The Most Overused Bullshit Cultural Values Organizations Have 

Whether you’re searching for a job or creating a job posting for a new position at your company, you’ve likely come across certain terms or phrases in the human resources world. Maybe you’ve come across them too much. So much so that you roll your eyes when you read them.

In job postings, maybe that phrase is “customer support ninja” or “social media rock star.” What do those quirky job titles mean, anyway? They may attract a certain type of job seeker, but they leave the details and responsibility of the position pretty ambiguous. How do you even get a promotion up from “data guru?” What’s the next level up from that?

And these overused phrases aren’t limited to job titles, either. When describing an organization’s core values or cultural values, there are a lot of overused phrases companies will employ. The phrases might make up their company value statement, be sprinkled throughout a job description, or stuck in an employee handbook. The point is, some of these cultural values are so tired that they’re close to becoming cliches. And that’s a waste.

We’re going to talk about those overused phrases, how they could be improved, and what an overhaul of your company’s cultural values could do for your organization.

The overly general cultural value

Passion.

Results.

Commitment.

Change.

These are all great values to have, as a person and as a company. But they’re incredibly generic. How exactly does your company define those values? How does everyone in your company, from upper level executives to supervisors to interns, embody those values? You can do better.

An easy way to rewrite these cultural values is to just be a little more specific. Put a bit of extra effort into tailoring your values so that they fit your company. Otherwise, your core value statement might look like it can come from any company.

Airbnb has a great example of a solid core values statement. On their careers page, they list them as:

  • Champion the mission. Airbnb’s mission is to create a community of unity and belonging all over the world, so it makes sense that this value would be listed first.
  • Be a host. And since Airbnb is a hospitality service, “be a host” is the obvious choice for their second value. It reminds people what their purpose is and what services they offer. It’s also a clever way to describe their caring and open attitude in general.
  • Embrace the adventure. This value shows that Airbnb is constantly growing and improving. They’re not afraid of change; rather, they embrace it.
  • Be a cereal entrepreneur. Finally, we have this value. It’s a little whimsical and the meaning is a little ambiguous. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Apparently, the company’s co-founders once sold generic Cheerios in relabeled “Obama-Os” and “Cap’n McCains” cereal boxes in honor of the presidential election at the time. It’s a cute callback to the company’s history, and it’s a pun on being a serial entrepreneur.

Remember that all companies value passion, results, commitment, and change in order to run smoothly. Using those words alone in your value statement is lazy. Think about your company: how do you serve your customers? What makes your company unique? What stories do we have that could serve as examples for this value?

The inauthentic value

Laugh often.

Have fun.

Let loose.

Celebrate every win. 

Would you guess that these values belong to an up-and-coming tech company in Silicon Valley, or a hedge fund based in New York? We’d bet on the tech company, which probably has a more relaxed and creative atmosphere than the hedge fund. There’s nothing wrong with that. The important thing is to be genuine.

Choose values that genuinely represent your company, otherwise you come off as fake, or like you’re trying too hard to be hip. Take an honest look at your company to come up with realistic, credible values.

One way you can do that is to ask your employees for feedback. This is also a good time to check if your employees can even name your current core values. A recent poll found that only 22% of respondents believed that 60% of the employees knew their values.

Get input from upper management, mid-level supervisors, entry-level employees, and interns. Ask them what they think the company values are, or what they should be. You’ll find the feedback might be helpful in drafting a new value statement that’s based in authenticity.

The boring and obvious value

Teamwork.

Integrity.

Customer-oriented.

Authentic.

Well, duh. Any company, whether it’s a startup or established brand, small business or large corporation, product or service, needs to operate with these values in mind. They’re a given, so there’s no need to point them out in your value statement.

Get rid of these obvious values that are common sense for any business. They don’t distinguish your brand from your competitors, and they don’t really say anything about your company to your customers. Ask yourself if another company could use this value as their own. If the answer is yes, find a new one, or figure out a way to make it unique.

Take IKEA’s cultural values. One of them is “daring to be different: we question old solutions and, if we have a better idea, we are willing to change.” Rather than use the words “innovative” or “forward-thinking” or “creative,” IKEA crafted their own value that reflects the way they operate and their attitude towards new ideas.

Zappos is another great example. They have 10 core values, but their #1 is “deliver WOW through service.” Much better than “customer-oriented” or “make the customer happy.” Their value not only acknowledges their delivery service, but it encompasses the spirit and passion of their company culture.

Be specific, honest, and unique

There are a lot of companies out there vying for consumer attention as well as talented jobseekers. To make your organization attractive to both, make sure your cultural values/core value statement/company statement is true to your organization. Be specific about what makes your company tick.

Be honest about the values you embrace and embody. Make each value unique to your company. Specific, honest, and unique company values will appeal to your employees, and it’ll make you stand out from the rest.