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The Bad Consequences of Good Values

Brand Values matter, but only if they mean something

Only 27% of U.S. Employees Believe in Their Company’s Values¹

We act with integrity and build on reliability, quality and passion as the foundation for our work.”²

That is an admirable value extracted from a corporate mission statement. However, in 2015, the United States Environmental Protection Agency issued a notice of violation of the Clean Air Act to the Volkswagen Group, finding that it intentionally programmed over 11 million cars worldwide to mislead emission testing results.

We strive to be recognized by our stakeholders as setting the standard among the world’s great companies for integrity and principled performance.”³

Inspiring words; however, Wells Fargo now says it has found a total of up to 3.5 million potentially fake bank and credit card accounts. Not surprising that of the 39 banks surveyed in the 2017 Reputation Survey conducted by the Reputation Institute, Wells Fargo anchored the №39 position. Not living up to their values had obvious consequences.

Values do matter, but only if they mean something. Too often Core Values fall victim to simply being one of many universal values, too generic, too vague, too expected or worse, simply not true. The challenge, of course, is that the more distinctive and purposeful the Core Values, the more leadership has to have the conviction to model and live them out. Not living up to the organizational values can have unfortunate ramifications as was the case with Volkswagen and Wells Fargo. Perhaps if they had considered how to operationalize their values into their practices that were integral to how they do business they could have avoided the cost to their brand and expense to fix the problem.

“If you’re not willing to accept the pain real values incur, don’t bother going to the trouble of formulating a values statement.”

1Nate Dvorak and Bailey Nelson, “Few Employees Believe in Their Company’s Values,” Gallup Business Journal, September 13, 2016. 2Volkswagen Strategy. https://www.volkswagenag.com/en/group/strategy.html 3Wells Fargo Values. https://www.wellsfargo.com/about/corporate/vision-and-values/our-values/ 4Patrick M. Lencioni, “Make Your Values Mean Something,” , Harvard Business Review, July 2002.