Values Vs. Growth
Personal integrity and personal growth are not always aligned and you have to make choice
Most of us are striving for growth in our careers. We are keen to get that new title, gain new responsibilities, or feel more fulfilled. (There is a massive and interesting piece on Why we want that, but let us leave that aside for now).
Early on in our careers we are following existing rules and guidelines, trying to do a good job. Later on, that is not enough. We need to shift our focus to making things better.
Don’t bring me problems, bring me solutions.
The catch is that our desire to solve issues might be — counter to our intentions — hurtful to our career…
One of my colleagues is currently experiencing this.
They are extremely passionate about a wide range of topics. They are also motivated to improve the status quo and make things better. But in some cases, they are seen as loud and a troublemaker. This is problematic for two reasons: It is not helping to improve the situation and it is also slowing down their career progression.
You would expect to get a reaction like this when someone is complaining the whole time. But that is not the case here. No, it has to do with the result they are striving for.
We commonly think of two groups when it comes to solving problems: Those that do and those that do not. And often (not always) we believe that solving problems is a good thing — hence the very popular phrase from above.
But as usual, it’s not that black and white. There is a whole problem-solving spectrum we can look at:
- Finders — People that highlight issues, but have no solution ready or desire to help
- Conformists — People that see issues, and try to find a solution that is in alignment with the current way things work
- Idealists — People that see issues, and try to find a solution that is close to their ideal
Here is the tricky part. Any one of those approaches might hurt our career. Neither is ideal in all scenarios and it depends on the culture of the group we are trying to influence.
Depending on the situation we are perceived as a person with an eye for issues or a complainer. Or in a different setting, as a troublemaker or a change for good. Even as a conformist, there will be challenging situations and topics.
Our impact on the group or company and our chances of growing in our careers are dependent on the existing culture.
But it gets even trickier.
The Integrity Trade-Off
So far, we have covered different problem-solving approaches and ways to improve the status quo. Let us bring in another, often related, aspect: personal values.
We all have them. Whether we know exactly what they are or are still figuring them out. They influence our behaviour and how we show up. This is not exclusive to problem-solving, but it often connects — as the example of my colleague shows.
When a topic is connected to our core values and we are passionate about it, we tend to push harder. We want to get to an outcome that aligns with our ideals. And if we try too hard, we can easily come across as loud or a troublemaker.
Balancing career growth with the desire to improve the status quo is hard enough. Add in our values and it can be hard to find a good approach that satisfies all aspects.
In some rare, lucky instances, all three might align. In most cases though, we will have to make trade-offs. And it is up to us to decide whether our career needs to wait or whether we compromise on our values.