The first time I realised the importance of good values was when I entered corporate life and saw that it really does take all sorts of make this world. When we are young and learning at school, playing within our communities or attending social events close to home, we are usually surrounded by people who share similar values because they’ve been raised in the same environment as oneself.

When the real world in the form of our first full time job reaches out to greet us for the first time, it can be quite a shock. Suddenly, we’re interacting with people who might not have grown up with similar ideas of what’s right and wrong. At work; perhaps during meetings, getaways, and so on; the newbie corporate employee might be exposed to ways of working that push the envelope. There’s a simple way to deal with this uncomfortableness: smile, quietly remember your values and discreetly exit the room if you feel events or discussions are heading South. Your gut will tell you things are unfolding in the wrong way so trust your instincts.

You simply do not want to get tarred with the same brush as people behaving in ways that are at odds with your values. There may be certain short-term benefits that are appealing: bonding with colleagues, promises of quick promotion and so on. However, it’s vital you get things off to a good start at the very beginning of your career – but not for the reasons one might think. For many of us, the corporate world is the place we’re going to gain experience – it is not the end destination. South Africans are a nation of entrepreneurs, a country of people who are just excellent at ‘making a plan’, and doing so at a profit. A great deal of us want to start our own businesses after paying our dues in the corporate world.

It is therefore vitally important to ensure your values are never compromised early in your career, as there could be severe repercussions much later on when you’re out and about trying to get your start-up off the ground. They say elephants never forget, well, our local business community is a small place so make sure you cultivate a reputation that’s a credit to you. A solid reputation for fair dealing is more important than seed funding, an awesome corporate identity or even that great start-up idea.

Of course, the primary reason for behaving in a way that is not at odds with sound values is simply because it is the right thing to do. We cannot build a world that’s worth living in and fit for our children if ethical behaviour is allowed to wax and wane when the mood takes us. With good values, be uncompromising!

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