Work Values

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An individual's "work ethics" can be distinguished from his or her "work ethic", to the degree that the latter is popularly taken to mostly refer to how long and how hard one is willing to work. Once that is established, there are the ethical details, e.g., about how honest, autonomous and how eager to learn new things one is. "Work values", intuitively understood, seems to cover both "work ethic" and "work ethics", as equally important elements in an employee's motivation and performance.

Successful job performance is not conclusive evidence of alignment of company and employee work values, since the latter may do the job well from fear or habit, rather than from some positive attitude toward the job. When values are more perfectly aligned, employee dependability, loyalty and satisfaction can more reliably be inferred and predicted, with benefits for employer and employee alike.

Work values are the aspects of individuals' jobs or outlook on work that they find important and include character traits that make them good or bad employees. An employee's values are central among the factors that make him or her a good or bad fit for the job and the organization.

Managers should try to encourage the values that are beneficial to the organization and try to hire employees that display appropriate values. Human resources departments should write job descriptions in such a way that candidates will be able to tell whether the job aligns with their values; they might also utilize value inventories to see if the candidates possess the sought-after values. Employees should develop values, such as honesty, that transfer to all jobs; but they should also look for jobs that match their preferences, such as working with people or away from people.

Matching candidate values with job descriptions helps organizations save time and money by not hiring and training someone who will not like the job, and possibly subvert it, and eventually move on. Employees that share the same values as the organization are happier, more satisfied, more dedicated and more productive than those who do not share them.

Examples of work values that both employers and employees look for include the following: achievement, adaptability, adventure, artistic expression, autonomy, challenge, collaboration, community involvement, compensation, competition, control, creativity, dependability, expertise, helpfulness, honesty, independence, influence, integrity, job security, leadership, leisure, loyalty, positive attitude, prestige, professionalism, recognition, relationships, responsibility, risk taking, self-confidence, self-motivation, skill utilization, strong work ethic, support, variety, willingness to learn, willingness to travel, and working conditions.

In terms of management psychology, the value of a job to an employee should be more than how well it meets his basic survival needs, and ideally, will be measured by the degree to which it provides a sense of belonging, identity and self-fulfillment.
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