Munira Mirza, until recently head of Boris Johnson’s Downing Street policy unit, is known to admire Hannah Arendt, the 20th-century German political theorist, explaining: “She always did what she thought was the right thing rather than what was popular, what was safe… She always had integrity.”
Mirza apparently, lives up her ideals. A Tory politician who knows her well says “She’s interested in making the world a better place, not promoting the Conservative Party. She’s not political, not tribal. She’s far more interested in doing what she thinks is the right thing.”
A trusted advisor to Boris Johnson and influential in Whitehall she resigned after telling Mr Johnson his claims about the Labour leader were an “inappropriate and partisan reference to a horrendous case of child sex abuse”. She believes what he said about Sir Keir Starmer was not right, fair or reasonable, it was a ‘grave error of judgement’.
Is it possible to work for someone whose values you don’t share?
It might be possible to tolerate short-term but in the longer term it is not tenable. Ultimately you are putting yourself between a rock and a hard place.
Values reflect who you are, what you hold dear, what upsets you, and what underlies your decisions, are all connected to your personal values. Your values represent what is important to you and are a shorthand way of describing your motivations. Together with beliefs, they are the causal factors that drive decision-making.
Knowing your values is the route to self-knowledge as they are an essential component of your character. Take conscious steps to identify your values as they provide you with a personal code of conduct.
Personal and corporate values
In the workplace, the values held by senior leaders will cascade through the business, and I suppose are best described as “the way we do things around here”. Employees are quick to form a view as to the appropriateness of these and, perhaps most importantly, decide as to what extent they personally are aligned to the values. We have all come across organisations that espouse “people are our most important asset” but are first in line to wield the redundancy axe in hard times. Corporate social responsibility is important, workers are increasingly “belief-driven” and, as we recover from the pandemic, many are seeking a better fit between their own and their employer’s corporate values. For example, 64% of millennials won’t take a job if the organisation doesn’t have a corporate social responsibility policy.
Values form at an early stage in one’s life and, typically, don’t change much. Values alignment between employee and organisation are essential for job satisfaction and career success. A values-based organisation will articulate what theirs mean in real terms and support employees in engaging with and committing to them. In my experience the most common cause for people leaving an organisation is because of the arrival of a new boss who has values that conflict with their own.
The need for authenticity seems to have driven Munira Mirza since her resignation letter is so critical of Johnson. It isn’t always easy but authenticity means you are true to your values regardless of the pressure to act otherwise. Ideals and actions align when we are being true to what we consider to be right.