Values and Culture

A value is something that has worth and importance to an individual. As such values help shape human behaviour. Parents, friends, teachers and external reference groups can all influence an individual’s values. Indeed, a person’s values develop as a product of learning and experience in the cultural setting in which he or she lives. As learning and experience vary from one person to the next, value differences are the inevitable result.

As a system of shared values, the corporate culture reflects a climate within which people value the same thing and apply these to benefit the corporation as a whole. One example is the value of customer service at TELCO. This value helps keep everyone – from top management down to persons on the factory floor pulling in the same direction. Other examples are found in corporate slogans or creeds. Progress is our most important product. The Family feeling Sear, Quality at a good price; Bata India Ltd. Customer is the king. The strength of such slogans in communicating value lies in the basic premise that values can influence behaviour. To the extent that employees understand and share values such as those reflected in the slogans, their behaviour should be more uniform and consistent. Performance of individuals groups and the organization as a whole should benefit as a result. Research shows that managers who sense a compatibility and experience feelings of success in their lives show high regard for organizational  objectives and significant stakeholders and have a healthy assessment of the values and ethics of their colleagues subordinates and bosses.

The concept of corporate culture and its companion notion of shared values is important in the field of strategic  management. Researchers recognize that organizations develop different cultures, that these cultures have different performance implications and that they can be  changed. Strong cultures that fit the needs and challenges of the situation are in whereas weak or poorly matched cultures are out. The case of AT&T, the telecommunications giant, is a good example. For many years the company operated as a regulated monopoly and created what many observers felt was the best phone system in the world. All this was achieved in a highly structured corporate culture where universal service at reasonable cost was the predominant value. Things are different  for AT&T today. The culture is changing, albeit slowly as the company tries to in-still in itself the new sense of innovation and competition that is necessary to prosper in a deregulated environment (like what is happening in public sector banks, insurance firms and oil companies after deregulation).

Values and behaviour formation

People are not born with values; rather they acquire and develop them early in life. Values   such as – stealing is bad, honesty is the best policy respect your elders and teachers, be kind to people are taught and reinforced in schools, religious institutions and social groups. Over the years these values become relatively stable and enduring. As we grow in years, we often seek environments that are compatible with the values we learned as children. For example values help find out what companies we are attracted to and how long we stay therein. They also  influence how motivated we are at work; people who share same values as the organization are more committed to the organization than those who do not.

Whenever people make decisions or talk about what constitutes appropriate behaviour at work, we can easily see the impact of values or even conflicts  between different values. For example, consider the question of laying off employees. Managers with dominant economic values would be less hesitant  to lay them off quickly than would managers with high social values.

Once a particular value is internalized it becomes a standard for guiding action, for developing and maintaining attitudes towards relevant objects and situations, for justifying one’s own and other actions and attitudes, form morally defining self and others and for comparing self with others.

When individuals enter an organization with certain pre-set values whether it is right or wrong, they tend to look at the world through coloured glasses. For example, if you think that the organization should promote people on the basis of merit and not on seniority and the organization does the opposite thing, you feel greatly disappointed and totally out of place. Your attitude and behaviour towards  the organization, perhaps would be very optimistic if your values match with the organization’s promotion policies. Values thus, over power objectivity and rationality.

Achieving the desired fit between the person and the job is not always easy. It requires special attention and consistent effort on the part of managers. While formulating and implementing strategies, managers must pay attention to individual differences in employees. To develop strong and desired values among employees, the following things need to be  looked into carefully.

Managers must state, and clarify  values respected by their organization. This can be achieved through formal orientation programmes. Every attempt should be made to expose new employees to the correct values and expectations and to teach them the way things are done in the organizations.

Train and develop: To improve skills of employees, managers must focus on training and development programmes continually. Values  can and should be emphasized along with other important individual  attitudes.

Reward and reinforce: Rewards can reinforce individual values and maintain  enthusiasm in support of key organizational values. Creative managers can find ways to reward  people for displaying the values that are considered essential to organizational success.

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