Osama's Death: Good Business for the U.S.?

Alexandra Guadagno
Posted: 05/01/2011

Though the death of bin Laden will likely have little tangible impact, many conclude that the U.S. military’s defeat of the al-Qaida leader is a historic and important feat for the United States.

"Bin Laden's death is a significant victory for the United States. But it is more symbolic than concrete," Fawaz Gerges, an al-Qaida expert at the London School of Economics told Thompson Reuters.

Whether or not you agree with the United States’ move, consider it from the perspective of the U.S. as a business. It provokes a profound reflection about the core values of your company-- and how you deal with it when they’re violated.

Be Clear About Main Values in Your Mission Statement

People are more likely to work for companies that advocate the same values near and dear to their own hearts. By crafting a mission statement that truly reflects the company’s values—and really living by it—you’ll attract individuals with these same core beliefs.

Starbucks is a company that holds their company values dear and proactively works to make sure they remain a part of company culture. The company’s mission statement is "not a trophy that decorates office walls, but an organic body of beliefs and a foundation of guiding principles we hold in common," says Howard Schultz, Starbucks board chair, in the book Vital Integrities by George Brymer. Nearly 80 percent of Starbucks employees surveyed say that the company’s values provide "meaningful direction" in their career.

There is substantial research that suggests alignment with an organization’s ideals is often more important to talent than monetary rewards. David Montgomery’s research at Stanford, "Calibrating MBA Job Preferences for the 21st Century," concludes that money is indeed important—but working for a company that they are proud of is more so.

Similarly, though the defeat of bin Laden the individual won’t end terrorism, it makes an important statement about the U.S. stance and reinforces the country’s zero-tolerance policy for attacks on its people.

Let the Employees Hold You Accountable

"Management of an organization's image is always about creating the perception of alignment of values with external influences," says Mark Adelsberger, a software developer / IT professional with experience in both "start-up" and Fortune 500 organizations. "This comes with a built-in problem, though: If an organization's sense of internal justice is informed and guided by the opinions of external influences (who are necessarily in the dark about the true nature of internal affairs), then no real justice will exist. The long-term costs of this are much higher than a bad image."

To solve this, Starbucks lets its employees check and balance its leaders. They’re encouraged to give feedback on the organization’s activities and whether or not they’re aligned with the mission statement. Leaders then review this feedback and use it to make sure they are on track with the organization’s principles.

Much in the same way, the U.S. felt accountable to its people-- and especially those who lost loved ones in the September 11th attacks. The U.S. vowed after 2001 terrorist attacks that they would bring bin Laden "to justice." It may have taken 10 years to achieve this, but ultimately President Barack Obama was able to declare on Monday, May 2nd that the U.S. had "kept its commitment to justice." Following up and making the appropriate retributions for the violation of core beliefs might not always be the easy thing to do, but from an organizational perspective, it’s usually the sustainable action to take.

"Managing [violations] in a way aimed at embedding fairness and impartiality in the corporate culture is a demonstration of maturity and incredible professionalism," according to John Costa, Director at n-Layer in the UK. "These organizations might very well be the best performers. Handling it badly (or showing unwillingness to handle the issue) can be expensive."

Sticking to an organization’s convictions might not always be popular, but demonstrating values and clearly sticking to them will fortify the ties of the organization’s workforce and create a culture that remains united through difficult situations.

Says Schultz, "If people relate to the company they work for, if they share an emotional tie to it and buy in to its dreams, they will pour their heart into making it better."

Alexandra Guadagno
Posted: 05/01/2011

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