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What to Do When Someone Won't Live The Values

You have done all the hard work, you have figured out the purpose of your organisation, you have a vision for the future and are clear about your mission and you have developed your three sets of values (permission to play, core & aspirational) and they are all great values!

Since everyone is aware these things and you talk about your values all the time, they are in your hiring process, your review and training processes in fact they are so folded into every fibre of the organisation that those few people who don't live the values are starting to stand out like the proverbial sore thumb.

So, what do you do? This was a question that was posed to me because of an earlier post about finding your core values and it's a great question! 

Avoidance isn't cool

For some people the very thought of having to bring up a tough conversation is hard, and avoidance can kick in. Phrases like they just need time, or they are almost there or even worse (and I hear this one a lot!) we need to support our people! In one case it was part of the value set – Support and respect for every individual. 

So let me ask you this, if you have an organisation of say 100 people and 2 aren't living the values and you don't call them out on it how are you a) respecting & supporting the other 98 who are and b) respecting the people who aren't enough to have the conversation and supporting them well enough to help them understand the gap and close it? Aren't you failing the values? Not to mention the impact you have on the culture and morale of your organisation by not calling them out

It Starts with a Chat

What you don't do is march these people to HR office. Instead why not buy them a coffee somewhere (not the staff canteen and not your office) and have a initial chat with them, taking them out of the office helps keep it relaxed and informal however you should let them know your making a note of the conversation adn will be following up. What you are interested in understanding is do they know and understand the company values and are they aware that they are acting outside of them? You would be surprised how many people when posed with this question don't know, because nobody told them. Ask them what support they would need to get alignment with the values of the organisation and who they felt could provide it. It is important that they come up with & own the answers. Your part of the agreement is to set a tight time frame for alignment, we aren't talking months here we are talking weeks, this is a behaviour problem and people choose their behaviours.

Level Up

So, you had the chat and it's been a few weeks and you aren't seeing even the remotest sign of change from your people, what's next? Well actually it is a discussion and a pretty direct discussion and probably with HR in the room. Every organisation and country have their own rules around disciplinary processes and you need to follow through on yours, however, don't sugar coat the discussion living the values isn't optional. The discussion may start out with something like "Bob, this organisation has a strong sense of our values, they are what makes us who we are as an organisation and we had a chat about that a few weeks ago. We aren't seeing you live those values (examples of not living them are good here) and we aren't seeing you change and it's a concern for us, what are your thoughts on this?" Now the hard part, stay quiet. Wait on them providing feedback, it doesn't matter if it's 10 seconds or 5 minutes, wait.

Depending on Bob's answers you are either going to continue with the support in getting this person on board but for a limited time and make this clear or you are going to have a different discussion explaining that living the values isn't negotiable and those who can't will find it very hard to remain at the organisation.
Now I'm not an HR person so you do need to go and have a chat with them about the exact language to use but that's probably close to the entire conversation you would be having in this session and then scheduling a follow up in a few weeks.

Regrets I've Had a Few 

When I talk to CEO's or Managers in organisation about dealing with people who don't fit the culture they say almost 100% of the time "I don't know why it took me so long, I wish I had acted earlier" not once have I ever heard one say, "well I regret letting the person go, it's crippled the organisation".

When you think about it, honestly, you know that it is more respectful for the organisation, it's people and the person who doesn't fit to help them move on. It may not be immediate but even the person leaving see's eventually that they didn't fit, and their life is better elsewhere.

Taking an extended period to deal with such a situation damages your credibility and the credibility of the values and organisational leadership, why would you put so much at risk?


When you have someone, who doesn't fit the values of your organisation, no matter the position within the organisation, they can't stay. The impact on the culture and morale is too high. Dealing with it quickly is the hard thing but the right thing to do and shows respect for the entire organisation, including the person not hitting the values. The initial chat may be enough to help them get on board and become a great fit, if it doesn't don't wait months to take the next necessary steps. Your responsibility is to the wider organisation and all the other employees who are living the values, not the one or two who aren't 

Get In Touch

If you need any support in developing or improving your organisation then click here to make an appointment and find out how we can help you Make Things, Better

You can also call John on 0211649739 to set up a meeting 


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Monday, 20 May 2019

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