Navigating Accountability When Your Boss Doesn’t Live the Values

As someone frequently asked about workplace dynamics, I often hear the question, “What happens when my boss doesn’t live the values?” It’s a common concern when employees find themselves in a situation where their supervisor’s actions don’t align with the organization’s core values. Accountability does not always flow from the top in all organizations. In such cases, handling your emotions and actions wisely is crucial. Additionally, when you’re actively building a strong culture, that inspires accountability and for people to be their very best, within your department, and higher-ups seem to undermine those efforts, there are ways to coach up and address the situation constructively. Accountability can modeled and encouraged.

Understanding Your Emotions:

When your boss doesn’t live the values, it’s natural to experience a range of emotions such as frustration, disappointment, and even anger. Here’s how to handle these emotions effectively:

  • Self-Reflection: Take some time to reflect on why your boss’s behavior bothers you. Is it because you genuinely believe in the values, or does it impact your job negatively?
  • Emotional Control: Keep your emotions in check at work. Venting your frustrations to colleagues or subordinates might create a negative atmosphere.
  • Seek Perspective: Talk to colleagues or mentors who may have faced similar situations. Their insights can provide perspective and guidance.

Taking Constructive Action:

Now, let’s explore actionable steps to address the situation when your boss isn’t living the organization’s values:

  • Open Communication: Approach your boss for a one-on-one conversation. Express your observations and concerns respectfully. Use “I” statements to convey how their actions affect you and the team. For example, say, “I feel demotivated when I see actions that don’t align with our values.”
  • Provide Examples: If possible, provide specific examples of instances where their actions contradicted the values. This can help them understand the issue more concretely.
  • Suggest Solutions: Offer constructive suggestions on how the situation could be improved. Focus on finding solutions rather than dwelling on the problem.
  • Engage HR or Leadership: If direct communication with your boss doesn’t yield results, consider speaking to your HR department or higher-level leadership. They may be able to address the issue more effectively.
  • Lead by Example: In the absence of leadership, take the initiative to embody the values yourself. Lead by example and encourage your colleagues to do the same. A strong departmental culture can have a positive influence on the larger organization.

Coaching Up When Building a Good Culture:

 If you’re actively working to build a positive culture within your department, but higher-ups are undermining your efforts, consider these strategies:

  • Educate and Advocate: Share the benefits of a strong departmental culture with your superiors. Explain how it can lead to improved employee morale, productivity, and retention.
  • Provide Evidence: Show the positive impact your culture-building efforts have had on team performance. Use metrics, feedback, and success stories to support your case.
  • Collaborate: Seek opportunities to collaborate with leaders further up the hierarchy. Share your vision for the department’s culture and inquire about their expectations.
  • Peer Support: Talk to colleagues in similar situations and gather their insights. Together, you may find more effective ways to communicate your culture-building goals.
  • Stay Committed: Don’t let challenges deter you from your mission. Continue to champion the values and culture you believe in, even if it takes time to gain broader acceptance.

When your boss doesn’t live the values, it can be a challenging situation. Handling your emotions with self-awareness and addressing the issue constructively can lead to positive change. Moreover, when you’re actively working to build a strong departmental culture, it’s essential to advocate for your vision and engage higher-ups in a collaborative manner. By taking these steps, you can contribute to a workplace that aligns with your values and fosters a positive and accountable environment.


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