Conflicting Values and Burnout

Conflicting values between the nature of a job and the nature of the individual who performs the job can lead to burnout.

Conflicting values between the nature of a job and the nature of the individual who performs the job can lead to burnout.

Everyone has a set of core values that guide them in life and in their everyday interactions with others. If you work for an organization, you bring those values with you into the workplace. The creation of conflicting values in the workplace can put employees on the fast track to job burnout.

Recently, I began reviewing the 6 mismatches between the job and the individual which can lead to burnout and writing a post on each of them in a series. The sixth and last mismatch in this series, conflicting values, is the subject of today’s post.

Of all the mismatches between the nature of a job and the nature of the person doing the job, conflicting values probably carries the most weight. If an individual finds themselves in a job where there is substantial conflict between the demands of the job and their core values, there exists great potential for job burnout.

If an organization, say a large hospital or provider group, touts excellent service or always placing the patient first but behind the scenes the employees know this is not true then substantial internal conflict will arise. This can be extremely frustrating and demoralizing to the employees, especially if their internal moral compass or core values are being assailed.

Now, most organizations do not go out of their way to create values conflicts. This is often unplanned and can happen very innocently.

Organizations may emphasize dedicated and excellent service but inadvertently take steps which actually destroy their ability to deliver a quality product or service. While attempting to improve customer service greater distance can be put between the patient, client or customer and the organization.

Examples are automated phone menus, teller machines, information kiosks, online-only ordering, patient information portals, etc. Shorter wait times might be great but not if they are at the expense of time with the provider.

Consider this, if you are the patient and have a problem or a complaint, would you want to be directed to an online questionnaire or would you prefer to sit down and voice the issue with another human being? The online questionnaire might be more expeditious for the organization but does it really demonstrate next level quality or service?

In her book, The Truth About Burnout, Dr. Christina Maslach identified four primary guiding values for excellence in customer service. They are – be efficient, be accurate, be personal and be adaptable to the individual. Does this sound like many large businesses today?

No matter how great an organizations’ vales statement may sound, it isn’t worth the paper it is printed on if each of these guiding values are not fully addressed in the everyday course of business. If there is conflict between an organizations stated values and the organization’s performance, the employees will take notice and so will the people they serve.

We have also recently seen a glaring example where an organization publicly states they care while behind the scenes overtly demonstrate how they couldn’t have cared less. I’m talking about the VA healthcare scandal.

People were being purposefully lied to in order to make certain internal metrics look good while actively projecting the persona of “we care very deeply about our veterans but we are just too short staffed and lack necessary resources to see you in the most timely manner.”

How many great, competent and caring staff did the VA frustrate, burnout or lose over the years because behind the scenes the truth was known to them? Those who could not at all abide the internal conflicts this situation created simply left.

How many labored on not knowing the truth, hoping that something would change, doing their best under the circumstances but unable to deliver their best work to the veterans for which they cared so deeply? This was a tragedy for them as well.

Any who remained and actively participated in this sham showed their internal vales to be on par with the hideous lies they told. Hence, as amoral as they were, they saw no conflict between themselves and the organization.

You know, it just doesn’t have to be this way. There are many steps an organization can take to ensure the vales they espouse are true and emulate the values of the workforce.

Do you feel the values of organization for which you work reflect your own internal values? If not, how are they different?

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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One thought on “Conflicting Values and Burnout

  1. Such an important topic Clark.
    “Values” as a concept are thrown around often in advertising and marketing, and alluded to by touching advertising media.

    But how often under the skin is the company really operating at the same level they portray? And more importantly, what happens to the people whose integrity is compromised by living a lie every day when they go to work.

    The example you share about the VA is so blatant and so sad. Not only have our service men and women been neglected, but those who do care and want to help are caught in a Catch-22.

    I feel that as this century evolves, honest alignment with core values will be a indicator of long term success for entrepreneurs and corporations. Eventually hopefully government as well (LOL). With internet access and a savvy populace, it is getting harder and harder to speak with forked tongue!