As a child, your parents probably encouraged you to do the “right” thing. When you were smaller, they guided you in the right direction, encouraging you to “say thank you,” “ask nicely,” or “be kind.” As we grew, our parents expected us to still do the right thing, but they gave us more freedom to decide what the “right” thing was. Sometimes things were black and white; most of the time, they weren’t. We tried, we failed, we learned.
As adults, we try do the right thing simply because it’s the right thing to do. Sounds vague, right? Well, it is and it isn’t. Here are some questions you can ask yourself to see if adding a company value about employees doing the right thing would fit into your company culture:
1. Do you recognize and value employees when they do the right thing? We know that rewarding and recognizing employees helps guide them to know what behaviors your company values. If you’re rewarding people when you notice an act of kindness or observe them doing the right thing, it sends a message loud and clear to the rest of the employees. Of course, this requires you being in the trenches and knowing what’s going on with your people so that you can reward specific actions and behaviors.
2. Do leaders do the right thing? Your employees are always watching what leaders are doing. You’re setting an example every time you don’t pretty much anything. So, what example are your leaders setting? Lately, there’s been a trend of leaders trying hard to do right by their employees. Remember the Gravity CEO who learned about one of his employees who was barely making ends meet? In an attempt to do right by all his employees, he raised every employee’s salary to at least $70,000 a year. When employees see their leaders trying to do the right thing, they’ll follow suit.
3. Do your processes allow for people to do the right thing? Or are your company guidelines and rules so rigid (and managers so inflexible) that they can’t deviate from them? This makes me think of a story about a junior firefighter who wouldn’t help a 77-year-old man who collapsed outside the fire station, stating he couldn’t do anything until he was given orders from a superior. Clearly, helping a person in need was the right thing to do. For pretty much anyone, but especially a firefighter who is medically trained. So make sure it’s not processes that are holding people back from doing the right thing.
4. How do you measure success with such a vague goal? Yeah, we’ve all heard that goals should be measurable. We’re supposed to set goals that we can tell if they’re working. But when people start adhering to the value of always trying to do what’s right, you’ll feel it in the office. You’ll see happier people who are trying to help each other. Your culture will be impacted. You’ll probably have less complaints and coworker issues. And you’ll probably notice your improved retention.
5. Do you apologize when you don’t? We’re human and it’s clear we’re not perfect. We’re all on our own personal journey toward becoming better human beings, better employees, and better friends. With that, there’s bound to be tough days and times when we didn’t do as well as we would have liked. You can still do the right thing by admitting you didn’t but are working hard to be better. Just as doing the right thing is contagious, apologizing for not is as well. Even better, when leaders apologize, employees realize they’re human too, and we’re all just trying.
“That old law about ‘an eye for an eye’ leaves everybody blind. The time is always right to do the right thing.” —Martin Luther King, Jr.
Doing the right thing isn’t limited to work, of course. This company value will help people in every avenue of their life. It can start with one person and permeate throughout the entire company. It can start with one company and spread to the rest of the world. Sometimes life and work can feel much more manageable when we get back to the basics. Your parents were pretty smart people. Following those little pieces of advice from when you were children will continue to help you in everything you do.
Have you created company values to help promote a great culture at your company? “Do the right thing” is one of our company values at BambooHR. This is the third in a blog series designed to explore different company values, see if they may be right for your company, and how you can apply them in your workplace as well.