In a recent survey we were surprised to find how highly a need to connect with values rated in the work context.

Those you believe their values align with their work have:

  • Higher levels of belief to achieve work goals
  • Higher levels of hope to achieve goals and work towards values
  • Greater resilience when confronted with obstacles or challenges
  • Actual Goal achievement is higher if the goal is connected to an individual value
  • Overall wellbeing significantly higher

As most of us in western society spend the majority of our lives at work, it seems logical to ensure our work match or support our values. Sadly this isn’t the case.  

In my past career in recruitment I interviewed hundreds and hundreds of people, possibly in the thousands, and my experience was most people were checking their values at the door each day to pay their bills. This internal conflict is a psychological experience called cognitive dissonance where a person has conflict with their beliefs (e.g., “I don’t believe we offer a good service”) and what the behaviour provides (e.g., going to work anyway as it pays the bills). We see examples of cognitive dissonance when people are trying to quit smoking or drink less as there is an underlying belief (often not true) that the behaviour/action provides some benefit or value (e.g, relieve stress), when in fact smoking and drinking have shown to create more stress.  

To relieve the discomfort many of us either rationalise (“it isn’t that bad”, “I don’t have any other options”) or sometimes worse, anaesthetise the discomfort through food, smoking, alcohol or just completely disconnect by “I am too busy to even think about this”.  Take a moment to think about this. Imagine for one day you could read the minds of the people you work with, or work for you.  And imagine you could see their internal dialogue of “I hate this job. I disagree with the purpose of what we do. I hate my boss”.  Do you think you are getting the most out of what that person has to offer.  Now think of yourself.  In your work, are you maximising your potential?  And if not, how does this impact other aspects of your life?

I get it! I  have been there.  I gave up a highly lucrative career in Executive Recruitment to become a Psychologist. My income went from three figures to $0, very quickly. It was a huge adjustment. But something kept me going. I had found what I valued, and my passion for that to came to life, helping me get through self-doubt, divorce, loss of my dear Dad, and unexpected financial loss.

My hope with the work we do is help people identify and explore alternatives, that can lead to a career that is connected to values, that will lead to a healthier life and planet.

Here are some simple steps from our Career Coaching Program that will help guide you towards understanding your values at work.  If you would like to take this idea a few steps further, this book I used personally, and was a best seller Book – Find Your North Star.  

Step One: What are my values?

Do you know your broader values?  Remember values are not a goal or mission statement, they are more of a fluid behavior or way of life that is important to you.  Oxford defines value in this context two ways; (a) the regard that something is held to deserve; the importance, worth, or usefulness of something; and (b) principles or standards of behavior, one’s judgement of what is important in life (see

Your Epitaph: Get a piece of paper or a clean page on your preferred device, list these questions and over the next 24 hours imagine you have the opportunity to write your own Epitaph and start scribing your answers as they come to mind. 1. List your accomplishments 2. Who you left behind? 3. What they will miss about you and what you valued? 4. What gave you the greatest joy and sorrow in life? 4. Who did you help? 5. Who you were and the values you stood for?

Step Two: Defining my Values.

Once you have completed the above step, summarise what appears to be consistent, repeated or distinct themes, into 3-5 statements on the left hand side on a new page.  These might be several statements about family members or behaviors that were important you followed.  This might look like (but also could be nothing like, which is okay!):

1.  Providing my family opportunities to achieve their greatest potential

2.  Always willing to go the extra mile 

3.  Took pride in my health and encouraged others to do the same

4.  Being a responsible and supportive parent and member of my community

5.  Recognised as a leader in my field 

Step Three:  What do my values look like at Work?

Once completing the above, on the right side of the paper describe how each of those statements looks like if you were behaving that way today, in your work environment.  Using the same ones above this may look like:

1. I am showing my family that their individual potential can be reached, by leading by example as I focus my energies and attention in achieving my potential on a daily basis. 

2.  As often as possible I find myself looking for opportunities to improve and advance myself

3.  I make time every day to take care of my health through eating well and exercise

4.  I prioritise my week so that I spend time with my family and local community

5.  I make time to keep up to date with my industry and look for opportunities to help and show others how to be experts in their field.

These are just ideas and yours are likely to be different.

Step Four: Is there a conflict for me?

In your current job, work or career are you able to act, be and behave as you have listed in Step three?  If most of these are being satisfied, this is great news for you.  If these are not, it is likely you are not enjoying being at work and/or being unsuccessful. You simply may need to consider a new environment that is a closer career values match or discuss your concerns with someone who can help you find a way to reconnect with your values in your current environment.

If you have a spare 30 minutes I found this exercise very interesting and helpful in defining my values through a mission statement.  You do need to sign up, which only takes a couple of moments and I havent received spam My Mission Statement – Build your own

My experience has been with the thousands of interviews I have done and my recent learnings in Psychology, is the reason a person seeks a new career is their values are getting in the way of their success and enjoyment at work.  However, I suspect most people may not be aware of this, stating bad management, career opportunities or a conflict with family time are their reasons for seeking a new job or career.  Of course underneath all of these is actually a potentail value conflict.   If you like Ted Talks this is a very entertaining presentation based on research of positive outliers-people who are above average and where human potential, success and happiness intersect. Ted Talks – Brain and Happiness Research

CIT’s mission is to help more people be in jobs and careers that they enjoy, as the research is they will be more successful due to a connect with values.  My value in this context is for my work and career to give me great fulfillment.  I have had three significant career changes in my life, with the most recent my most confronting yet most fulfilling to quit my job, study Psychology full time and start my own Career Coaching Business.

My research, experience and own personal journey is what I have developed for people who would like a happier and healthier career.  If this is you, or someone you know, we are here to help.  Here is a 2.5 minute video from a well renowned career coach that might inspire you to consider your work values  Values and Experiential Avoidance – Rob Archer.

Margie Ireland, Founder, CIT.