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Values are defined as perspectives about an appropriate course of action. If a person values honesty, then he or she will strive to be honest. People who value transparency will work hard to be transparent. Values are one important element that affects individual character and behavior towards others. The relationship between values and behavior is intimate, as values create a construct for appropriate actions.
Values and Behavior in the Workplace
A work environment should strive to encourage positive values and discourage negative influences that affect behavior. All individuals possess a moral compass, defined via values, which direct how they treat others and conduct themselves. People who lack strong or ethical values may participate in negative behavior that can hurt the organization. While a company cannot do anything about the influences that shape a person's values and behavior before hiring, the organization can try to influence employee behavior in the workplace.
Means of Encouraging or Discouraging Behavior
Training programs, codes of conduct, and ethics committees can inform employees of the types of behavior that the company finds acceptable and unacceptable. While these efforts will not necessarily not change an individual's values, they can help them decide not to participate in unethical behavior while at work. Managers must emphasize not only an employee's responsibilities, but also what the organization expects with respect to values and ethics. Ethics statements and vision statements are useful tools in communicating to employees what the company stands for and why.
A system of punishments and rewards can also help foster the type of values the company wants to see in its employees, essentially filtering behavior through conditioning. If people see that certain behaviors are rewarded, then they may decide to alter their behavior and in turn alter their values. In addition, a gap sometimes exists between a person's values and behavior. This gap can stem from a conscious decision not to follow a specific value with a corresponding action. This decision can be influenced by how deeply this value affects the person's character and by the surrounding environment.
Culture is also largely relevant to how values shape behavior, as a given organizational culture can create camaraderie and social interdependence. Conforming to the expectations and values of the broader organization is a common outcome of organizations with strong ethos and vision. Such an organization promotes passion and positive behavior in their employees. Of course, a company's culture can work in both directions. Some industries are inherently competitive, valuing individual dominance over other individuals (for example, sales, stock trading, etc.). While some may view such a culture as objectively negative, it is subjectively useful for the organization to instill and develop these values to create certain behaviors (such as hard work and high motivation).
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