Your Value vs. Your Values

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What is a cynic? A man who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing.”—Oscar Wilde

“I want to be measured by my values, not by my value”—M. Moffa

There are two alternative and very different measures of a man or a woman: his or her valuevs. his or her values. Which of these matters more to your company—meaning, on the one hand, the one you work, recruit or are hoping to work for and, on the other hand, the people you simply spend time with?

If your value in sales dollars raked in, annual bonuses, stocks held or connections groomed matters more to others or to yourself than your values do, you will be seen or inclined to see yourself as a resource.

Sure, this utilitarian (self-)perception of oneself as merely a factor of production can be softened with qualifiers such as “human resource(s)”, concealed by obfuscating acronyms such as “HR”, or blurred by conflation with positive-sounding epithets like “resourceful”.

Nonetheless, the hard truth is that within a value-framework, rather than a values-framework, as a “resource”, you are a tool, an instrument, a means to an end, like logged and sawed lumber, which adds value, or to which value is added.

In contrast, measured by, or even better, appreciated for your values rather than for your value, you are much less likely to be seen as a resource of a project than as its inspiration. You will be much less likely to be thought of as only a material contributor to your “company” rather than as also a spiritual one. You will be valued as much for your character and good sense as for the dollars and cents you generate.

In the extreme and most elevated, enlightened and edifying instance, you may even be seen as “never a means, always an end”, much as philosophers, theologians and self-help gurus have urged us to see and treat each other.

High-sounding phrases, these. But, let’s get real. You are a recruiter whose primary job is to recruit staff for their value to the company, and only secondarily, if at all, for their values.

A logger is hired to chop trees, even if he wants to hug them; a Wall Street lawsuit-chasing-law suit is promoted to partner because he makes money, irrespective of whether he values money more than power or power more than money.

Besides, it will be argued, in the “real world” of business and organizations, someone’s ideals and values—discerned in their attitudes, priorities and goals—are almost always components of and contributors to their value or lack thereof.

If a logger really wants to protect rather than topple trees, his value to a logging company is very likely to be less than it would be if his values were better aligned with the ax blade and will be probably be less than that of another logger who sees trees as a means to an end table.

So in instances in which values are not merely irrelevant to value, they are usually indicative of it. Hence, it seems that values require no special, separate or high-priority attention in job interviews, dating, marriage or anything else. Bottom line: Think “value”, not “values”.

Ah, were it so simple! It isn’t. The logger whose values ostensibly clash with his expected value to the harvesters might be the sole voice in the company that whispers “reforestation”, or the one who knows enough math and has enough courage to suggest maximizing total profit (through long-term reforestation), instead of maximizingrate of profit(through short-term, short-sighted clear-cutting).

The lesson and paradox in this creative incongruity, “value-values dissonance”, to coin a phrase, is that the applicant or staff member whose values seem to collide with their hoped-for value to the firm may be exactly the one who is a keeper.

By forcing everyone else to review and perhaps reconfigure their own and the firm’s values, that maverick and conflicted “values-added” individual may stimulate consideration and adoption of a more profitable values-value-based mission within the company and its operations, while restoring consonance and congruity—otherwise known as “integrity”—to his or her own psyche.

Revised bottom line: Focusing on values added instead of—or at least in tandem with—value added may be just what your business or you personally need to see and manage your forest, and not just your trees, differently, better and more profitably….

….assuming you can see the value, as well as the values, in what you’ve just read.

Update: At least one of the world’s billionaires, Nicolas Berggruen, has adopted something like the “values-added” approach. In his profile on Wikipedia, the following appears: “His current investment strategy is something he calls ‘values investing’ instead of ‘value investing’. These values investments include windmill farms in Turkey, wheat fields in Australia, and redevelopment of poor inner cities.”


By Michael Moffa