I recently entered into a discussion in one of the forums on Linkedin. That got me thinking and recalibrating my views on morals & values. The thread’s topic started with the question “How much are you respected as a consultant?” Someone posted: “Respect has nothing to do with performance. It’s a meaningless babble word like “trust, ethics, values and morals” -all which have numerous meanings”. Although the statement is correct, I was irked by the comment, as I believed that: “defining and sharing values is what holds societies together, it provides a yardstick against which we can judge intentions and actions. If we did not have any values or morals we could not differentiate good from bad”. My colleague and I had a good exchange but I had to admit that smoking marijuana in Texas is considered bad (jail) whilst in Colorado it is good, or at least legal. Morals, values and ethics are “babble” words – not convinced about trust just yet- that have different meanings depending on where you live and where you’re from.
It is true that different moral standards apply to different religion and tribes. A good example is homosexuality, (or sexual freedom). It is measured or ranked on a morality scale very differently in Saudi Arabia (Mecca the heart of Islam) than in Europe (the home of the Christians). Regardless which religion, religions have held the monopoly on morality matters throughout history. Interestingly enough the Jews, Christians and Muslims all share the same root and thus the “old testament”, where the guidelines are very clear:
Unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately, religions and God have little in common. Religions are all lead by men; all claiming to be speaking the message of God. Although I not contesting the original message or intent of sharing the “message” with others, religions develop a life of their own. Even the seven deadly sins, although noble in their nature, are a fabrication of the church. History has taught us that power is addictive. Today it’s the politicians that get addicted to it, “power” is the drive behind the men who are behind the religions. Regrettably history has also taught us that power corrupts, and the religion’s elders seldom retire as Pope Benedict did. The system just isn’t perfect.
It just seems that once upon a time, value was measured differently; or maybe we just measured more things than just money. Perhaps it’s because presidents of companies did not make a thousand times the salary of their lowest paid employee. Of course you may argue that today’s CEOs generate perhaps a thousand times more value as an employee than the man on the assembly line; and that it is only fair to compensate him accordingly. Good point, if we take shareholder value as the only measure of success. Unfortunately this is the same logic (along with a few other things of course) that has lead China to become the world’s manufacturer, making things where it’s cheapest. How can Europe be facing some of the highest “youth unemployment” ever measured whilst the baby boomers are entering retirement age? Quite simply, the jobs have moved elsewhere because it’s good business, good for the bottom line. In today’s global economy, not only are you competing against the neighbour’s business from across the street, you compete with a business from across the world, and your neighbours are all over the globe. So the decision to move jobs abroad is relatively easy to make; in many cases it may even be imperative to a company and it’s business model’s, survival. It’s just about money and shareholder returns. There is no room for morality. Time goes by and as employees are victims of the circumstance, the greed slowly siphon’s away the jobs and economic activity these jobs provide. This is the kind of actions and reasoning behind paying CEOs large salaries. The only value that count’s today is money. Never mind honesty or integrity, mastery or excellence, reliability and trust are all just words that look good on the vision statement but are hard to recognize in every day actions.
I happen to live in Croatia, a young democracy with an abundance of natural resources; since it’s inception in 1991, the vast majority of politicians have demonstrated with their actions; that they care more about their own pockets than the people, and state, they are meant to represent. Not only did they managed to squander the previously state owned companies, they have indebted the country to the point that fiscal discipline, mandated by the EU, is now very painful. The answer has been to raise taxes; at 25%, we have one of the highest “Value Added Tax” in Europe; and things are not only taxed once, but every time they are resold. These policies are snuffing out any kind of economic spark and this is reflected in the low investment figures. As we watch the evening news report about the corruption trial of the ex-prime minister, Ivo Sanader, the country is facing tough economic times and millions of people are paying for his greed, whilst the people that supported him are living it up immune by their fattened wallets to the hardship their irresponsibility have caused. What is sad; is that Croatia is certainly not the only example.
Many will argue that we have more choice today than ever before. Choice means competition and competition means a better product for consumers. Thereby stimulating innovation, which spews out new products and more choice. Those who don’t adapt to the ever-changing conditions quickly go out of business. Industries become extinct, just like species in nature; essentially a kind of “economic evolution”, where the only law is the law of the jungle: survival of the fittest. It’s only fair to say that in such an environment, it’s not surprising that people start worshiping money rather than god, wrongfully believing that money is the only thing that makes you happy. In fact if we dig a little deeper we find that there are many things that we value in life; we just tend to forget them. They get lost in the rat race that has become our lives, juggling deadlines and priorities whilst constantly distracted by everything and everyone who is seeking our attention.
So to refresh our memories about what is valuable to individuals, and give you the opportunity to recalibrate your own priorities; I thought of sharing this values map (found at with an open heart dot org).