How many values do you need?

I was in a room with all the HR team, the senior Health and Safety Manger and the Chief Operations Officer. It was a real coup having the COO in the room and to my mind showed how seriously they took the issues surrounding emotional and mental health.

I was there to help the HR team learn how to manage complex cases of staff attendance (or lack of). Amongst that we were also deciding their approach, how their policy should be interpreted and how to best use the Mental Health First Aiders I had been training for them.

The discussion was broad and interesting, constructive for the most part and we were definitely making progress. The policy was a colossal 18 pages thick including appendices, it is detailed and comprehensive. I want to be clear that it is probably the most inclusive and best policy I’ve come across in the past few years but somehow it isn’t enough, its sheer size is acting as an impediment to staff usage.

In order to cut through some of the debate the COO suggested we use the organisational values as a filter to determine our next steps.

I paused and asked if everyone knew the values. The COO leapt in saying that everyone did.

I paused again and told everyone to look at me rather than the COO, then I asked the question again. I could tell from their eyes that not everyone could name them all instantly and certainly not with the COO listening. Several people seemed to be imploring me not to choose them to speak. To their credit the COO did not take offence and instead chose to focus on one value which they described as the most important, certainly in this context.


It was the jolt the room needed. Your senior leader telling you to approach every case with compassion? How different to approaching from a budgetary or efficiency standpoint.What a change from talking about flexibility or dynamism. Suddenly the conversation came more easily to everyone. Problems which had been intractable before seemed to drop in to a resolution.

I’m sure it wouldn’t work everywhere and I’m also pretty sure that the COO has to overcome some deeply embedded resistance to that word or others like it but the people in the room got it and worked with it. An HR team with compassion? I think we would all like that.

compassion verb


About Jon Bartlett

I'm a coach, blogging on things that occur to me, that I want to share and any other fun stuff I find lying around in the real world.
This entry was posted in Leadership, Mental Health, Work. Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to How many values do you need?

  1. When I hear the word values I reach for my wallet. Lovely post and the work you are doing sounds fascinating.

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