When Leaderships' Actions Go Against Company Values

When Leaders Go Against Company Values

When people choose to work for a company, their decision is often wrapped up around a few factors, including work/life balance, compensation package, problems the company is trying to solve, and the values that the company holds. They’re all incredibly important, but arguably the most important are the company’s core values. For great companies, those values lead their mission, shape their culture, and are at the heart of most steps the company takes.

As an employee, your actions are a reflection of the organization and its values. How you manage, how you speak to others, and how you handle tough situations becomes an example within the company. And for those in a leadership position, especially senior leaders and executives, those actions become much more visible and impactful.

So what do you do when your leaders’ actions don’t represent the values of your company?
When your leader(s) sets terrible examples?
When your boss sends degrading emails about women?
When a leader in your company publicly shows up for a potential sex offender?
When your boss exhibits negative qualities of other successful people to get ahead?

It depends. (I feel like every engineer out there just gave me a high-five, and the partners and friends of engineers just rolled their eyes. Stick with me here…)

No one can tell you what decisions to make here. Every situation differs; and how it’s handled by others in leadership positions varies at every company. But let’s talk about what could happen, potential ways to handle the situation, and what not to do.


You wake up every day to something new about your company online. As an employee, you find yourself fielding questions about what it’s like at work Your strong feelings and reasons for loving the company start to erode, and you think: “Why am I at this company?”

Other leaders could react too fast, and may not think through the situation before speaking up. They may say things in support of the offending leader. They may believe the actions of the leader don’t reflect the company. During a crisis, large or small, people are going to make mistakes.

Trust weakens between the offending leaders and their direct reports. There’s less conversation, less transparency, and less collaboration. Managers working for the offending leader may feel alienated. They may project those feelings into their everyday work, alienating others on their team. These feelings of mistrust trickle down through the company.

Everyone in the company will have an opinion on what’s happened. It’s natural. However, it gets sticky when those opinions start to spread. Perspectives are different, and arguments start. Someone says something awful without thinking of the consequences (or even worse, they know the impact it will have). Gossip starts. People feel like they can’t speak up.

People begin leaving. No matter how amazing your product is, employees see your culture as inauthentic, and one where they can’t grow, be themselves, and feel supported.


Find others who hold the same values as you in the company. Find others outside of the organization who have been through something similar. Of course, you’re going to talk about it. Complain, talk about how disgusted you are, or how uneasy you feel. But then, figure out how to make sure others don’t feel awful. Find solutions and ways to take positive action.

Remember who you are, what your values are, and what you stand for. Then get a Twitter account, with “all tweets are my own” in the bio. Talk about issues that are important to you outside company walls. Write personal blog posts. Volunteer for non-profits or community groups that reflect your values. But leave the company out of it.

Step up, and be the leader that your team needs. Remind them why your company does the work that they do. Connect them back to the mission. Listen to their frustrations, and make sure employees feel seen. Be seen around the office — don’t hole up in meetings or upper floors. Open up and let them know what your values are. Be transparent and optimistic — you may or may not know what’s happening depending on your position but you can provide as much information as possible, and let your team know how you and others plan to support the team. It’s also important to continue to recognize their work, because its during times of instability when people feel the need for more recognition.

And if you’re not a leader yet in the company? Here’s your chance to shine. Step up and support others. Use your voice for good and kindness. Lead an ERG, hold an event in your company, let people know you’re open to chatting.

It’s true -- sometimes situations are so negative and have such a draining effect that it’s not worth the stress of sticking around.. It’s not always on you to solve other people’s problems. And at other times, staying put through the tough times can be a liberating, lesson-learning experience. But also know, it’s ok to walk away.


Acting as if the situation didn’t happen will more than likely cause you suffering in one way or another. It could alienate you from those with similar perspectives. It could cause distrust between you and your employees or teammates. There’s a difference between not wanting to talk about it and ignoring it all together. You don’t always have to talk about the problem, especially if you’re not in a management position. But you do need to show up, listen, and understand what the problem is and how it's affecting your work and others.

Just like your old Myspace photos, this will come back to haunt you.

"Well, that person was only harassing black women. I have plenty of other issues to deal with." NOPE. Show up to the discussion, listen, and learn. Find a way to support those who have been affected. Talk about why these issues

As Professor Harry Kraemer, former Fortune 500 CEO and author of “From Values to Action” says, “Your leadership must be rooted in who you are and what matters most to you. When you truly know yourself and what you stand for, it is much easier to know what to do in any situation. It always comes down to doing the right thing and doing the best you can.”

Your leaders’ actions aren’t your own, but how you respond to the situation matters.

Originally posted on JessicaEggert.com