Skip to content
Skip to main content

About this free course

Become an OU student

Download this course

Share this free course

Introducing the voluntary sector
Introducing the voluntary sector

Start this free course now. Just create an account and sign in. Enrol and complete the course for a free statement of participation or digital badge if available.

3.2 Conflicting values

Activity 6 introduced the idea that there may often be a mismatch between organisations’ published values and how those values are demonstrated in reality. The research by Cass Business School set out to examine whether organisations ‘practise what they preach and how they best use values’ (Forrest et al., 2012, p. 1). One of their case studies [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] showed how one organisation realised that as they had grown from two people working in a church hall to a bigger contracting organisation, internal conflict arose over values and objectives. Key points extracted from the case study are shown in Box 2.

Box 2 A values journey

Murray Hall Community Trust, West Midlands

The organisation grew strongly and quickly – the tipping point was when they became a contracting organisation – and so needed systems in place […] This shift created internal tension – are we a charity or a company?

They went back to basics to examine values and if they’d changed and if so, how?

They consulted staff on this and ensured they were brought along. They addressed the whole of the organisation and their hearts and minds.


Because they have investigated the tension between business and charity ‘pulls’ the values exercise has reminded them about what’s the right decision for them. The values offer a compass to help decide what they want to do in terms of the work they pick up and do.


In interviews, job candidates are asked how their values interplay with those of the organisation.

(Forrest et al., 2012, pp. 49–50)

This case study illustrates how the organisation realised that their original values were being affected by becoming a contracting organisation. However, by acknowledging this as a problem and then working on it with their stakeholders, it seems the organisation prevented the situation from getting worse. In fact, the work on revisiting values gave them a stronger focus on being value-driven.

If you are seeking work in a voluntary organisation, it would be important to check before an interview what the values of the organisation are. As this case study shows, you might be asked questions about them at interview.

The next activity guides you in thinking further about where conflict might arise.

Activity 7 Conflict at the charity shop

Timing: Allow approximately 10 minutes

Mary Portas, a retail guru based in the UK, worked with charity shops for a television series where she tried to change the shops’ image. She put up prices for some items and also refitted a shop to improve how it looked.

Watch the short clip and make notes on the concerns expressed by the volunteers and Mary Portas. How do they express their concerns in terms of values?

Interactive feature not available in single page view (see it in standard view).
To use this interactive functionality a free OU account is required. Sign in or register.
Interactive feature not available in single page view (see it in standard view).


A volunteer had left because of concerns that the charity shop was changing and moving away from its core value or purpose of raising as much money as possible for the charity. The volunteers could not understand why money would be spent on refitting the shop and employing a paid manager rather than given to those in need. Mary Portas was attempting to apply her ideas from the private sector to a charity shop and that investing in improving the shop’s appearance would bring in more business. The volunteers give their time for free and perhaps feel their values and contribution are less appreciated.

Fear of change is a difficult issue in all organisations and needs careful management with volunteers. When people are not paid members of staff, they can make snap decisions to leave.

Many people will have examples of conflict from their organisation but we may not always think about how values form an important part of it. Thus, on a day-to-day level, the challenge for people with management or supervisory responsibilities is to try to interpret and understand the different values of their organisation and the people they work with, so that they can cope better with the conflicts that may arise. It is worth exploring with new members of staff and volunteers their perceptions of the organisation’s value and purpose. In this way, important value differences can be addressed sooner rather than later.