Q: What can have a single face or thousands of them, but should only ever have one identity?
A: A company.
Every time an employee of a company contacts a customer, a potential hire, a supplier, a government office, or anyone else, they are assuming the identity of their company, whether they realize it or not. This means that the impression people are left with not only reflects the individual themselves but also the company as a whole. Because of this the core values of the company will be either hidden or disclosed based upon the actions and value set of the individual. If the individual has a set of core values that is closely aligned with the company then the interactions with outsiders will typically yield an accurate depiction of the values of the company, assuming the individual acts in accordance with those values. However, in cases where the person is not closely aligned or does not act in accordance with the company’s core values, the impression left is not one that accurately reflects the true identity of the company.
Disparities in values are not only acceptable but necessary for a thriving company. A friend/colleague of mine always says, “If there are two people in a business that have the exact same values and opinions, the business has one too many people.” Differences of opinions and value sets are necessary in order to push the envelope and allow companies to sustain their forward momentum. However, when these differences cause a negative perception of the company the entire organization is instantly set back.
While the internal organization should cultivate diversity, this should be largely hidden from external entities in order to paint a singular image for the public. Companies must insist that all employees foster an attitude and environment that appropriately portrays the values of the company and minimizes differences. As an example, many companies have poor customer service, which is undoubtedly not something they strive for. Customer service representatives that are rude, recruiters that attempt to devalue potential hires, and store staff lacking knowledge of their products are just a few of the many ways that companies allow the public to get a hazy image of the core corporate values. All of these could be fixed by management.
While most modern companies are highly focused on low cost and fast turnaround, it is essential that management focus on the task of getting all points of contact to emulate the image the company wishes to show to the public. It doesn’t matter if employees agree with the values or not, as long as their complaints and dissensions are never voiced publicly and always reserved for the office. This is the only way to prevent a fractured public opinion.