Building a Resilient Company Culture Through Core Values

In the world of business, the processes of hiring and firing are as critical as they are challenging. The discomfort of firing someone is universally acknowledged, affecting everyone from high-profile celebrities to seasoned CEOs. However, by embedding strong core values into a company’s fabric, business leaders can navigate these challenges more effectively and humanely.

Why Core Values Matter

Core values serve as the backbone of a company’s identity. They reflect the fundamental principles and standards that guide how a company and its employees operate. These values aren’t just platitudes posted on a wall; they are operational mandates that inform every decision and interaction within the organization. When these values are clearly defined, communicated, and integrated into all aspects of employment, from hiring to termination, they help create a transparent and cohesive environment.

Setting Clear Expectations from the Start

It begins with hiring. The clarity of job descriptions is crucial; they should cover not only the responsibilities and skills required but also the behavioral expectations tied to the company’s core values. This dual focus ensures that new hires not only fit the job technically but also gel with the company’s culture. This preemptive clarity helps prevent future misunderstandings and misalignments, which might lead to terminations.

The Role of Core Values in Termination

Even with the best hiring practices, terminations are sometimes necessary. Here, core values again play a critical role. Regular performance reviews that include assessments of how well employees uphold core values can help keep everyone aligned with the company’s goals. When an employee strays from these core values, it becomes a documented issue rather than a subjective or abrupt revelation. This documentation is crucial during termination discussions, as it allows for a straightforward conversation based on previously discussed facts rather than a flood of new criticisms.

Efficient Termination Meetings

The ideal termination meeting is brief and based on the principle of “For the reasons we have discussed.” This approach assumes that the employee has been involved in ongoing conversations about their performance and alignment with core values. Such a method minimizes surprise and confusion, making the process respectful and clear.

Applying Core Values Beyond Business

The application of core values extends beyond the corporate world. Just like in businesses, families and volunteer organizations can benefit significantly from clear, articulated expectations. Regular discussions about core values in these settings can enhance cooperation and reduce conflicts by aligning everyone’s behavior with agreed-upon standards.


The integration of core values into the fiber of a company is not just about improving hiring and firing practices but about building a resilient, unified, and ethical organizational culture. For business leaders looking to foster a positive work environment and reduce the angst associated with terminations, a strong foundation in core values is not just helpful—it’s essential.

Video Transcript


I recently came across this video from Kim Kardashian talking about how she greatly dislikes firing company employees.

The Challenge of Terminations in Business

Kim Kardashian isn’t alone. When I have worked with CEOs and business owners over the years, almost all of them consider firing employees to be the worst thing they have to do. It is the worst part of the job. Nobody likes to do it. And in fact, some of the business owners hate doing it. They will delegate it if they can. They will avoid it.

Sharing Personal Insights on Firings

So I wanted to pass on a few tips that I have learned over the years because I also did not enjoy doing firings. I still don’t. I don’t enjoy terminating employment, but these tips have made it so much easier.

Importance of Clear Expectations

First, when you hire employees, make sure the expectations are evident. Typically, employers create a job description, that says what is expected for the job. But what about all the attitude, the approach, and the mindset that a person is expected to show up with at work?

Defining and Communicating Core Values

That often gets called core values. It is often referenced as the culture of the workplace or the vibe, and that gets set by a lot of intentional thought by the business owner or the CEO. Typically, it has the founder’s values that are reflected throughout. So how do you get these values, which are loose concepts, somewhere in the heart and mind of the founder and get them in writing so they are clearly articulated to the employees who are hired?

Identifying Core Values from Past Experiences

Well, first, one of the best tricks I learned is that whenever you have a person who doesn’t work out in the company, write down why. That is identifying a core value, or at least a value. Often, it is core. That is simply saying that person wouldn’t work on our team because of this, and whatever this is, the opposite of it is a core value.

Practical Examples of Core Values

In other words, that attitude or behavior is violating a core value. For example, if you say they are lazy or they don’t work harder, they don’t have a sense of urgency. All right, well, that means one of our core values is diligence. Maybe it is a sense of urgency, a high degree of care, and passion for what we are doing.

Process of Establishing Core Values

Try to put language around that, and then you can run it by other people and say, “Does this sound like what I am trying to say?” It is not easy to put together a list of core values. There are plenty of books that can help with it. But the fundamental thing is you are saying to yourself, “What attribute might an employee have that even though that employee is outstanding in every other way if they have this attribute, they are not going to work out?” For example, some people will say, “If a person is late, they are tardy. They don’t show up on time.” That is intolerable.

Application in Hiring and Performance Reviews

Now, your company might list five, six, or seven core values along with its mission statement, but your hiring process might have more values. It might have more items that are really important to you. And then, once you identify what those are, you want to be clear with employees or prospective job candidates about what they are. Test for that in the hiring process, and look for it in the interview process. Then, make sure that those core values are part of routine reviews with the employees. So they are getting regular feedback on, whether they are living up to the expectations in those really important areas. Now, yes, at the job reviews, you are going to look at what their areas of responsibility are. Are they fulfilling the job responsibilities that they have?

Strategy for Efficient Termination Meetings

But also review those core values, because, as we discussed, no matter how valuable a person might be, if they violate your core values, they are going to be a constant source of irritation at a minimum, and they might ultimately undo what your company is trying to achieve because they are not reflecting your values as a founder.

And that is having a ripple effect in every relationship, every conversation, every product they touch, and every service they perform. And so ultimately, you, as a founder, are trying to build a team that will do what you have been doing to make the company successful. And a big part of that is your core values.

So write it down, have a part of your onboarding process, have a part of your interview process, and review process. And then, when you go to terminate somebody, you don’t need to bring up a topic that has never been mentioned before. You can say, “As we have discussed previously, it is very important that your behavior align with this standard. This is a core value to us. You must participate in your job at the company in alignment with these values, reflecting these character traits or these character values. And if you don’t have those as you didn’t here or here, and we discussed those at your review meeting for the reasons we have discussed, we need to let you go.”

Techniques for a Brief Termination Meeting

Now, I recommend that the termination meeting be very short. This is a technique I learned from an HR director and a guru at hiring and firing. And she said to me, “You never want to have to explain at a termination meeting why somebody is being terminated. You just want to be able to use these magic words, ‘For the reasons we have discussed.'”

Reference to Previous Interactions

In other words, I am just going to reference what we have talked about at prior events. Maybe it was a review meeting. Maybe it was other times. Often, when employees are having problems, you are talking with them every week. It might even be daily about these problems where you are explaining, “Here is the standard that is expected, and your performance is falling below that standard. Your performance needs to improve to be at the standard expected for you to remain in this role.” So that way, when you finally have that termination meeting, it can be quite simple.

Final Steps in the Termination Process

“For the reasons we have discussed, you are not meeting the expectations that are required for this position. We are letting you go. You are effectively terminated. And here is the paperwork.” It can be a very short meeting. I have other videos on how to have that conversation. But the takeaway for me that was huge was that if you set expectations in the beginning and you constantly review those expectations and contrast them to an employee’s performance, then when the termination meeting comes, it is very quick and it is short.

Broader Applications of Core Value Principles

This can be applied to every person in management, every supervisor, every business owner, and every president. Anybody who has people directly reporting to them is usually the best person to do that termination. Now you might have an HR director there as well. You might have a business owner there as well, but these lessons, which I learned the hard way, can be applied to every single management supervisor role.

Conclusion and Invitation

So, I wish you the best in these takeaways. Identify these intangible core values, expectations, or standards that are not related to the job but rather relate to the attitude, approach, and mindset of every person in the company. See if you can write them down, and make them really clear in the hiring process, the training and onboarding, and the regular reviews. Ideally, we mention them, illustrate them, and provide examples in regular team meetings.

Reminder of the Importance of Repetition

Somebody once said, “Only when people are so annoyed because they’re hearing about your core values all the time, are you talking about them enough?” It takes employees realizing what these are and having them present in their short-term memory to be able to articulate them, and that improves their likelihood of living in alignment with those standards and expectations that you set.

Additional Resources and Contact Information

By the way, this same principle can be applied to parents with children and nonprofit organizations with volunteers. Anytime you have organizations of people clarifying what the expectation is, having it regularly part of the conversation, and contrasting it when a person isn’t in alignment with it, that is a fair and respectful way. It respects the person. It makes it less personable, and it is one of the most effective best practices when managing people.

I am Aaron Hall. I am an attorney for business owners and entrepreneurial companies. If you find this helpful, you are welcome to sign up for our free emails with videos and other educational information about how to implement best practices in your company to avoid legal problems, expenses, and all the trouble that comes from not using best practices.

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