Most of this chapter will be devoted to perception and attribution. However, before we discuss those topics, we are going to discuss our personal values and how values can guide our behaviour in the workplace.
Characteristics of Values
The values people have tend to be relatively stable over time. The reason for this lies in the manner in which values are acquired in the first place. That is, when we first learn a value (usually at a young age), we are taught that such-and-such behavior is always good or always bad. For instance, we may be taught that lying or stealing is always unacceptable. Few people are taught that such behavior is acceptable in some circumstances but not in others. Hence, this definitive quality of learned values tends to secure them firmly in our belief systems. This is not to say that values do not change over time. As we grow, we are increasingly confronted with new and often conflicting situations. Often, it is necessary for us to weigh the relative merits of each and choose a course of action. Consider, for example, the worker who has a strong belief in hard work but who is pressured by her colleagues not to outperform the group. What would you do in this situation? Your answer might different depending on your core values.
We will talk about two different frameworks for understanding values from Rokeach and Swartz.
Rokeach’s Personal Values
Rokeach (1973) has identified two fundamental types of values: instrumental and terminal. Instrumental values represent those values concerning the way we approach end-states. That is, do we believe in ambition, cleanliness, honesty, or obedience? What factors guide your everyday behavior? Terminal values, on the other hand, are those end-state goals that we prize. Included here are such things as a comfortable life, a sense of accomplishment, equality among all people, and so forth. Both sets of values have significant influence on everyday behavior at work.
Schwartz’s Values Inventory
A second useful frameworks for examining values is Schwart’z (1992) ten values. These values are summarized in Table 6.1
Table 6.1 - Values Included in Schwartz’s (1992) Value Inventory
|Achievement||The desire for personal success|
|Benevolence||The desire to protect the well-being of people who are close to the person.|
|Conformity||Being motivated by being self-disciplined and obedient. Conforming to others.|
|Hedonism||The desire for pleasure in life.|
|Power||The desire for control over others, attaining power and prestige.|
|Security||Valuing safety and stability.|
|Self-direction||The desire to be free and independent.|
|Stimulation||The desire for a stimulating and exciting life.|
|Tradition||Acceptance of social customs and traditional ideas in society.|
|Universalism||The desire to protect the well-being of all people. Caring about social justice.|
|Source: Principles of Management by University of Minnesota, CC BY-NC-SA 4.0.|
Values a person holds will affect their employment. For example, someone who values stimulation highly may seek jobs that involve fast action and high risk, such as firefighter, police officer, or emergency medicine. Someone who values achievement highly may be likely to become an entrepreneur or intrapreneur. And an individual who values benevolence and universalism may seek work in the nonprofit sector with a charitable organization or in a “helping profession,” such as nursing or social work. Like personality, values have implications for organizing activities, such as assigning duties to specific jobs or developing the chain of command; employee values are likely to affect how employees respond to changes in the characteristics of their jobs.
In terms of work behaviors, a person is more likely to accept a job offer when the company possesses the values he or she cares about. A firm’s values are often described in the company’s mission and vision statements, an element of the Planning function (Judge & Bretz, 1992; Ravlin & Meglino, 1987). Value attainment is one reason people stay in a company. When a job does not help them attain their values, they are likely to decide to leave if they are also dissatisfied with the job (George & Jones, 1996).
Personal values represent an important force in organizational behavior for several reasons. In fact, at least three purposes are served by the existence of personal values in organizations: values serve as standards of behavior for determining a correct course of action; values serve as an influence on employee motivation; and values serve as guidelines for decision-making and conflict resolution. Let us consider each of these functions.
Standards of Behavior
First, values help us determine appropriate standards of behavior. They place limits on our behavior both inside and outside the organization. In such situations, we are referring to what is called ethical behavior. Employees at all levels of the organization have to make decisions concerning what to them is right or wrong, proper or improper. For example, would you conceal information about a hazardous product made by your company, or would you feel obliged to tell someone? How would you respond to petty theft on the part of a supervisor or coworker in the office? To some extent, ethical behavior is influenced by societal values. Societal norms tell us it is wrong to engage in certain behaviors. In addition, however, individuals must often determine for themselves what is proper and what is not. This is particularly true when people find themselves in “gray zones”—situations where ethical standards are ambiguous or unclear. In many situations, a particular act may not be illegal. Moreover, one’s colleagues and friends may disagree about what is proper. In such circumstances, people have to determine their own standards of behavior.
Influence on Motivation
Values affect employee motivation by determining what rewards or outcomes are sought. Employees are often offered overtime work and the opportunity to make more money at the expense of free time and time with their families. Which would you choose? Would you work harder to get a promotion to a perhaps more stressful job or “lay back” and accept a slower and possibly less rewarding career path? Value questions such as these confront employees and managers every day.
Guidelines for Decision-Making and Conflict Resolution
In addition, values serve as guidelines for making decisions and for attempting to resolve conflicts. Managers who value personal integrity are less likely to make decisions they know to be injurious to someone else. Relatedly, values can influence how someone approaches a conflict. For example, if your boss asks your opinion about a report she wrote that you don’t like, do you express your opinion candidly or be polite and flatter her?
As we have just learned, values have an important influence on our behaviours. In Chapter 1, we identified differences in values as a possible source of conflict. When it comes to the workplace, it may be important for you for your personal values to align with the organization’s values. For example, a person is more likely to accept a job offer when the company possesses the values he or she cares about (Judge & Bretz, 1992; Ravlin & Meglino, 1987). Value attainment is one reason people stay in a job. When a job does not help them attain their values, they are likely to decide to leave if they are dissatisfied with the job (George & Jones, 1996).
Imagine, for example, someone who identifies family as a core value. When something gets in the way of living this value, conflict is more likely to occur. For example, imagine that a manager expects an employee to work overtime, but they already have family obligations to attend to outside of work.. If family is the number one value, this employee may express to their manager the importance of family over work and refuse overtime. To keep relationships functional, this employee might consider exploring other ways to help my team that didn’t impact their family. It’s important to note that for some people, the way they live family as a value would be different. Some folks might go work the overtime so that they can provide more income for their family.
Understanding your values is an important step in understanding the conflict you experience in your life. Often, conflicts that are directly connected to your core values are the conflicts that are the most intense and cause us the most stress.
In addition, values serve as guidelines for making decisions and for attempting to resolve conflicts. Managers who value personal integrity are less likely to make decisions they know to be injurious to someone else. Relatedly, values can influence how someone perceives a situation and approaches a conflict.
“Individual and Cultural Differences” in Organizational Behaviour by OpenStax is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
“Personality and Values” in Principles of Management by University of Minnesota is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.
“Why don’t they just get it?” in Making Conflict Suck Less: The Basics by Ashley Orme Nichols is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.
George, J. M., & Jones, G. R. (1996). The experience of work and turnover intentions: Interactive effects of value attainment, job satisfaction, and positive mood. Journal of Applied Psychology, 81, 318–325.
Judge, T. A., & Bretz, R. D. (1992). Effects of work values on job choice decisions. Journal of Applied Psychology, 77, 261–271.
Ravlin, E. C., & Meglino, B. M. (1987). Effect of values on perception and decision making: A study of alternative work values measures. Journal of Applied Psychology, 72, 666–673.
Rokeach, M. (1973). The nature of human values. Free Press.