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Read time7 mins

How personal values influence employees behaving badly

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A pair of hands holding a red heart, representing personal values and counterproductive work behaviours.

Are values important to avoid psychopaths at work?

Many organisations and recruiters emphasise a person’s values to predict counterproductive work behaviours.

While values do matter and can evolve, they aren’t as reliable in predicting CWBs as intelligence or personality.

But what exactly are values? According to Sagiv, they are trans-situational goals, applicable across various situations.

While values modestly predict negative behaviours, they excel at assessing “fit”. Will this individual align with the role, team, or organisation?

A good fit boosts employee happiness and engagement, reducing the likelihood of behaving in a way that damages others or the organisation.

Personal values and negative behaviours at work

Watch the video to understand the role of personal values in the likelihood that someone will engaged in harmful behaviours in the workplace.

Watch the next video in this series here:

Part 7 – What drives counterproductive workplace behaviours?

And watch the previous video here:

Part 5 – Key personality traits associated with bad behaviours at work

And if you know of anyone who would benefit from this video, please share it with them.

Video Transcript

Personal values at work

Hi, Andrew from SACS, and welcome to video number six in our eight video sequence on “Have you hired any psychopaths lately?”

This entire sequence is about recruitment practise, particularly looking at psychological markers of whether people are likely to do bad stuff when you hire them.

In this video, we’ll be talking about values.

Now, we’ve talked earlier about cognitive ability, and we’ve talked about personality, and I said in the last video that these are better predictors of negative behaviours than values.

Personality and cognitive ability being largely genetically determined tends to have more of an influence on bad behaviours than values does.

Now, let’s talk about what values are, and I know that organisations have values and integrity.

In fact, it’s the most popular value in organisations here in Australia and New Zealand.

States too, the last time I checked.

But what does that actually mean?

The science of values

Now, there is a science of values, and the science of values comes largely from a fellow by the name of Shalom Schwartz, who’s probably the most cited researcher in the world on values.

His work builds on the work of Milton Rokeach, and they measured values scientifically.

They measured demand in kind of a cultural level.

And Schwartz identified that there are seven kind of cultural values, which are things like the degree to which a particular ethnic group is likely to be peace-seeking versus very war-like, or embedded in their social structure versus being considered to be more free and easy and wanting to be more independent in the way that they think.

So these are characteristics that apply across the world.

But Schwartz also identified that there are individual values, and that’s what we’re talking about today.

And we undertook a project with Deakin University, where we sought to create a work-worded version, a work-worded measure of 11 values that apply to work.

And we validated by correlating it with the Schwartz portrait values questionnaire.

What are values?

And so it really raises the key question though, what are values?

And in fact, the definition of values, a researcher by the name of Sagiv, said that values are trans-situational goals.

So values are goals.

There are things where I want to do certain things, I want to achieve certain things, I want to be a certain way, but they’re trans-situational.

And so trans-situational goals are goals that can be applied in a range of different circumstances.

So at work, it might be how I apply to my colleagues or how I apply to the organisation or how I apply to my customers.

So trans-situational.

But the important thing to understand is that when you look at a person’s values, if a person has a low value, and I’ll give you an example in just a second, but if a person has a low value, it doesn’t mean they can’t do that thing.

It means that they just don’t value it very highly.

Key workplace values

So let’s look at some values, and this is the SACS work values scale.

We discovered 11 work-related values: social justice, safety, helping and supporting, enjoyment, variety, autonomy, ambition, authority, traditional values, rule respecting, and environmental sustainability.

So you notice that this person’s relatively low on rule-respecting.

By the way, this dark line is population average.

That’s not a massively low score.

Doesn’t mean the person can’t follow rules.

It just means that there are other things that are more important in that person’s life.

Now, if you are recruiting for a job where rule following is a very, very important characteristic, well, if the person’s value is not aligned to that, what that means is they haven’t learned through their upbringing to date that that’s an important thing.

Are values genetic?

Now, I said in previous videos that personality and cognitive ability very heavily genetically determined, but research that we’ve undertaken mainly through our partnership with Deakin Uni has demonstrated that in fact, you can’t correlate a person’s values very heavily with their personality.

And that suggests that it’s not genetically determined.

It’s really about significant others.

And this is what Schwartz has written in his research, that people who develop their values, they develop by, in effect, interacting with other people.

And when people change their circumstances very markedly, let’s say they move from one country to another, this country believes very strongly in one thing, this other country believes something different, your values will change.

One of the things that we know that values influence is that they do influence good and bad behaviour to a certain extent.

How values affect counterproductive work behaviours

So this rule-respecting value here, the lower that is, the more likely it is that the person will not care about rules both organisational and social.

And so they may be inclined to be a little bit more of a maverick.

Certainly, that’s what research in Israel has demonstrated.

People who are very authority-conscious and want to be domineering, that is also a potential concern from a values point of view.

But I think the thing to think of in respect of values, values determine above all else how likely you are to fit in with other people.

So if your value set is similar to other people, you are likely to feel comfortable with them, and you are unlikely to be perceived to be kind of contrary to the way that people are here.

Also, if you’re with people whose values you like, you are much more likely to be comfortable in that work group.

So values do, to a relatively moderate degree, influence negative behaviours.

But one of the things they really are crucial for is fit.

Will this person fit into the work group that we’re asking them to go into?

Organisational values are less important

Final point I’ll make about values at work though is that people think that an organisation has values.

Well, in fact, the biggest differences in values are not between organisations.

The biggest differences in values are between teams within the same organisation, and that’s just perfectly natural.

I mean, do you want your accountants to have exactly the same values as your salespeople?

Well, no, you don’t.

I mean, they’re very different jobs.

They require different success factors.

They require different capabilities.

So it’s perfectly normal that you will have different value sets in different teams.

Culture is local.

The next video, we’re going to show you some research into counterproductive work behaviours, personality and values, to really just example what I’ve said in the previous six videos.

So click on the link near this video to join us.

Learn more about counterproductive workplace behaviours

Watch the next video in this series to find out more about dealing with psychopaths at work:

Part 7 – What drives counterproductive workplace behaviours?

And watch the previous video here:

Part 5 – Key personality traits associated with bad behaviours at work

And if you’d like some help with reducing the chances that your next hire will be a psychopath, contact us about our Psychometric Testing tools.

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