As I looped my ID badge over my head, I noticed that the usually light lanyard attached to my ID card hung heavier around my neck. For the first time, I became aware of the weight of carrying an identity that was not my own. I realised that for a minimum of 8 hours a day, 40 hours a week, 160 hours a month, I represented the identity, beliefs and values of my company. Whilst I’ve been fortunate enough to work for an organisation who value honesty, integrity and good business ethics, I was startled by the realisation that as long as my signature graced the pages of my employment contract, the values I adhere to at work were not solely under my own jurisdiction.
Among new graduates, there seems to be a general belief that the ideal job is one which offers money, prestige and a luxurious lifestyle. However, an element of job seeking which is largely ignored is the importance of seeking companies with values and ethics congruent to your own. The corporate culture we choose to immerse ourselves in can have a significant impact on our own personal values and morality. Some companies, though prolific and successful, attain their success through questionable and dubious business ethics. For this reason, many employees working at such organisations find themselves continually conflicted between their personal values and those of the company. Additionally, and perhaps more alarmingly, some discover that the negative values they once deplored have gradually usurped and replaced their own value system.
As a Christian, it’s particularly important to continually question the corporate culture of the companies we’re employed by. Are we comfortable with the way the company attains its success? Does the company foster an atmosphere of collaboration or competition among the employees? Does the company show a lack of compassion for employees serious health or family issues? Furthermore, we have to question the impact on our own moral character. Have I changed for the better or worse since I started working here? Do I treat people with more or less dignity and respect? Have the things I once considered to be important changed? Am I comfortable with lying to clients or undermining colleagues? Has the way I spend my time and money changed for better or worse? Has my relationship with God changed?
Now I’m in no way advocating a mass exodus from the corporate world to the mission fields of the middle east. Nor am I against the notion of Christians in the market place. However, what I am suggesting is the importance of awareness. Awareness of instances when you may have compromised your beliefs. Awareness of changes to your values, personality or relationships. Awareness of times when you may have traded your peace for progress. Awareness affords you the ability to make conscious decisions on the kind of person you want to be, and the values you want to govern your life. Awareness prevents you from looking back at yourself 20 years from now and wondering, ‘When did I change? Why do I hate the person I’ve become?’. Awareness allows you to pay attention to the weight around your neck and discover whether it’s a weight that’s dragging your character down or compromising your morality.
As a graduate who’s been working for a couple of years now, this would be my advice to new graduates. Research the company you’re applying to. Read their corporate social responsibility statements. Find out whether they involve their employees in local or global community projects. Discover what philanthropic ventures they’re involved in. Discover how they handle controversy. Visit http://www.glassdoor.co.uk/ and find out how they treat their employees. Ask about their values in interviews. Stand firm on your values, and seek organisations which share them.
As the saying goes, ‘if you stand for nothing, you will fall for anything’.