Thursday, May 6, 2010

Values and Organizational Behavior

Today in class we were discussing the subject of organizational behavior and its role in the financial crisis of 2008. Some of the suggestions on how to prevent people treading into the "grey areas" or, in other words, conforming to the organizational culture or mores were along the lines of putting in place rules, regulations and policies. Agree - can be effective, but we all know that behaviors are not driven by external factors, to which those rules or regulations belong. No, our behavior is predicated by our values, that is the true engine behind everything we do.

Now... a couple of words on values as the guiding principles, or tenets, ways of differentiating wrong from right and good from evil. They are unique, so no matter how much you are going to press down the issue of corporate values, there will always be discrepancies.

Values manifest themselves in actions. When managers see that some of their employees actions contradict (or in milder ways do not correspond to the company values), corrective measures must be taken, otherwise eventually the organization will find itself in the crisis situation, similar to the one we had to witness a couple of years ago.

Moving deeper - to the personal level. There are two types of values: values in use (enacted) and espoused values. Basically, it is what we say and what we do. Ideally, there should be congruence, but we know that it is impossible in real life. A simple example: most people will say that honesty is their value. Question: are we honest at all times? With others? With ourselves? There is some valuable (and fascinating) research done on the topic by Chris Argyris.

Getting even more personal: Susan Scott has done research in the field of psycho-neuro-immunology and the findings are: if you do not act congruently with your values, your body will know. It means that if you do (forced to do/tricked into/willingly complying, does not really matter) something that contradicts your personal values, your body will react. It can manifest itself in anything ranging from a headache to a chronic illness, so it is something to think of. I would recommend her book, Fierce Conversations, which among this issue also focuses on problems of human interactions, constructive dialogue and conflict.

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