The Importance of Workplace Standards

I didn’t see it, and quite frankly, I don’t want to. Apparently, Miley Cyrus managed to ignite a Twitter frenzy with over 300,000 tweets per minute related to her “performance” at this year’s MTV Video Music Awards. Praised by some and mocked by others, if attention was her goal, she exceeded even her own expectations.

I do not dislike Ms. Cyrus. She is quite talented, and I’m sure has many admirable qualities. The reason I have no desire to view her stage antics, however, is because such behavior doesn’t meet my personal standard of excellence. I have no wish to watch a young woman degrade herself personally while communicating to impressionable younger women that such behaviors are admirable and imitable.

In essence, our standards of excellence are not the same. In the context of television viewing choice, that’s really no big deal. That’s why there are “off” and multiple “channel” buttons on remote controls. But what if she and I worked for the same organization? Is it appropriate for our workplace standards to be miles apart? Obviously, the answer is a resounding, “No!” So, how can organizations effectively use standards to maintain corporate integrity?

  • Develop standards that align vision, mission, and core values. If standards are arbitrary and are not aligned with your organization’s reason for existing, it will be hard for employees to see how those standards are relevant to job performance. “That’s the way we do things around here,” doesn’t have to be used as a threat. Instead, such statements can be offered with an encouraging tone to reinforce your vision, mission, and core values.
  • Communicate standards consistently. You should utilize as many outlets as possible to communicate employee standards and expectations. Reminding employees of your code of ethics or core values on an annual basis is admirable, but the adage “out of sight out of mind” rings true.
  • Begin with the end in mind. The time to begin discussing standards begins before an individual is hired to join your team. You should discuss standards during needs assessment and creation of job descriptions so that you can relate clear expectations related to organizational excellence during the interview phase. By the way, that process reminds existing employees of why you do what you do.
  • Live them. If leaders compromise standards, how can we expect employees not to? If one of your standards is integrity, then choose integrity even if others do not. If excellence is a standard, then refuse to deliver sub-par work. If honesty is a standard, then choose to always tell the truth.

Incorporating standards is not easy in a culture where absolute truth is a moving target. However, standards do not have to be moving targets within the context of your organization. With them, you have the opportunity to create clear expectations. Without them, you might ignite the next Twitter frenzy. And that’s not always a good thing.

Greg Anderson
Written by:
Greg Anderson
President of Online Learning, Strategic Government Resources
Follow Greg on Twitter!@SGRGreg

3 responses

  1. Outstanding. I couldn’t have said it better myself. Well put. Far more worthwhile discussions need to be on the table for things needful and meaningful. I used her performance to create a “teachable moment” for my daughters. We talked about reputation and what you want people to “know you for.” Generated a great dialogue with their young and impressionable minds.

    1. That’s a great way to turn a not-so-great media frenzy into a teaching moment. Thanks for your comment, Enna!

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