The Importance of Values

Values influence organizational effectiveness. Learn about the importance of values and how organizational values promote success.

Values affect our personal and professional lives in ways we aren’t often aware. They influence our work performance and organizational effectiveness. The importance of values can’t be overstated—values explain quite a lot about the nature of human nature.

Recently on The Science of Personality, Robert Hogan, PhD, founder and president of Hogan Assessments, spoke about the importance of values. “Values have shaped human history,” he said.

In this article, we cover what values are, how organizations establish values, and the relationship between values and organizational effectiveness. Let’s explore the impact of values.

What Are Values?

Values refer to the interests, motives, and drivers that shape what a person strives to attain in life. A group’s values are determined by the shared individual values of group members. “The values of the group determine all sorts of outcomes, particularly at the level of group functioning,” Dr. Hogan said.

Dr. Hogan has been studying values since the 1980s. “To have a proper understanding of people and their organizations requires saying something about values,” he said.

Values are very important for group success. Some values, in fact, are more valuable than others at fostering organizational success. Greed and selfishness tend to ruin organizations, while cooperation and innovation can improve them. A group’s values are therefore more significant to group outcomes than any one individual’s personality.

Values Are Unconscious

Dr. Hogan asserts that values are largely unconscious. In personality psychology, the unconscious is a concept that means that we sometimes behave in ways we don’t understand.

There are three ways of looking at the unconscious: (1) The personal unconscious is a Freudian concept that refers to repressed thoughts and desires. An example would be forgotten early childhood trauma. (2) The collective unconscious is a Jungian concept that refers to the history and survival of the species. An example would be fear of the dark. (3) The sociological unconscious refers to the values, precepts, opinions, and assumptions that we gain from our childhood environment. “You internalize them as a little kid at your parents’ dinner table, and you believe this is just how life is supposed to be lived,” Dr. Hogan said. An example would be overeating out of thriftiness or aversion to waste.

Personality and Values

Personality characteristics are always active and influential. For instance, extraverts seek opportunities for interaction, and introverts seek opportunities for solitude. Values, on the other hand, come into play when we make decisions. “The decisions you make are a reflection of your values. Your values generate your fate,” Dr. Hogan said.

When we are presented with a choice, we follow our values. They represent our guiding philosophy in life. If offered identical roles in two different work environments, we’ll very likely choose the organization with values that align with ours.

How Organizations Establish Values

Organizational culture equates to the values that prevail in an organization. Those values come from the shared values of the senior leadership team. Leaders impose their values on the rest of the group through reward and punishment. As a simple illustration, a leader who values punctuality will reward people who arrive at work on time and punish people who are late. “The behaviors that they reward get implemented, and the behaviors that they punish go away,” Dr. Hogan explained.

Since values are unconscious, leaders aren’t always aware of how their values affect organizational culture. Who gets hired, promoted, or fired is often a consequence of leader values. Leader values might also differ from the stated values of the organization. Misaligned values between organizations and leaders, organizations and teams, or organizations and individuals can all cause workplace conflict.

The brand reputation of an organization typically reflects the values of the founder. Dr. Hogan used the Hogan Assessments brand as an example. “It’s [high] Science and Aesthetics,” he said, referring to two scales on the Motives, Values, Preferences Inventory (MVPI). “There’s a strong emphasis on data, but there’s also striving for quality.” He added that the MVPI scales of Altruistic, Power, and Hedonism also influence the Hogan brand identity.

The Importance of Values to Organizational Effectiveness

Leaders drive the values of an organization. Certain values tend to create more effective organizations than others.

Knowing what values an organization does endorse isn’t as effective as knowing what values it should endorse. This marks the difference between descriptive and prescriptive values. “The real question to ask is, ‘What are the values that characterize successful, high-functioning organizations?’” Dr. Hogan said.

Values that support organizational effectiveness include equal opportunity, downward delegation, minimal hierarchy, innovation and change, and data-based decision-making.

Two more important values for organizational effectiveness are implementing accountability and defining success. Holding people accountability for results is essential for accomplishing goals. It’s also necessary for the goals to be clearly outlined so everyone knows the criteria for winning. Leaders who drive success don’t always make passionate vision statements. Instead, they pay close attention to processes and measuring milestones for achievement.

“The best single predictor of people getting along is the degree to which they share values,” Dr. Hogan said. It’s the same with predicting how people and organizations get along too.

This post was originally published on the Hogan Assessments blog.

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