Personal Effectiveness and Responsibility
Examples of Organization Values
In organizational terms, a value can be defined as: “a belief in action or a choice that individuals make (consciously or unconsciously) about what is good or bad, worthy or not worthy, important or not important.”
In this definition, we therefore assume that our values shape our behavior and ultimately all of the actions that we choose to take. Values also reveal our core needs and drives. In this sense they are the critical link between what is revealed for all to see (our actions and behavior) and what is hidden from most people – our basic personality style or type. It is therefore suggested that a person’s observations of the environment are filtered through his or her values to determine whether or not he or she should expend energy to do something about his or her experiences. Put another way, “values are the scales we use to weigh our choices for our actions, whether to move towards or away from something.”
Of course, not all values have the same weight or priority. Some are more important than others and must be satisfied before others can be addressed. For example, moral values such as love, peace or compassion are often seen as universal or applicable to everyone. Although this is not always true, our concern in this article is with what are often called ‘operational values’ and we can be certain that these vary a great deal between different people.
In recent years, scientists have been able to identify the parts of the human brain that are involved in producing behavior in accordance with beliefs, values and identity. They suggest that a process of repetition using affirmations can modify or create new beliefs about a person’s identity and/or what is important to him or her. Simple verbal repetition of statements intended to become new beliefs, values or identity will be stored in the brain for later use or comparison with a situation being experienced. The longer the period of time over which these affirmations are repeated, the higher the priority they are given in a person’s value system and therefore the more they influence the person’s behavior. The greater the difference between the current beliefs, values and identity and the intended or new ones, the longer the time needed for repetition to produce the new behaviors. Ultimately, the affirmation will dominate over the previous beliefs, values or identity trait in the person’s subconscious and will automatically produce the corresponding behavior.
Given the above, we can be relatively confident that the beliefs system or values that people hold are formed slowly over time, mentally validated several times over and quite stable or slow to shift substantially. This means that with some conceptual assistance, our values (whatever they may be) can be determined and assumed to play an important part in our general decision-making. All the more reason then for organizations to pay close attention to the possible clash with individual and team or whole enterprise values. So what does this mean in practice in terms of real examples?
To take just one set of values to illustrate, an individual might hold the values of: Compassion, Harmony, Cooperation, Friendliness and Community spirit.
In an organization (such as a health care facility or hospital for instance) with values of Caring, Teamwork, High involvement and participation, Collaborative projects, and Open two-way feedback, there would be little clash at an overall level with this person and efforts to align individual and team values would be likely to be quite straight-forward (simply agreeing which values were most important in a similar general list for both parties). However, a different organization (such as a bank, for example) might have values such as Caution, Adherence to rules, Consistency, Respectability and Security. In this case, the individual values are much different and we may face two problems. Individuals may act according to their own values and at the expense of those of the organization (creating managerial frustration) and/or the organization may impose its values on individuals with these different values (causing them to feel unrecognized for their actions or contribution).
Of course, there are no easy answers here and every case will be unique, but it does suggest that we should take the whole issue of values alignment very seriously, both in determining what is most important to the organization and what is most important to individuals who work within in (and whether there may be work to do to close the potential gap).