The (Dis)connection between Personal and Organizational Values

Values are your core beliefs, principles that impact behaviour. For an organization, a values statement declares what stakeholders can expect when they interact with you, how you conduct your work, and what you stand for as an organization.

Understanding the connection between values and job satisfaction is a topic that has interested me in my own career, especially as I was working to figure out why I may not be particularly happy in one position or another, or with the decisions of an organization where I worked. 

A number of years ago I read a blog post by Diane Ragsdale where she included a piece of advice she was given early in her career from Ronnie Brooks at the Shannon Leadership Institute[1]:

“Burnout doesn’t arise because you are working too many hours; burnout is a result of living your life out of alignment with your values.”  [2]

Research has confirmed this statement and has demonstrated that “a relationship exists between employees’ individual and organizational values, organizational culture and job satisfaction”[3] and  “the mismatch of personal and organizational values has been identified as one of the key risk factors for the development of occupational burnout.”[4]   

Exploring your own personal values is the first step to gaining a greater understanding of why you may not be feeling happy or satisfied with your work. I have conducted many planning sessions where, after a values exercise, a participant came up to me to ask, “what happens when my personal values don’t align with the organization’s values?”.  This is a difficult question to ask, but having the mindfulness to begin to explore an answer is a great first step. Employers also need to have an awareness of these disconnects too, as they can easily grow into dissatisfaction or more damaging, disgruntled employees, and as stated above, for an employee it can evolve into burnout.

  • What does the organization stand for?
  • How does the organization live its values?
  • What are my values?
  • How do these impact my behaviour at work?

For employees who are struggling with dissatisfaction, or unhappiness in their work, taking time to objectively explore the link between their own values and the organization’s values may shed light on where a disconnect may lie. Once you have that information, you can start to make changes, whether its about the tasks or functions you do on a daily basis, agreeing with larger decisions within the organization, or whether the organizational culture is actually a fit for you.

Values are the foundation of who we are, they don’t change over time. Taking time to understand the connection between your own values, your work, and your organization, can lead to greater job satisfaction, happiness, and loyalty.

[1] Diane Ragsdale, email correspondence with author. January 8, 2019.

[2] Diane Ragsdale, “The Last Beauty Class Post”, Jumper: ArtsJournal, May 28, 2015. 

[3] Danuta Diskiene and Vytautas Gostauta, “Relationship between individual and organizational values and employees’ job satisfaction,” Current Issues of Business and Law  5, no. 2 (2010): 295 – 319.

[4] Anna Dylag et al., “Discrepancy between individual and organizational values: occupational burnout and work engagement among white-collar workers,” International Journal of Industrial Ergonomics 43 (2013): 225 – 231.