The Challenge with Organisational Values

For those who haven’t heard of him, retired cop Alfie Moore has a comedy programme on Radio 4 entitled ‘It’s a Fair Cop’, where he addresses policing issues from a cop’s perspective, and with a sense of humour familiar to old hats like me. A week or so ago he covered the concept of the Student Officer, and I laughed for half an hour. But one thing he said, made me think.

He was speaking of his probationer’s thoughts on some issue, and he mentioned that it is ‘expected that your values will align with those of the organisation.’ Hmmm.

First of all, why wouldn’t they? Why would anyone work that hard to join an organisation that didn’t align with their values, or at least one with which they expected their personal values would be congruent. Malice aside, no-one joins an organisation that they would consider opposes their personal views and beliefs unless they wish to destroy it from within.

So they join in the belief that the organisation’s values align with their own, and the organisation expects that any small gaps will be closed, over time. This seems fair.


(Dinosaur warning.)

When I joined in 1986 we were a law enforcement agency. Laws were enforced and, first-time offending kids aside, there was no such thing as a caution for an offence committed. And even then, you only got one before you saw the inside of a Court. The smallest amount of drugs in your pocket resulted in a possession charge. The only discretion was, pretty much, at the first point of contact – if the cop didn’t ticket or nick you, that was the end of it.

By the 2000s, kids were getting caution after caution after caution. Thieves weren’t charged, they were ticketed – assuming the cop even went to the shop to deal with the shoplifter. Drugs were forgiven and pre-court diversion methods abounded. And then, the law enforcers started helping the druggies by giving them clean needles, thus implicitly aiding and abetting their possession. Yes, I know there are legal arguments against, but the point stands. Which is….

The organisation’s values had changed. But mine hadn’t.

And what is more, the organisation was being directed in this direction by politicos. (I shan’t explore the university education of the senior officer class and the possibility of their indoctrination by academia, which is notoriously left-wing. That’s a long debate.)

And what’s more, the old values with which many a copper had (a) already possessed and (b) were aligned with the law enforcement ethos of their organisation, were now being punished if they acted in accordance with the values that the organisation had, until then, been perfectly happy with.

That’s not to defend the poorer behaviours of some, such as overt racism, bullying and sexism. Although I didn’t see a lot of that, there was some as defined now. But what I saw was contradictory – you’d be sexist one minute, then risk your own welfare in defence of the person you’d just slagged off. ‘Twas ever thus.

When you impose changed values, you meet resistance because you changed the rules by which those upon whom the new rules had previously worked, quite happily.

So don’t blame them for resisting change. Question whether the change was worth alienating your best staff. And whether the reason you did it was self-serving or politically directed.

For a deeper discussion on personal and policing values, got to Chapters 17 and 18 of my book, Police Time Management.

Published by policetimemanagement

30 year policing veteran and time management authority. Now I've combined the two.

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