Register now for our free virtual workshops  |  SACS Consulting Clients: Login to the Portal

Narrow search results to:
Products & services
Blog articles
Knowledge Hub
Sample reports
Read time7 mins

How Do Values Influence Toxic Behaviour?

Save this item for later:
Your saved content:
Personal values and toxic behaviours at work

The values of a toxic co-worker

We look at the values that can influence a person’s behaviour in the workplace. These values fall into four categories – self-enhancement, self-transcendence, conservation, and openness to change.

An important thing to note is that a person’s values are not set in stone they can change over time. So, it’s sensible to have education programs within organisations about what behaviours are acceptable, what behaviours are unacceptable and how to improve behaviours to make sure that you end up with the safest work environment possible.

Personal values and toxic behaviours at work

Watch the video to understand how values affect someone's behaviour in the workplace, and the key values that indicate that a person is likely to engage in harmful activities at work.

Watch the next video in this series here:

Part 7 – The Frequency of Toxic behaviour in the workplace

And watch the previous video here:

Part 5 – Does Personality Influence Toxic Behaviour?

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

Video Transcript

Hi, Andrew from SACS and welcome to video number six in our eleven video series on toxic behaviours at work.

In this one, we’ll be talking about toxic behaviours and a person’s value set. So you can see that in previous videos, we’ve talked about personality and genetics and those kinds of things.

And later on, we’ll be talking much more about how to respond to these toxic behaviours, once you’ve hired somebody who behaves in this kind of a way, but in this one we’ll be talking about values and toxic behaviours.

What are values?

What do we mean by values? There’s a science of values and values as they’re measured in the world of psychology are not always the same as the value statements that appear for organisations.

So a guy by the name of Shalom Schwartz is one of the most important researchers in the world in values. And he said that values occur at two levels.

One is at a kind of a cultural level.

So the values that you encounter in a particular country or in a particular ethnic group will tend to be consistent to a certain extent within that ethnic group.

So they’re what you might call cultural values and Schwartz identified seven of those.

But at work, there are really 10 personal values which tend to affect people’s behaviours at work.

These 10 values fall into four categories, self enhancement which is about getting ahead in the world, openness to change which is about being willing to undertake new and different things, self transcendence, which is all about trying to make the world a better place to contribute beyond myself, which is why it’s called self transcendence and conservation, which just means I want to keep what I’ve got. And I want to maintain the safety of people and things around me.

But this really raises the question, what are values? Values as defined in this research are what’s called trans situational goals.

Now, what do we mean by trans situational? They apply across a range of differences situations.

So let’s say if you are the kind of person who wants to help people and who wants to be relied on by people which is the value of benevolence.

When people are like this what it means is that they’re probably benevolent at home, at work down their sporting club, when they’re in the shops, they’re likely to want to be the sort of person who will be kind to people, be helpful to people and to support them.

Now values are trans situational, but I also said that they’re goals, so the concept is that values are things that we move towards.

They’re things that we think are important. There are things that we want to do.

Now interestingly, when you look at trying to predict good and bad behaviours, values have an effect but nowhere near as strongly as personality and cognitive ability tend to.

Largely, I guess because personality and cognitive ability are largely genetic, but there is strong evidence that the values that you have really develop because of the people around you.

In other words, you learn your values through interacting with other people.

So they’re not genetic. And so therefore it shouldn’t surprise anybody who understands biology, that the non-genetic will have less of an impact than the genetic, but that’s not to say that they’re not important because values will affect people’s behaviours.

Values and violence

Schwartz undertook a range of research about how certain values can be protective factors against the likelihood of violence. And in particular, this study here from Knafo and colleagues was all about negative behaviours, violent behaviours in Jewish and Arab high schools.

And what they discovered is that certain of these values particularly conformity and conformity sounds like being sheepishly obedient, but in fact conformity is really about respecting rules. So when a person is high end conformity, they believe that rules are important, but they’re also likely to respect the rules of other people.

So let’s say I am from one ethnic group and I interact with another ethnic group.

If I have high levels of conformity what it means is that I kind of don’t want to be a Maverick. And I believe that it’s important for me to understand and to a certain degree fit in with the rules of the people around me.

Whereas let’s say I’m low in conformity and I’m from one ethnic group. And I interact with the rules of another ethnic group, I might be more inclined to say, well, those are ridiculous. And I’ll just do whatever I want.

So I will be more like a maverick.

So low conformity tends to predict more negative behaviours.


But in addition to that, so does this value here, which is all about power.

So a person who profiles high in power is the sort of person who wants to dominate and dominate either one of two things, people or resources.

So a person who is high in power believes that it’s a good thing to dominate in that respect, has the goal to dominate in that respect and wants to be on top of the pile.

So those two values where power is high and conformity is low, they are indicators of a greater likelihood of negative behaviours. Now, on the other hand if a person has some negative personality characteristics provided that they’re not too strong, if a person’s very high in conformity and low in power, then that might give you a confidence particularly coupled with other personality aspect like the tendency to self-control, maybe the person’s more likely to be safe in around the colleagues and the organisation if they are like that.

So that’s how values can affect things, not anywhere near as strong as personality or cognitive ability, but still worthy of taking into account.

Values can change

Now, the other thing that’s important of course is that values can change.

Circumstances can change a person’s values.

So that says, that it’s a really good thing to have education programs in organisations about what behaviours are acceptable, what behaviours are unacceptable and how to improve behaviours to make sure that you end up with the safest workplace possible.

So in the next video, we’re going to show you some fascinating research evidence about how often these toxic behaviours happen in the work world.

So this research is research that was undertaken confidentially by SACS and so people are completing questionnaires. And they’re very honest about the good and bad things that they’ve done at work.

It’s low stakes. In other words, they’re not applying for a job or anything like that. They’re just telling the truth in a survey to SACS.

Join us for the next video to understand how much of this negative behaviour takes place, at least in Australia and New Zealand where the data’s drawn from.

Watch the next video in this series to find out more about dealing with toxic employees:

Part 7 – The Frequency of Toxic behaviour in the workplace

And watch the previous video here:

Part 5 – Does Personality Influence Toxic Behaviour?

And if you’d like some help screening future hires for toxic behaviour, contact us about our Psychometric Assessment Tools.

Helpful resources

Did you find this content helpful?

Please rate our content.

Average rating 0 / 5. Votes: 0

Please share any suggestions on how we could make it better. Thank you!

Tell us how we can improve this post?