that the right things happen. The book is inspired by a program Gentile launched at the Aspen Institute with Yale School of Management, and now housed at Babson College, with pilot programs in over one hundred schools and organizations, including INSEAD and MIT Sloan School of Management.

    She explains why past attempts at preparing business leaders to act ethically too often failed, arguing that the issue isn't distinguishing what is right or wrong, but knowing how to act on your values despite opposing pressure. Through research-based advice, practical exercises, and scripts for handling a wide range of ethical dilemmas, Gentile empowers business leaders with the skills to voice and act on their values, and align their professional path with their principles.Giving Voice to Valuesis an engaging, innovative, and useful guide that is essential reading for anyone in business.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-16132-8
    Subjects: Business, Management & Organizational Behavior

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-xviii)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xix-xxii)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. xxiii-xliv)

    This book begins with the assumption that most of us want to find ways to voice and act on our values in the workplace, and to do so effectively. The focus here is on those times and situations when we believe we know what is right and want to do it, but we experience ex ternal pressures—from our boss, our colleagues, our customers—to do otherwise. As a result, we are not sure how to raise our concerns. The focus here is not so much on situations where we are tempted to do something we believe is wrong, for...

    (pp. 1-23)

    A fundamental premise of many Eastern philosophies and martial arts is to movewithone’s momentum and energy, rather than fight against them. The approach to voicing and acting on our values described in these pages attempts to build on that same principle. Rather than taking a preaching stance wherein we might try to counter temptations with all the moral reasons why we should behave ethically, or taking a persuasive stance wherein we might counter those same temptations with all the practical arguments for ethical behavior, the approach here is to take an enabling stance. We try to identify both...

    (pp. 24-46)

    Before we go further it is important to explain what we mean here by the term “values,” since this is obviously an overdetermined word. For example, how is our use of “values” the same as or different from “ethics” or “morals”? And further, when asked to name their values, many people, especially businesspeople, may include qualities like “innovation” or “creativity” or any number of other useful and important characteristics that do not even have an obvious moral dimension to them. So how dothosevalues connect with our focus here, if they do? Although these different terms and even the...

    (pp. 47-71)

    Earlier in the Introduction we asked, “Is there free will in business?” In the context of this book, the most useful answer is thatfree will is a matter of free will. That is, as we saw in the essays written by MBA students, when encountering similar challenges some folks believed and acted as if they had a choice, and others did not. Of course, the circumstances in any two situations are never entirely equivalent, but the fact is that, even in those examples where individuals reported that they did, in fact, voice and act on their values, they had...

  9. CHAPTER FOUR It’s Only Normal
    (pp. 72-85)

    Even though so many respondents to the Aspen student attitude survey expected to encounter values conflicts in the workplace, and graduate students who have had four or five years of business experience before matriculating appear to have no problem generating examples of such conflicts, our interviews with managers and our observations suggest that often people do not see ethical or moral challenges as a natural or integral part of doing business. We think of ourselves as just working along, minding our own business, when all of a sudden a values conflict inserts itself into the flow of our professional lives....

  10. CHAPTER FIVE What Am I Working For?
    (pp. 86-107)

    Another way to enhance our ability and likelihood to voice our values in the workplace is related to the way we define our professional or career purpose. If we define our professional purpose explicitly and broadly, it becomes easier to normalize values conflicts as discussed in the previous chapter, seeing them as an expected part of doing business, with costs and benefits that do not seem unusual or especially daunting in comparison with any other business challenge.

    If we think of our purpose as moving up in the organization, impressing our bosses, making a good living (or even a great...

    (pp. 108-134)

    One of the most powerful lenses through which to view values in the workplace—and one of the most powerful sources of the strength and confidence to act on those values—is the lens of self-knowledge. A knowledge of oneself allows the crafting and embracing of a desired self-image. Managers at all levels in their firms report that a significant enabler of values-based action is the clarity, commitment, and courage that is born of acting from our true center, finding alignment between who we already are and what we say and do. Some people say they are able to voice...

  12. CHAPTER SEVEN Finding My Voice
    (pp. 135-169)

    In the Introduction to this book, we talked about a series of essays written by MBA students about a time when their personal values conflicted with what they were explicitly asked—or implicitly expected—to do in the workplace. We noted that even though many of the situations appeared to be quite similar, some students had found ways to voice and act on their values within the organization while others did not. The repertoire of strategies adopted by those who chose to act inside the organization (as opposed to acting outside the organization, by external whistle-blowing or by leaving) fell...

  13. CHAPTER EIGHT Reasons and Rationalizations
    (pp. 170-210)

    When we encounter values conflicts in the workplace, they typically come with a set of reasons and rationalizations that are offered to justify pursuing a particular course of action. These are the objections we hear from our colleagues when we try to point out an ethical problem in the way things are being done. Sometimes we don’t even hear them; we simply anticipate them because they are the unspoken assumptions—the seeming truisms—of the organization. And they can confound our best attempts to fulfill our own sense of organizational and personal purpose.

    It is extremely difficult to make a...

  14. CHAPTER NINE Putting It to Work
    (pp. 211-222)

    In his classic book of the same title, Albert O. Hirschman posits three potential responses to decline in nations or organizations: exit, voice, and loyalty.¹ If we think back to the categories of responses to values conflicts identified by those MBA students we talked about, they also fall into these categories. Some students just did what they were told (a form of loyalty, although its focus is questionable); some removed themselves from the situation; and some found a way to express their values, sometimes successfully, in an effort to change the situation for the better. The Giving Voice to Values...

  15. Appendix
    (pp. 223-246)
  16. Notes
    (pp. 247-258)
  17. Bibliography
    (pp. 259-268)
  18. Index
    (pp. 269-273)