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A congruence of employee and organizational values or why don’t spells work?

Companies are investing in order to increase their competitiveness and attractiveness in the eyes of the public. Both the higher-skilled employee and the attractive image of the employer have to be fought for. Various means are used to achieve this goal: by introducing new management methods, hiring various consultants, developing employee motivation programs and by promoting the name of an attractive employer in the labor market. Such actions are costly, but they do not always guarantee the expected result and sometimes they result the skeptical reactions. Maybe the recipe for success can be much simpler, for example, to take into account the values and attitudes of certain generations of employees and look for common ground? Experts of the Faculty of Economics and Management of Vytautas Magnus University analyze these processes and provide answers to such type of the questions: chief researcher, prof. dr. Jolita Vveinhardt and doctoral student Povilas Foktas.

The paradox is that employees do not always appreciate the employer’s efforts on their own behalf. What happens then?

P. Foktas: Indeed, a paradoxical situation is not uncommon: the employer applies rather expensive measures to encourage employees, but does not receive gratitude. However, the employees themselves feel underestimated, unnoticed, misunderstood, unmotivated, dissatisfied and, ultimately, unhappy. What is the result? The employee simply does not become loyal to the organization, does not make a connection, and eventually leaves the job, although not only a lot of time has been invested in it, but also a lot of other financial and non-financial resources. And that only had to strengthen the connection with the organization. These investments eventually „go“ to a competitor.

Why is this happening? Employees don’t understand or they don’t appreciate the effort?

J. Vveinhardt: Or maybe those efforts went unnoticed? Or, maybe it just seemed to the employer that he was making a special effort for the employees? In such a situation, several reactions are common: blaming „ungrateful workers“, and these will, of course, respond at the same way. Or you can ask what I did wrong and how I can do better. And here is not just a communication problem. I will not be committed to an organization if its goals remain incomprehensible to me and they do not „hook“ what is important to me. We usually know well what is important to us, what our personal values are, but if we are unsure about what the organization expects of us or our values differ, we will feel tension and, ultimately, frustration. Such tensions are experienced not only by employees, but also by managers at various levels, who broadcast their reactions to subordinates.

Value is everything that is valuable to a person, which makes his life meaningful and full. Are these just nice words or much more?

P. Foktas: Every person cherishes certain values. Generally speaking, this is a very human trait. The value can be the opportunity to hug a loved one or sit with him over a cup of coffee and have a sincere conversation. Values can include family, freedom, health, a loved and meaningful job or activity. Value is not just a nice word. This is real life – the life that a person chooses. In other words, values are the foundation. On this foundation (like blocks of a house) goals and a future are built, also a personality is cultivated and formed as well as paths, aspirations and visions are chosen to help you feel the fullness of life. Choosing an employer is a really important step. A person in an organization will necessarily feel whether the values he or she cherishes are related to his or her personal values.

J. Vveinhardt: When we say that we like or dislike a character in another person, and ultimately in an organization, such evaluations are always dictated by existing values that act as an internal navigator. We each bring those navigators from our life history, starting with the first relationship with a parent or guardian. And they are not easy to „reprogram“. The same laws apply in a relationship with an organization as in a day-to-day relationship with friends, loved ones, neighbors or first-time strangers. It is always possible to admire the other person strongly, but without a correspondence of values and an effort to create common meanings, the connection will not be strong and long-lasting. This is how the relationship with the organization develops. The employee may be very impressed with the image of the organization, but, unexpectedly, after a while he „cools down“ and remains frustrated. Managers want certain personal values of employees, expect them to behave fairly and honestly, but as a colleague says, this relationship is reciprocal. If an employee realizes that the declared justice is not a value cherished by the manager, it is not worth expecting to be rewarded with the same attitude.

The values cherished by the organization indicate the direction of the organization’s activities. Why is this one of its most important levels of activity?

P. Foktas: The values cherished by the organization are one of the foundations of the organization, because they frame the direction of the company’s activities. Declared values indicate the way, path and vision an organization seeks to succeed in its particular field. These values must embody the beliefs and goals to be achieved and describe the means that will be used to try to achieve those goals. Thus, the prevailing values of an organization are one of the most important levels of its activities.

J. Vveinhardt: Because we want to believe in magic.

What do you mean by that?

J. Vveinhardt: Let’s take an example. When I ask prospective managers what is important at work, the search for meaning, or profit, the choir responds with „profit.“ When I ask this, the answers are already different for older people with more work experience in companies. What happened: did values change, or did you learn to respond as expected? Speakers make it clear that the most important value in an organization is profit, but it is hidden under a variety of meaningful wordings. There are many spells – leadership, self-realization, teamwork, honesty, social responsibility and so on. I doubt even those who write them on the company’s websites believe in them. More precisely – write off from textbooks. Employees prefer to believe in bank account records and often do not consume their own products. If you declare honesty, don’t talk about market leadership, but write honestly what you want. Maybe someone won’t like it, but at least respect for honesty. If an employee sees that the company’s purpose is reflected in his or her bank account, all of this will become a strong motive. And it will already be possible to talk about the coincidence of certain values. Of course, not everything comes down to money. This is just an example. What direction can we talk about if the values of employees are not taken into account? Who will go in that direction?

If the values of the employee and the employer do not coincide, then their interests will not coincide. What are the threats?

J. Vveinhardt: Marriage out of necessity. And what is such a marriage like? (laughs – ed. note.) As long as it is useful, it will work with bitten teeth, it is useless – the employee will go to another employer. The value of what we get is an important motivating factor, but a few important things cannot be overlooked. Let’s say the organization expects some of my behavior. As an employee, I have beliefs that determine whether the result will be of any value to me. These beliefs are related to certain social norms, values that I have embraced. If the organization ignores this, I am unlikely to make much and long of an effort to meet its expectations. Maybe I’d even rather go to work where I don’t feel such dissonance. And there I will give my efforts. I agree, it is difficult for an organization to reconcile different values. After all, groups in society, such as the age at which workers are represented, also differ. However, this is not impossible.

P. Foktas: I would like to add something else. Employee values are shaped not only by these but also by other factors, such as the prevailing or still prevailing social and / or economic environment during certain periods, which has been or continues to be surrounded by a certain generation. This means that the same management recipe or model will certainly not be suitable for different generations of employees, as some values are important to some employees and completely different values are important to others. A mismatch of values greatly increases the risk that an employee will simply leave the organization.

If the values of the employee and the organization coincide, then much higher goals can be achieved. And what if they don’t match?

P. Foktas: The coincidence of employee and personal values is called congruence. If the values of the person and the organization coincide, then not only the goal of emotional satisfaction of the employee with the job and the employer is achieved, but also the probability of the employee staying in the organization is increased. The employee feels more confident in the organization, considers it a more attractive place to work. Generally speaking, a multi-step positive effect can be achieved in this way – the employee interacts more easily with the members of the organization, which increases his / her job satisfaction, and job satisfaction increases the desire to stay in this organization.

Mismatch or incongruence of values between employer and employee has negative consequences. Employees in this situation develop a negative attitude towards the organization. Such employees feel dissatisfied, seek to leave the organization, evoke negative feelings not only for themselves but also for those around them. In addition, the employee’s psychological health, behavior and productivity are negatively affected. Thus, it is not difficult to understand that the incompatibility of values between the employee and the organization not only damages the employee’s attitude to the place where he works, but also has a negative impact on all activities of the organization – from productivity to disintegration of the team.

J. Vveinhardt: I can only add that nothing happens in this case. The organization continues to grumble about the same issues, with executives continuing to complain that employees don’t value their good wishes and efforts. There is a lot of talk about change, but the organization is still slipping. As on the highway, everyone moves at different speeds, for different purposes and in different directions. The behavior of employees and the organization itself, and the results of such behavior, become difficult to predict. And this is especially felt in crisis situations. There is no overlap of values, there is no trust and no effective communication. However, there are many conflicts. So, nothing good happens.

Pranešimą paskelbė: Indrė Sekevičienė, Vytauto Didžiojo universitetas

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