Imagine this scenario: You are asked to help a new senior executive get up to speed on a critical project in the company. This person will soon be a spokesperson for the company, and will represent the values and passion of the entire organization.
You have a strong opinion about this person’s character and beliefs, as he has demonstrated them publicly and in private situations. Your values directly conflict with what this executive stands for, advocates on behalf of, and represents in your industry.
What would you do?
This situation actually happened to me. I was asked by one of my biggest clients to help onboard a new senior executive to the company and train them on the values, brand and vision the company was moving toward.
Here’s how I evaluated the situation:
I could decline the opportunity. If I turned down the assignment, I risk damaging my long-standing relationship with a client. Yes, my personal brand and reputation could be negatively impacted by taking the assignment, but could also suffer if my client felt I’d put a stake in the ground unnecessarily.
I could give less than 100% to this effort and just “go through the motions” to make the client happy. This option would be more in conflict with my personal brand, which is anchored in integrity and generosity. So this option was eliminated.
In my case, I decided to proceed with eyes wide open. I felt confident I could spot any compromise of my own integrity and end the engagement if I felt I was being asked to do something or represent something I did not support.
I viewed this challenge as a learning experience — an opportunity to step out of my comfort zone, learn how I can handle such a challenge, and grow as a professional. This proved good thinking! When I met with this executive I had a candid and honest conversation about my hesitation and he completely understood. We navigated the work I needed to conduct with him and he was transparent about his beliefs and goals.
Looking back, I am proud of myself that I was able to lean into a situation that, on the surface, I would have been justified walking away from. I learned, grew and stretched my comfort zone while still maintaining focus on my personal brand, beliefs and values.
How have you handled a situation at work where someone’s values conflict with your own? Did you work through it? Were the reasons strong enough to walk away?