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Undergraduates consider the role of values in the workplace

April 13, 2023

Undergraduates consider the role of values in the workplace

Picture of workshop participants

The Department of Philosophy partnered with the ASC Center for Career and Professional Success to develop and offer a workshop for undergraduate students in Philosophy and Philosophy, Politics and Economics entitled “Values in the Workplace” on Saturday, April 8, 2023.  The goals of the workshop were to empower students to articulate their own values and commitments as they pertain to work and the workplace, to gain skills on how to research the values of potential employers, and to understand how and why workplace values changes over time.  The workshop was designed and facilitated by Dr. Amy L. Shuster (Philosophy), Ali Kaveh Aenehzodaee (Philosophy), and Megan D’Angelo (ASC Career Success).

The workshop began with a wide range of perspectives about values in the workplace.  Where some employers and managers think that talking about values and assessing decisions in light of avowed values is necessary and inevitable, others believe that values-talk can be divisive and counter-productive.  “Acknowledging that people differ not only about the content but also the appropriateness of values in the workplace prepares workshop participants to face the reality they will enter upon their professional launch after graduation,” said Dr. Shuster.  

Workshop participants reported that working in a way that reflects their values is important to them. But they often struggle to identify the particular values they want to characterize their professional life, and to make choices or prioritize among values when that becomes necessary.  The second part of the workshop offered participants a way to do so by reflecting on what they have found valuable in prior roles they have taken up and by identifying what sort of impact they want to make in their professional lives in the short- and long-term. “Philosophy offers some important considerations for such moments in our lives,” said Aenehzodaee.  “Whereas consequentialists call attention to the benefits of seeking to maximize positive impact on others through our work, virtue ethicists advise that we work with integrity—where integrity is understood as the integration of our decisions and actions with our grounding projects and overarching goals.” 

The workshop concluded with what facilitators called “the lifecycle of values” and some tips on how to identify and assess values statements made by employers.  Participants were presented with the causes of change and persistence in values over the course of one’s life at work.  Then participants analyzed the values statements of a variety of employers and industries to see what is emphasized, how those values relate to the business enterprise, and what--if any--accountability measures are in place. “Even before applying for a job, one can learn a lot about the values of a potential employer or of an industry more broadly,” said D’Angelo.  “A mismatch between one’s values and an employer’s values can lead to feeling unmotivated, isolated, unappreciated, and unhappy,” she continued.  Participants reported that the workshop helped them to identify when and how to communicate their values in workplace settings, and to research prospective employers for a better fit with what is most important to them.

“As a follow up in the fall, we would love to assemble a panel of alums to speak with our students about how values show up in their workplaces and how they navigate values conflicts in their professional lives,” said Dr. Shuster.  


Ohio State alums who would like to participate in a panel discussion about values in their workplaces and/or professional lives are encouraged to contact Dr. Shuster at shuster.67@osu.edu.