Guest Blog: 10 Reasons Your Core Values Aren’t Sticking

December 10, 2012 Matt Monge, Guest Blogger

Occasionally we feature a guest blogger who brings new perspectives on key issues in the worlds of culture, engagement and recognition. This week we welcome Matt Monge—speaker, consultant and Chief Culture Officer for Mazuma Credit Union.

They’re all over the place, like ancient relics scattered across the plot of land where a thriving metropolis once was. They’re on coffee mugs, break room posters, email signatures, employee handbook inserts, pens, other random marketing giveaways, and so on. Heck, perhaps that crazy guy down the hall has one tattooed somewhere. (Don’t ask. He might actually show you.)

In some companies, core values seem to stick around for about as long as Kim Kardashian’s marriages. They’re like those Velcro tennis shoes you got as a kid—super exciting at first, but eventually you grew tired of the sound they made and how they kept coming loose somehow. What was once cool and exciting became dull and commonplace. That’s what seems to happen with core values, employee engagement, and other [insert your buzzword here] initiatives.

Why do these efforts fail? If we know core values are a big deal, why don’t they stick? Here are ten common reasons:

  1. It could be that there is only executive support, not executive championing. There’s a difference between an executive nodding and smiling when asked about the core values and one that’s talking about, living, and pushing the values every chance they get.
  2. Maybe there’s not enough urgency around cultivating a healthy culture. Does the whole team know why those values are a big deal? Do you know why they’re a big deal?
  3. Perhaps the vision isn’t as clear as you think or hasn’t been communicated as well as you think.
  4. There might be obstacles that need to be addressed, like managers or employees who refuse to get on board. If a manager isn’t on board, you can almost be assured that his or her team won’t be either. Multiply that by however many managers are doing that, and you might have a pretty big problem.
  5. Maybe you’ve declared victory too soon; healthy culture is an ongoing effort. Culture isn’t a six-month project; it’s a way of organizational life.
  6. It could be that you didn’t anchor the core values; you failed to align everything with them to the extent that they became your organization’s DNA. Are the core values baked into the entire employee and organizational experience?
  7. Perhaps your core values really aren’t core values at all much as they’re just generally accepted operational standards.
  8. Maybe your core values don’t differentiate you.
  9. It could be that you squelch innovation and excitement, intentionally or unintentionally.
  10. You do…nothing. Apathy is unhealthy culture’s greatest asset.


That’s by no means an exhaustive list, but maybe it’s a starting point for some broader conversations about core values and culture. Once you have a better understanding of the reality of your situation—the good, the bad, and the ugly—you’re able to take proactive steps to cultivate the kind of core values and culture that bring out the very best of who you are as an organization.

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