57 | When values collide

May 20, 2019

So Israel Falaou, the Australian Rugby player was fired last week for making offensive comments on Instagram.

 

"Drunks, homosexuals, adulterers, liars, fornicators, thieves, atheists and idolators - Hell awaits you," he said.

 

But this isn’t a post about rugby or religion, it’s a post about values and beliefs.

 

Israel is a devout Christian (as are a lot of people) and that brings with it a particular set of values and beliefs.

 

His employer, the Australian Rugby Union (ARU) has a set of values too - inclusion, passion, integrity, discipline, respect and teamwork.

 

In this case, those two sets of values were incompatible and so, following his social media comments, it was deemed inappropriate for him to continue to be employed by the ARU.

 

Some may argue that that’s unfair, that they’re his personal values and he’s welcome to his opinions. And I agree, of course people are welcome to their opinions. The issue was more that his were at odds with those of his employer.

 

And it’s also worth remembering that this isn’t his first strike. He did some thing similar last year and had received a warning.

 

This time they threw the book at him.

 

I do a lot of work with businesses on helping to define their values but, as I often tell them, the launch of new values is only the start of the journey. The rubber really hits the road when people have to start living them, when they become ‘the way we do things around here’. In doing so they become part of the fabric of an organization and the output - for better or worse - is company culture.

 

So it’s critical not only to live the company’s values but to pull people up when they AREN’T living them. To tell your people that it’s not OK to be disrespectful, or discriminatory, or unfair or close-minded.

 

And if a company REALLY believes in the power of values and creating the right culture, when someone doesn't live them, then they have to leave the business, no matter how good they are (and he is VERY good). All too often businesses put up with people who don’t live their values because ‘they’re a good sales person’ or ‘they’ve been here forever’ or ‘they’re very popular’.

 

And all that does is to undermine the values and the culture you’re trying to create. It makes people think 'well if they're doing that and not being pulled up, it must be OK for us all to do it".  At which point your values are worth nothing more than the posters or screensaver they're written on.

 

The ARU could have dressed up the issue with Israel Falaou, brushed it under the carpet, pulled out all the PR people they could muster. But they didn’t. They showed that, as an organisation, they're committed to upholding their values and they terminated his contract - a brave thing to do with the Rugby World Cup later this year.

 

But they did it.

 

What’s important with values isn’t creating them - that’s easy. Living by them, and holding people to account when they don’t is much harder.   Raelene Castle, the CEO of Rugby Australia said, "But our clear message for all rugby fans is that we need to stand by our values and the qualities of inclusion, passion, integrity, discipline, respect and teamwork."

 

For me, that one moment of pain is worth all the benefit you’ll get from those who are left behind.

 

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