Identify Your Core Work Values

By: | April 11, 2016

Identity Dimensions often play a starring role today in conflicts that make the most headlines, but in a MultiDentity world, you can’t separate identity aspects from core values, at least not if you want an accurate understanding of real people and situations. We often overlook the importance of work values as a contributing factor in a team and organizational success. Values are the beliefs and ideas that guide your actions. Your work values are simply those attitudes that shape how you do your job. Clarifying your work values and learning to spot your team members work values is essential. Some examples of work values include:

  • Autonomy
  • Collaboration
  • Being in Charge
  • Perfection
  • Responsibility
  • Creativity
  • Structure
  • Strategy
  • Achievement
  • Challenge

When colleagues are in alignment with work values the environment can be relatively free of interpersonal conflict. When work values are out of alignment, it can lead to conflict and lose productivity. It’s critical to remember that because people differ on many identity dimensions, they may also differ in their prioritization of work values. But colleagues can share values with those who are members of different identity groups. Lastly remember that because our radar is more attuned to identity dimensions such as gender, religion or age, we can misread situations.

I’ve seen conflicts misread because they seemed to be clashes between identity dimensions, when they had more to do with differences in core work values.

A manager I knew, a young man, was very upset when one of the vice presidents of his company tried to paint a rosy picture of the company’s future by exaggerating the truth in a press release. He went to the head of the company and complained about the exaggeration which angered the vice president. The partner responsible for the release was an older Baby Boomer, and many employees automatically interpreted the conflict between the two men as generational. But for the young manager, the conflict was over honesty and integrity, two of his core values. He had taken consistent stands within the organization on issues like this before, and he was surprised when colleagues viewed the conflict as generational. If one’s commitment to values can be measured to be “hot,” “warm” or “cold.” The younger employee was “hot” about honesty and integrity. The vice president was “hot” about following the chain of command.

While a conflict over an identity dimension like age is an attention-grabber in today’s world, we make matters worse when we react to complex situations based on one aspect of identity, especially when core values may be a significant contributing factor. Most values have up sides and down sides, and ideally, we should strive to understand our values, which of them we feel most strongly about and be open to the idea that if push a core value to far it becomes a weakness.

Explore the following list of work values to see if you can relate to any of them. If you see none of your core values in the examples below, take a moment to think about which values you and your colleagues are the most committed to and which ones get rewarded within your work culture.

Following the Chain of Command

If Following the Chain of Command is “hot” work value for you, you believe your organization should maintain an established reporting structure. You feel most comfortable in a workplace where employees respect and understand the norms, traditions, and protocols of a hierarchical company culture. You are likely to be offended when someone attempts to “go around” a manager or supervisor to promote a new idea or personal agenda.

Core Strengths:

  • Honoring tradition
  • Maintaining order and structure
  • Respecting senior leaders for their hard work, dedication, and experience

Potential Weaknesses:

  • Stifling innovation
  • Supporting cumbersome/outdated processes
  • Supporting senior leaders regardless of poor performance or inappropriate behavior

Promoting Work-Life Balance

Core Strengths:

  • Improving the health and happiness of employees
  • Supporting a diverse workplace
  • Increasing loyalty and productivity through innovative company policies and practices

Potential Weaknesses:

  • Sacrificing Productivity
  • Supporting a double standard based on gender or family obligations
  • Ignoring the issues/problems that may arise due to unconventional hours, extended leave and other work-life policies

Being Politically Savvy

If Being Politically Savvy is a “hot” work value for you, you believe that understanding and mastering the behind-the-scenes politics of your organization is essential to an employee’s success. You feel most comfortable in a workplace where getting ahead and getting things done requires tact, diplomacy, and ability to navigate the system. You are likely to be surprised or offended when people defy the company culture, deliberately sabotage the system, or ruffle feathers by ignoring the political “minefields” of certain workplace issues.

Core Strengths:

  • Helping yourself and others navigate the system
  • “Catching more bees with honey” – using tact and diplomacy to achieve positive results
  • Being pragmatic and realistic about the political implications of certain issues, attitudes, and policies

Potential Weakness:

  • Pressuring yourself and others to master the system
  • Shying away from conflict and systemic problems
  • Contributing to an organizational culture that encourages favoritism or cronyism and only pays “lip service” to critical issues

Fitting In and Following the Rules

If fitting in and Following the Rules is a “hot” work value for you, you believe that employees have an obligation to embrace the organizational culture. You feel most comfortable in a workplace with well-established informal norms, rules, and expectations, where everyone is more or less “on the same page” and you can focus on the job at hand. You are likely to feel annoyed or offended when employees refuse to conform to the preferred work style, repeatedly saying or doing things that don’t mesh with the organizational culture.

Core Strengths:

  • Honoring the company’s unique identity and style
  • Promoting unity and loyalty
  • Fostering a productive atmosphere where employees can focus on the external pressures and demands of a competitive marketplace

Potential Weaknesses:

  • Stifling innovation and change
  • Missing opportunities to enrich the company’s talent pool
  • Fostering an atmosphere hostile to diversity and difference

Leveraging Differences

If Leveraging Differences is a “hot” work value for you, you believe today’s organizations have an obligation to recruit, hire and promote people from all walks of life. You feel most comfortable in a workplace where racial, cultural, socioeconomic and other differences are not only tolerated but also valued. You are likely to be offended when someone suggests that diversity programs and other systems designed to accommodate differences are impractical, ineffective, or constitute “special treatment.”

Core Strengths:

  • Promoting equality and fairness in the workplace
  • Respecting people’s unique perspectives, experiences, backgrounds
  • Recognizing the value of a diverse talent pool

Potential Weaknesses:

  • Sacrificing standards of competency
  • Supporting a double standard
  • Ignoring the issues/problems that may arise when employees interact across differences

Being Bottom Line-Driven

If Being Bottom-Line Driven is a “hot” work value for you, you believe employees should focus on ensuring the productivity and profitability of the company. You feel most comfortable in a workplace where people keep their eyes on the prize and drive toward success. You are likely to be annoyed or offended by aspects of the organizational culture that seem to distract from the ultimate goal, such as community involvement, professional development, or work-life balance.

Core Strengths:

  • Driving toward a measurable goal
  • Promoting a team atmosphere and a winning attitude
  • Ensuring the health, well-being and long-term viability of the company in a competitive marketplace

Potential Weaknesses:

  • Losing sight of big-picture issues like quality, integrity, corporate responsibility, public relations
  • Undermining morale, motivation, employee loyalty
  • Seeming insensitive, shallow, inhumane, unethical, or morally bankrupt

Valuing Honesty and Directness

If Valuing Honesty and Directness is a “hot” work value for you, you believe in saying what you think and encouraging others to do the same. You feel most comfortable in a workplace where people give and receive feedback regularly, and where sensitive company information is shared, so everyone knows where they stand and how to contribute most effectively. You are likely to be surprised or offended when people take constructive criticism poorly, or when they “talk behind each other’s backs” about work performance or other issues.

Core Strengths:

  • Building trust through open and honest communication
  • Addressing conflict head-on
  • Encouraging people to improve and grow

Potential Weaknesses

  • Breaching trust and confidence; sharing inappropriate or highly sensitive information with the wrong people
  • Blunt, abrasive or mean-spirited
  • Undermining employee self-confidence and morale

Fostering Creativity and New Ideas

If Fostering Creativity and New Ideas is a “hot” work value for you, you believe innovation and creativity are the keys to organizational success. You feel most comfortable in a workplace where employees are encouraged to collaborate, brainstorm, toss out new ideas, and, when necessary, ignore or discard old processes and systems. You are likely to feel annoyed or offended when people hold on to traditional views and approaches, or when they insist on focusing on small details and which you see as roadblocks to progress.

Core Strengths:

  • Keeping the organization vital, relevant and adaptable in a rapidly changing marketplace
  • Taking risks and challenging the status quo
  • Boosting morale by motivating and inspiring employees to “dream big.”

Potential Weaknesses:

  • Overlooking the need for stability/security
  • Downplaying the contributions of less creative, more detail-oriented or task-oriented employees
  • “Flying at 1000 feet” – ignoring the financial, political or cultural implications of big ideas

Learn how the WIN 360 Team APP can help you and your team learn about work values

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