Values, with a capital V, are core principles that we, as a School, stand for. They are part of our School strategic plan, and are specific to our community. You may think this is a pointless exercise in bureaucracy.
Why would we have to write these things down? There are three reasons why I think it really is valuable to explicitly record them.
- Culture is a nebulous thing. Most of us recognise a rotten work environment when we’re in one. But it is much more difficult to pin down how to bring about a pleasant culture, and how to keep it up. Having a common core to tie together fragmented policies helps and sets expectations. Agreeing on, and being reminded of, our shared values lets us all make better decisions about how to behave, staff and students alike.
- Having values explicit makes it easier for others to appreciate our School culture. In the last rounds of academic recruitment, many candidates commented on how welcoming and collegial they found the School. The same goes for professional services, where staff move around Schools within the University more often, but they come to Informatics because it’s a nice place to work. And the same goes for prospective students deciding whether they want to spend some of their formative years with us. We want to attract the best and nicest people to work with, and having explicit values for applicants to see when they do their homework before applying helps with that.
- Having a common frame of reference makes it easier stand up to actions that do not live up to our standards. When something happens that you’re not sure was necessarily the best thing, it can be hard to actively say something about it yourself if you’re unsure how others feel. That’s sometimes called the bystander effect. But if we have agreed on our values, you do know to some extent how others feel, making it easier to see what we think is ok and what is not, and so help each other improve and become more effective as a community.
Now, this culture belongs to all of us, not just the 25 or so people who drafted the below list. All of us should agree on it, and revise this living document over time. So we’re going to ask all of you for your input. There is room for improvement on the draft list below. For example, some items cover similar sentiments and might be fused. Or maybe you plain don’t agree with some. Please look at the draft values and other’s thoughts, and contribute your comments.
- Respect: We value openness and high standards of fairness, always being principled, considerate, and respectful to each other.
- Inclusion: We are diverse, inclusive and accessible to all, and celebrate our deep-rooted and distinctive internationalism.
- Collaboration: We have a strong sense of community, work together to achieve our goals, and help to get the best out of each other.
- Excellence: We aim to achieve excellence in all that we do: teaching, research, societal responsibility.
- Curiosity: We are open-minded lifelong learners who value freedom of expression.
- Bravery: We are willing to question norms we take for granted, and call out injustices.
- Humility: We appreciate that we may never fully understand, but educate ourselves to be as competent as we can be.
Research shows, time and again, that people are more productive when they feel valued and secure. As our Head of School likes to say, “happy chickens lay more eggs”. We don’t all have to be best buddies. In fact we can have passionate disagreements and robust discussions, about academic content, about how to improve working processes, or about teaching approaches. And that’s a good thing. But we do have to be able to work together. Agreeing on shared values explicitly is good hygiene for interpersonal work relationships.
Do you feel these represent (y)our values? Would you change, add, remove, fuse, or reorder any?