Work Values as a Dimension of Organizational Culture

A Literature Review

A Research Article on

Work Values as a Dimension of Organizational Culture: A Literature Review


Organizational culture has been an important theme in management and business research for some two decades. One reason for this is that organizational culture has the potential to affect a range of organizationally and individually desired outcomes. Attention to organizational culture lost ground as organizational science, and social science in general, to the extent that research on organizational culture survived, its focus shifted to its more measurable aspects, particularly employee attitudes and perceptions and/or observable organizational conditions thought to correspond to employee perceptions.

The concepts like core values, dominant values and sub culture and its impact on the organizational culture is well discussed. However, it would be interesting to know- how these approaches develop a psychological contract between members and organization in their work behavior. The integration of cognitions, social perceptions and individual work value expectation influence the decision making process analyzed into.

Values underlie and to a large extent determine behavior, but they are not directly observable, as behaviors’ are. There may be a difference between stated and operating values. People will attribute their behavior to stated values. Values represents a sense of ‘what ought to be’ based on convictions held by certain key people. If an organization has a problem such as high level of rejections in production or low sales, decisions might be made to use high quality but more expensive raw materials or to advertise more aggressively. These are seen originally as the decision maker’s values, which can be debated or questioned. Many of the strategies used by organizations start in this way, and many will reflect values held by the strategic leader.


The objective of this paper is to analyze the theoretical underpinnings of Work Values as one of the dimension of Organizational Culture. The literature review will help in developing a deep-rooted understanding of the values, beliefs and assumptions in relation to the culture prevailing in the organization

The study is descriptive in nature. A wide range of literature is reviewed to understand the concept of work-values. An attempt is being made to understand the role of work values in the framework of organizational culture. This would help in not only translating the existing culture in an organization but also in strategizing the desired culture building activities. The further scope of the study is to explore the other dimensions of culture. Comprehensively and putting together a complete framework of Organizational culture may be formulated.


Carlopio, Andrewartha and Armstrong, (2001) indicate values as an individual’s basic standards and beliefs about what is good and bad, acceptable and not acceptable, moral and immoral. Rokeach, (1973) define values, as standards that not only guide the behavior of the individuals who hold them, but also support their judgment about the behavior of others.


In super’s (1973) description of work values he emphases the various motivators that drive the individual to work. Work values are regarded as values extrinsic to as well as intrinsic to work satisfaction and this may be seen as the byproducts or outcomes of work as well as those which men and w omen seek in their work activity.

The individual upholds an evaluative disposition or inclination regarding work in general. Van Plesten, (1986) referred work valued as the orientation an individual holds with regards to work in general. Zytowski, (1970) indicates work values as a set of concept which mediates between a person’s affective orientation and classes of external objects offering similar satisfaction. Wollack, (1971) indicates work values as an index of a person’s attitude towards work in general rather than his feelings about a specific job.

Wayne, (1989) refer work values to the usefulness or general worth that a person assigns to some behavior or conception of work (e.g. Physical effort and length of time on task/job) and non-work activities (e.g. leisure, benefits, and rewards). To summarize, it could be said that work related values or indicative of an individual’s (workers) inner attitude or way of thinking towards his work, on condition that it does not merely apply to his own post or a certain task, but rather to work in general.


As far as the classification of work value is concerned, a considerable number of opinions exist ranging from one-dimensional to multi dimensional views. In a single dimensional view of work values Morse and Weiss, (1995) used only one item to measure the value individual assigns to work (e.g., Monitory gains). Various authors viewed work values from a two-dimensional approach. Wollack, et. al., (1971) Stone, (1975) makes the assumptions that greater the degree to which a worker simultaneously prefers activity, takes pride in his work, etc. In contrast with the preceding views Ginzberg, Ginzberg, Axelrad and Herrna (1951) add a third dimension to work values namely the notion of concurrent work values (Salary, prestige and inter personal relationship).


Robbins (1998) indicates that the core values are primary or dominant values that are accepted through-out the organization. Management wants new employees to accept the organization’s core cultural values but, at the same time, they want to support the differences that these employees bring to the workplace. A dominant culture represents the core values that are shared by a majority of the organizations members.


The value or meaning of work varies across individuals. Within the career literature, numerous authors agree that each individual possesses a unique set of personal values relevant to multiple life areas, with some especially appropriate to the work context (e.g. Roe & Ester, 1999; Sagie & Kozlowski, 1998; Schein, 1978; 1993; Schwartz, 1999; Super, 1990). Values are assumed to form a certain organization of an individual’s needs, desires, and goals, hierarchically structured according to their relative importance for the individual (Dawis, 1991).

In accordance with the Meaning of Work (MOW) International Research Team (Super & Sverko, 1995) work values as can be seen as the general and relatively stable goals that people try to reach through work. Extensive research in this field indicates that the rnatch between individuals’ work values and supplies offered by the organization is important for individual outcomes like job involvement, work motivation, and turnover intentions (e.g. Taris & Feij, 2000; Vianen, 2000). Integrating existing theories and studies on work values, individuals will vary in the promissory beliefs that are part of their psychological contract depending on the type of work values they want to attain throughout their work life.


Rokeach, (1973) in his studies differentiated values from interests on two grounds:

  • the role of values as standards, and
  • the number of values people have versus interests

Interests are preferences or likes, not standards against which individuals judge their own behavior as well as the functioning of others. Moreover, individuals may develop several interests, but they develop rather few values. Needs may also serve as a guide to behavior, but according to Rokeach, (1973), they are transitory, and once satisfied, they may not influence behavior for varying amounts of time. Values develop so that individuals can meet their needs in socially acceptable ways, but unlike needs, transcend situations and are stable influences on behavior.

Research by Ravlin and Maglino, (1987) and Judge and Bretz, (1992) strongly suggests that, when options that are related to the strongly held values of the decision maker are available in the decision making process, those options are frequently chosen. Moreover, Schulenberg, Vondracek and Kim, (1993) found that certainty of career choice was directly related to the strength of the values held by the individuals they studied. Values are the dominant factor in the decision making process, but other factors influence decision making as well. Self-efficacy and interests will also have an impact on decision-making (Bandura, 1986; Feather, 1988).

Flannelly, (1995) who used a modified version of the LVI in his research, found that when people rated the values they hoped to satisfy within various roles, their ratings varied significantly from role to role. Success in a life role will usually depend on (1) the congruence between the person’s values and those of others in the role; (2) role related skills which the person has developed prior to entering the role; (3) the person’s ability to cope with change, as the demands of the role change; and (4) the nature of the interaction of the role with other roles performed by the individual

Ravlin and Meglino, (1987) in their studies found a direct relationship between the congruence of supervisors and workers values and job satisfaction. Research on the Theory of Work Adjustment (Dawis & Lofquist, 1984) has also been supportive of this proposition. Several types of values-based problems sometimes require therapeutic interventions. These include (1) values poorly crystallized and/or poorly prioritized; (2) intra-personal values conflicts; (3) intra-role values conflicts; (4) inter-role conflicts that may or rnay-not be values-based; and (5) perception that values satisfaction is blocked resulting in depression. This proposition has not been tested directly at this time.

LeMon, (2000) in his studies indicates in his studies that one of the main reasons for the development of a value statement is to influence the attitudes and behaviours of employees who work for the organization. It also provides clear guidance to potential employees about what is considered to be fundamental in the organization. Thus, a clear and precise value statement can guide and motivate employees’ work behaviour towards organizational objectives and assist in recruiting employees that share and can relate to the stated values of the organization.

The power of value statements to focus the efforts of an organization and motivate its employees has become increasingly important in recent years. Many researchers indicate the importance of shared organizational values and the role of the value statement (Sullivan & Sullivan & Buffton, 2002; Dearlove and Coomber, 1999; LeMon, 2000; Kouzes, 2003).

Lencioni, (200%) declares that empty value statements create cynical and dispirited employees, alienate customers, and undermine managerial credibility. It is also known that younger workers are much more in tune with their individual values than older generations, and that the younger generations pay significant attention as to how their individual values might be fulfilled when looking at career options and potential employers (Sullivan, Sullivan & Buffton, 2002). It is important to note that clarifying employee’s and organization’s values can help to create a win-win outcome for all concerned. Individuals can find meaning in their work and organizations can develop a committed workforce that is able to function well through periods of change (Sullivan & Sullivan & Buffton, 2002).

Bryce (2002) states that developing a strong organizational value statement can, in combination with a few long-term recruiting techniques, reduce both employee turnover and recruitment costs. It is argued that, if the value statement is ambiguous, the job applicants attracted to the organization might not be those who hold appropriate individual values, and the organization might not recruit the right people.

Kar and Thivari, (1999) made significant findings on their study that employees who are properly aware of the organizational values and ethics have fostered better citizenship behavior. It can also be concluded from the present findings that factors like support, structure, risk tolerance and some of the most sensitive components of organizational culture, which have strong impact on employee’s citizenship behavior. Values are an integral part for the religious, commerce, spiritual and Governmental spheres of social behavior within a culture…. The anchorage of values in the religious, spiritual, and Governmental areas of social life should make values and integral part of specific culture and hence allow for variation between cultures (Sheth, 1995). Values are assumed to form a certain organization of an individual’s needs, desires, and goals, hierarchically structured according to their relative importance for the individual (Dawis, 1991 ).

Referring to general change in work values, Cherrington (1980) states that many mangers have complained that today’s work force does not have the same values as previous generations … the evidence indicates that the claims of these managers are generally correct. One of these reasons for this change in work values is the fact that the meaning of work has changed. He ascribed this changing nature of work to a number of factors, namely the shortened working weak, the change in power positions between employer and employee following the forming of unions changing labour legislation as well as technological advancement changing the nature of work. The possible implications of changes in work related values for organizations have been researched by Cooper, Morgan, Faley and Capalan, (1979). They come to the conclusion that companies are managed different than in the past. It is clear that although management practices and personal policies are continuously being changed and adapted, the values and expectations of employees have been evolving at an even faster pace. In order to keep up with employees changing values, companies will have to increase the pace and appropriateness of their efforts to change. As Crace and Brown, (1996) have pointed out, in their studies that values have long been viewed as important determinants of human behaviour (Allport, Vernon & Lindzey, 1960; Rokeach, 1973; Super, 1990).

In addition, values have been empirically linked to important aspects of organizational behaviour (Meglino, Ravlin, & Adkins, 1989), academic performance (Coyne, 1988), and career decision-making (Ravlin & Meglino, 1987). They have also been identified as important determinants of
culturally unique behavior (Sue & Sue, 1990), and thus are critical to the understanding of cultural differences (Brown, 2002). Within an organization, the social system includes all the people in it and their relationships to each other and to the outside world. The behavior of one member can have an impact, either directly or indirectly, on the behavior of others (Clark, 2000). Behavior is any form of human action based on culture. (Adler, 1991), Culture is the conventional behavior of a society that encompasses beliefs, customs, knowledge, and practices. It influences human behavior, even though it seldom enters into their conscious thought. People depend on culture as it gives them stability, security; understanding, and the ability to respond to a given situation (Clark, 2000). The behavior that is modeled by the leader and the management team profoundly shapes the culture and practices of the organization. What management emphasizes rewards and punishes can tell you what is really important. The behavior of members of the senior team, their reactions in a crises and what they talk routinely talk about, all sets the tone of the culture (Hagberg and Heifetz, 2000). The behavior that is modeled by the leader and the management team profoundly shapes the culture and practices of the organization. Organization exists in society and derives their Strength from it.

The work behavior and individual group expression representing culture are socially constructed and related to the anthropological concepts (Hofstede, 1990), there by supporting the argument that cultures exert magical effect on behavior at work (New storm and Davis (1995). (Rometra, 2000). Adler, (1991) studies indicates that those personal values affect corporate strategy and that managerial values affect all forms of organizational behavior, including selection and reward system, superior subordinate relationship, and group behavior, communication leadership and conflict levels.

In the literature on psychological climates, researchers agree that values serve to create the cognitive schema through which individuals interpret their work environment (James & James, 1989; Meyer, Irving & Allen, 1998; Young & Parker, 1999). In this respect, Ravlin & Meglino, (1987) have demonstrated that values influence the selection and interpretation of stimuli as well as actual decision-making behaviour at work. This finding corresponds with London’s (1983) thesis indicate that individual characteristics associated with career motivation affect how employees perceive their work situation. This relationship will be stronger the more the situation initially is ambiguous or uncertain. The latter is more probable at organizational entry, when individuals have only a restricted image of how their new employment relationship will be in practice. Related to this, there is considerable evidence that people tend to be satisfied with jobs in which they have an opportunity to attain their significant work values. This is a major assumption and focus of research within Person-Environment Fit theories (Taris & Feij, 2000; Vianen, 2000).

Sastri, (2001) stated that ‘instilling and practicing four basic corporate values. i.e. integrity, leadership, dedication and service, will creates an observable corporate culture.’ Human Values and Work Ethics are immense importance for the effectiveness of managers (Chakraborty, 1995). Ethics is the study of human values and refers to ‘morally permissible standards, rules, principles, obligations of a group or a society that each member of the group or society wishes everyone to follow, including himself or herself. Phegade (1997).

Work character ethics maintain that the identification and responsible development of noble reflective practitioner traits at work-such a competence, creativity, honesty, fairness, trustworthiness, co-worker appreciation, task competition, honor, loyalty, shared work pride, diligence, resourcefulness, level headedness, tolerance, dependability, civility, empathy, conscientiousness, discretion, patient urgency, cooperativeness and supportiveness-determine both the instrumental and intrinsic ethical quality of work life (Patric and Quinn, 1999). Some of the dimensions registering impact on work behavior include power orientation, achievement orientation hedonism, stimulation conformity and benevolence. Understandably there for individual behavior to a large extent is function of personality development that take place in a defined cultural environment (Schwartz et. a1 1997). A lot of research has been conducted about the consequences of these values in the work context. For instance, some authors have proposed that the declining importance assigned to them is one of the main causes of the increasing rate of unethical practices in organizations, such as fraud and corruption (e.g. Etzioni, 1993).

Other authors have shown that the presence of these values is vital to the well functioning and survival of organizations (e.g. Organ, 1988), and that values related to altruism are common to all forms of helping behaviors’ in organizations (Podsakoff, Mackenzie, Paine & Bachrach, 2000). Studies on work values have shown that these values play a significant role not only in individuals’ vocational choices, but also in their work-related attitudes and behaviors’ like job satisfaction and turnover (Butler, 1983; Judge & Bretz, 1992; Meglino, Ravlin & Adkins, 1991; Roe & Ester, 1999).


The organization functions are affected not only by the powers of managers but also by underlying cultural forces. Cultural Value base is therefore is a central organizing principle of employee’s comprehension of work; their approach to it and the way expect to be treated. Values reflect the mental disposition of people comprising a society organization in reference, thus strongly reflecting the behavioral patterns. It is imperative from the review of literature, that when management process and practices are inconsistent with these values, the employees are likely to feel dissatisfied and uncomfortable. On the other hand, wherever management practices are consistent with their cherished value system, the employee exhibit high performance outcomes.

Hence, work values play an important role in framing organizational culture. It is further observed that the organizational culture affects and is affected by the cherished beliefs nurtured values and held perceptions of organizational members which are given situations in organizations. In other words, the work values and ethical beliefs are functions of both organizational variables and differences in personality development in a given cultural environment that determines behavior of man. Studies on work values have shown that these values play a significant role not only in individuals’ vocational choices, but also in their work-related attitudes and behaviors’ like job satisfaction and turnover. There is considerable evidence that people tend to be satisfied with jobs in which they have an opportunity to attain their significant work values. Such conditions frame strong culture which leads to sustainable better performance and high output for the organizations.

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  • Nishant Saxena (HR Consultant)
  • Jasmine Joshi (Assistant Professor)
  • Dr. J. H. Vyas (Professor)