Welcome to week #19 of the Cookingham Connection. Today, we learn from Vanessa Shrauner, the Development Coordinator for Odessa, TX. She follows the post Guidepost #19 written by Edward Wyatt. Previously, Ms. Shrauner worked for the City of Sunset Valley, and the City of Round Rock.
“Always remember that you will never get in trouble or be embarrassed by doing what is right. You may lose your job for standing up for what you think is right, but you‘ll always get another and better job. Besides, you will be able to sleep soundly every night.”
I would like to start by saying, we never know what might “get us in trouble” or cause us embarrassment when it comes to working in municipal governments. Therefore, I would like to take a little liberty and rephrase Mr. Cookingham’s statement while hopefully keeping the intent.
If you get in trouble or are embarrassed by doing what is right, it will quickly be relieved by a clear conscience. So while you may lose your job, you will have maintained your integrity and values and typically employers respect that, therefore, you will get another job and it may be better. Good things happen to good people.
Doing what is right is typically aligned with staying true to one’s own core values. Core values are determined in a variety of ways in peoples’ lives, so values differ from person to person, therefore doing what is “right” can differ from person to person.
The best case scenario in municipal government is that a manager’s core values are in line with decision/policy makers. This scenario makes maintaining a moral path easier in that basically everyone is on the same page. In doing what is right, the manager has the support of the decision makers.
Should the manager’s core values not be in line with the board or council, then staying true to one’s believes of right and wrong becomes more difficult. Here’s where the “you may lose your job” part comes in. Each individual must decide for themselves their limits on their integrity. If a council asks you to do something that you believe is not right, you have options.
Most of us are members of organizations that protect us in ethical matters. However, there may still be instances where a request goes against ones values and that leads to the firing or the voluntarily resignation of a manager. In other times, the option may be to say/do nothing depending on the circumstance. If saying or doing nothing does not violate your personal values and can still meet needs of policy makers, it may be the most viable solution.
Another aspect I think is worth mention is being flexible, not with your personal values, but with your view of others values. I believe that trying to look at circumstances from the other side, may warrant us adjusting or revisiting the limits of our values from time to time. Being that right and wrong can vary from person to person, there is another perspective for us to observe circumstances from.
Things are not always as black and white as they may seem in the beginning and a little re-evaluation and introspection may give us the ability to compromise and reach a solution which works for all parties. I find this an integral part of the job I do on a daily basis. Now, not every decision is an ethical challenge, but the practice of seeing both sides of a situation allows me to exercise that skill when the stakes are higher.
Applying this in my career means knowing my values, knowing my managers values and knowing where I can be flexible. I fully anticipate a conflict of values at some point in my career so should I face the instance of losing my job for doing what I believe is right, I hope I can do so with my values and integrity intact. And I always hope I stay true to my core values because, as Mr. Wyatt said I have to be able to live with myself.