In Action: Personal Values on The Job as Miss Maine USA Resigns

career development personal values Apr 19, 2011
Personal values on the job help you make tough choices

I was struck today by an article I read about the resignation of Emily Johnson, Miss Maine USA and the response by Mackenzie Davis, executive director of the Miss Maine USA pageant (you can read the article here). There are several lessons in this story, one of the personal values of Ms. Johnson, one of the personal values of Ms. Davis and the values of the Miss USA pageant and one of the "forces" that work that require courage to live in accordance with your values.

Briefly, the situation is that the Miss USA pageant time was moved from April to June after Ms. Johnson earned her spot as Miss Maine. As it turn out, it was moved to the weekend her sister was scheduled to be married. Ms. Johnson, decided that it was more important to her to take part in her sister's wedding than attend the Miss USA pageant. So, she resigned her title.

But, Ms. Johnson is leaving behind more than just a title. The Miss USA pageant is well known for launching careers of the women who participate. Of course she loses her opportunity to be Miss USA. There is also a lot of money on the table from speaking engagements and appearances. She's walking away from all of that as well. Clearly, Ms. Johnson understands her personal values and is making a decision to live in accordance with those values, regardless of the consequences. She will be far better off for it in the long run.

Now, let's look at the response the Associate Press reports:

"Mackenzie Davis, executive director of the Miss Maine USA pageant, says she understands Johnson's reasoning, but she says Miss Maine is a serious commitment and that she's disappointed Johnson withdrew from her duties."

Here, we see the pressures that society and employers use, intentionally or not, to influence work behaviors, which ultimately may not be good for either the employee or the company. Ms. Davis could have responded positively and with encouragement by wishing Ms. Davis well and acknowledging the role the pageant play in her resignation by changing the date. Instead, Ms. Davis talks about the serious commitment that the pageant is. And while that commitment is serious, Ms. Johnson apparently has a more serious commitment: family.

What do Ms. Davis' statements say about her values? Does she agree with Ms. Johnson's choice but feels pressured to respond differently? Why is Ms. Davis disappointed? How is this choice going to affect her? How will Ms. Davis' statement influence other Miss Maine contestants as well as contestants around the country? What do her statements say about the values of the Miss USA pageant? Does the pageant agree with her? There's no right or wrong here, just questions of what' is valued by each side.

In our lives we are often faced with choices, big and small. It is our personal values that lead us to make every one. Sometimes those values are ones we judge as being distasteful and we say we didn't live by our values, when actually we did. Let's say that Miss Johnson did "sell out" and keep her title. What does that s

Consider the follow for yourself and the organization you lead:

  1. What are my personal values and how well am I living them?
  2. What are the values of my company/business/team?
  3. Do my personal values agree with, compliment or conflict with my company's/business's/team's values?
  4. If my personal values conflict with my company's values, what value am I honoring instead?

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