Voting with Our Feet

I recently watched an interview with novelist and poet Louise Erdrich. Born and raised in North Dakota, Erdrich is part Ojibwe, part French, and part German.

In the interview, she commented on “the deepest trust” that Native Americans place in the American Government. This is in spite of all of the broken promises and past attempts to dilute, and even wipe out, native cultures.

It occurred to me that they must believe in the noble principles upon which this country is founded, even though those principles are imperfectly applied and protected.

It takes a lot of courage and faith to see past failures and hypocrisy and to choose to embrace the values of a system that imperfectly embodies those values. To stay instead of leave, to strive instead of surrender, to speak instead of grumble.

And what struck me, also, is that I see this with companies. There are many companies with noble mission statements and values statements, but they vary in the degree of success with which they embody and apply those values. (They are, after all, filled with and run by human beings.)

I have often heard it said, “A company is not a democracy.” In most cases this is true. Except for one important thing: Every person who is part of a company has the ability to vote with his or her feet.

Think about the place where you work. Do you support its stated values? To what degree does the company live up to those values? To what degree does it say one thing but do something else? Are its decisions and actions consistent with those values?

You vote with your feet each day that you go to work. But in the thousands of little steps you take throughout each day, do you vote for striving, for improvement, for accountability, for excellence? Or do you vote for excuses, for abdication of responsibility, for safety?

In the last two years, the companies they worked for voted millions of people out. If you are among those millions, how are you voting with your feet now?

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