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Personal and Organizational Values; Fit Matters!

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Think of the last time you went home from work and felt truly gratified. The hours flew by and you were really motivated to go back to work the next day. If you are one of the lucky ones who frequently have days like this, chances are your personal values are congruent with your organization’s values. I know you are probably thinking, Does congruency of values matter that much? According to the research, the answer is a resounding YES!

Organizational research by Posnershowed that when employees’ personal values align with their organization’s values many positive behaviors begin to emerge. Job satisfaction increases dramatically which, in turn, leads to a stronger work commitment and sustained organizational loyalty. Self-motivation and initiative to go above and beyond the call of duty becomes commonplace. Work-related stress and anxiety diminishes, while joy and workplace happiness becomes the norm. The research shows congruent values can result in increased ethical behavior including professional integrity, honesty, and policy compliance2. Moreover, these findings were consistent across age, gender, job type, and level of education.

Perhaps, this is not so surprising given that our values are the core of who we are. They are deeply rooted and quietly influence every facet of our human behavior. Our values drive our decisions regarding personal, social, and professional choices. They influence our priorities and determine how we choose to use our time and energy.

Similarly, organizational values are the core of an organization. It is what drives the organizational behavior and shapes the culture and climate. Organizational values drive leadership decisions regarding all facets of the organization, including what they do and how they do it. Simon Sinek3 refers to values as the “Why” of an organization. He reminds us that people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it. Which might explain why congruency between personal and organizational values is so important.

So how can we increase our chances of working at an organization where our values would be a good fit? Here are a few ideas based on the work of Edwards and Cable4.

First, pay attention during the recruitment and interview process. Look for organizational values embedded into the job description. Listen to the questions and phrases used during the interview. Look for hints regarding the work environment and organizational climate and behavior. Think about how you feel throughout the process.

If you are hired, be attentive to the organizational cultural values during the onboarding process. Carefully read the mission and values. Pay attention to how the values are embedded into the policies and procedures. Watch to see how the values are lived out during the training and socialization process. As you do this, stay in tune to how well you fit with the organizational culture.

Once you are actively involved in your positional role, be aware of the transparency with which leadership decisions are made and the general communication patterns. Especially important, are decisions that directly impact employee trust and communication. Frequent and open communication between leadership and employees, and among employees can provide key insights.

Determining a good fit between your values and your organization’s values is basically an intuitive process. Oftentimes, you may not be aware of how good (or how bad) you fit until you are driving home from work. Count the good days. The days you are smiling and looking forward to going back to work. If they outnumber of bad days, chances are you found a good fit!

For information on earning your M.A. in Educational Leadership degree, contact an enrollment counselor at 877-308-9954.

About the Author

Dr. Sue Hines is the Director of the Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching and Associate Professor in the Doctor of Education in Leadership Program and teaches in the M.A. in Educational Leadership Program at Saint Mary's University’s Schools of Graduate and Professional Programs. She has over 30 years of combined teaching experience at the undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral level. Her career has primarily included college teaching, faculty development, program development, program accreditation, and academic research with a focus on faculty development program evaluation.


1Posner, B. (2010). Another look at the impact of personal and organizational congruency. Journal of Business Ethics, 97, 535-541. DOI 10.1007/s10551-010-0530-1.
2Suar, D. & Khuntia, R. (2010). Influence of personal values and value congruence on unethical practices and work behavior. Journal of Business Ethics, 97, 443-460. DOI 10.1007/s10551-010-0517-y. 
3Sinek, S. (Sept. 2009). How Great Leaders Inspire Action. TEDxPuget Sound.
4Edwards, J.R. & Cable, D.M. (2009). The value of value congruence. Journal of Applied Psychology, 94 (3), 654-677.