Organisational Culture and Shadow Values

In our recent event, John Neil and David Burfoot from The Ethics Centre introduced the concept of shadow values and the significant role they play in organisational cultures.

Speaking to a group of HR leaders, John and David drew on their extensive experience working with organisations to assess and review their organisational culture. Using two particular case studies – Cricket Australia and The Australian Olympic Committee – they discussed the importance, and challenges, for organisations in embedding and living their values.

One of the primary challenges all organisations face in living their ethical framework – purpose, values and principles – is surfacing, identifying, and acknowledging the shadow values that exist alongside and underneath their actual values.

David then posed a series of questions to the audience about their own experience with shadow values and how they could be identified by organisations. A number of suggestions were offered including spending a greater focus on meaningful discussions with staff, exit interviews and analysis of reporting data such as leave request could signal the existence of shadow values through the reluctance of taking sick leave, for example.

One participant in particular noted how important it was in her experience to understand an organisation’s shadow values because people’s jobs literally depended on it. In one International jurisdiction she had worked in where employment laws were less than robust and a high level of uncertainty existed in relation to job security, knowing the shadow values that were in play in that environment demonstrated precisely that that definition of culture as ‘the way things are done around here’ was essential knowledge.

Thank you to John and David for your thought-provoking presentation and to everyone who attended the event. Click here if you want to learn more about The Ethics Centre.