The Significance of Values in an Organization

Fostering values in organizations

In order for an organization to internalize a set of values its members must first identify with them. Management must assume the responsibility of defining, informing and cultivating them, according to the mission.

This is a two-way commitment. Leaders have the responsibility of promoting organizational values, and the rest of the members have the responsibility of getting to know them and implementing them.

The greatest challenge is not in the theory but in the practice.

Organizations foster values all the time, through the attitudes and behaviors of their leaders, at all levels. Every action conveys a value.

For example, if a company must give a course during a non-working day, it must properly communicate the reason for doing so. Otherwise, the organization ends up conveying the idea that continuing education is not work, and isn’t very important.

Another example of a situation that conveys values contrary to those we wish to convey is when supervisors don’t attend training sessions but rather send their subordinates, or when they do the opposite of what was taught in the course, or when they try to encourage effort or creativity with the argument that it “this is easy”.

Promoting values like work, constant improvement, personal excellence, learning or proactive behaviors in organizations, requires courage and a special effort from leaders. What we do or don’t do has a greater effect than words alone.

Those at the same level within an organization also communicate what their personal values are. For example, those who don’t collaborate on a task end up losing the appreciation and respect of their peers.

In addition to defining them in terms of specific behaviors, organizations must show the practical benefits of implementing values.  This is far from obvious to many. It’s always best to make the outcomes explicit.

The most efficient way to foster values is to reinforce good practices and behaviors that better reflect the desired organizational culture. This is a proven and effective way to stimulate others to assume principles with conviction. Threats and punishment in the best of cases produce only fear, not conviction.

The principle of positive reinforcement is simple: One cannot force people to do well what they don’t want to do. This does not imply that mistakes must be overlooked or that we must be lenient. But positive reinforcement is much more than a pat in the back. For this method to work, people must receive praise immediately for a specific behavior, and we must express the positive feeling that implementing the value entails.

If this method is practiced systematically, the organizational environment works as a virtuous cycle of value reproduction.


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The Significance of Values in an Organization has been published by Cograf Comunicaciones. ISBN 978-980-12-3779-2.
Copyright 2008 Juan Carlos Jimenez. All rights reserved.

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