Giving Voice to Values | Mary C. Gentile

Summary of: Giving Voice to Values: How to Speak Your Mind When You Know What’s Right
By: Mary C. Gentile


Imagine a world where people are empowered to act on their values and make a positive impact in their organizations. ‘Giving Voice to Values’ by Mary C. Gentile provides a roadmap to making this possible by focusing on creative problem solving, constructive engagement, reasoning, personal example, and leadership. This book moves beyond traditional ethics classes, instead helping you transform your intent into appropriate, effective action. The introduction of GVV’s 12 core assumptions and the seven pillars serve as tools in order to foster a values-driven action, along with valuable techniques and enablers to navigate through ethical dilemmas in the workplace.

Giving Voice to Values

Across cultures, people generally want to do the right thing when facing an ethical dilemma but often fail to act on their values for fear of negative repercussions, especially at work. Most ethics classes in management schools aim to help individuals make informed choices about the right course of action. However, the Giving Voice to Values (GVV) curriculum focuses on the next step – how individuals can transform their ethical intent into appropriate, effective action. GVV assumes that individuals already know the right thing to do and aims to enable them to make a positive change inside organizations using problem-solving, engagement, persuasion, personal example, reasoning, and leadership. GVV’s effectiveness lies in the power and persuasiveness of the stories individuals tell about their values. By using GVV, individuals can act on their values and promote positive change inside their organizations.

The Power of Voicing Your Values

Embracing the Eastern philosophy of going with the flow of your energy and not fighting it can help you act on your values. In order to do so, you must first understand the 12 core assumptions behind GVV’s tactics for “values-driven action”. These assumptions include the importance of voicing and acting upon your values, practicing in advance to improve your likelihood of acting on your values, and understanding the power of the example you set by voicing your values. Additionally, GVV’s “seven pillars” can help you work towards acting on your values more effectively. With the awareness and understanding of these principles, you can empower not only yourself but also others to stand up for their values and make better decisions. Remember, voicing your values is always worthwhile, regardless if you prevail or not. So, ask yourself, “If I were going to act on my values, what would I say and do?” and let these principles guide you towards taking values-driven action.

Values, Ethics, and Morals

The concepts of values, ethics, and morals are distinct. Ethics are externally imposed standards, while morals focus on right and wrong without regards to emotions. Values are shared attributes in all cultures. Ethics and morals emphasize judgment and discipline more than positive action. Keeping your list of values short can make it easier to practice values-driven actions and align yourself with your inner feelings rather than acting with coercion. Giving Voice to Values helps practice handling discomfort, threats, isolation, and embarrassment faced in ethical situations. Studying ethics helps assess right-wrong responses but doesn’t give clarity on how to implement choices.

A Tale of Two Stories

The book suggests self-reflection as a tool to align one’s actions with their true self. The “A Tale of Two Stories” exercise can reveal insights into one’s past choices and the true impact of speaking out on values. Factors that can enable or disable acting on one’s values are discussed. Allies, knowing your audience, and taking incremental steps are useful enablers, while a lack of information and fear are disablers. The book advocates for preserving ethical organizational cultures by selectively voicing and enacting shared values rather than normalizing their loss.

Mastering Ethical Dilemmas

Don’t let ethical dilemmas catch you off guard. In business, they’re a common occurrence rather than an exception. To stay prepared to face such challenges with objectivity, draw on solutions from your “job, profession, or industry.” Dissect these problems to see how they affect the group as a whole. Develop a script and rehearse it for seamless communication of your values without attacking others. Invite your peers and colleagues to look for ways to improve and involve them in the process; this inspires collective solutions to ethical problems and generates more impact than single-point-of-view solutions.

Finding Purpose in Workplace Dilemmas

To navigate work-related quandaries, understanding your professional and individual goals and purpose is key. While following company regulations, it’s important to stay true to your values and identify the overarching positive principles that guide your organization. Reframing “voice” as “dialogue” and fostering fairness in the workplace helps cultivate respect and dignity, even in times of discord. Ethical conflicts should be viewed as opportunities to safeguard and perpetuate your firm. Overall, having a sense of purpose and shared values elevates participation and helps navigate values-based predicaments.

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