Human beings have a tendency to perceive all the world as they perceive themselves. And management is not exempt from this phenomenon. Many human resource policies and practices have been created to meet the needs and satisfiers of human resource people, executives, and federal regulations. If it were true that all employees had the same orientations and value systems toward work as human resource people and managers, we could indeed design programs for others.

Perhaps one of the best and newest ways of describing the differences among people is the several years of theory building by Graves. The recent application and research conducted on employee populations show conclusively the dramatic differences in their orientation toward the world, their view of life, and their "values for working." It now appears that many of the problems of communication, productivity, and unionization lie primarily in the significantly different value systems among managers, human resource people, white collar, blue collar, and other employee populations. Since people exist at different levels of psychological development, it is important to understand how these levels shape their values toward work and human resource policies and programs.

Value System 1—Conditioned

The human being is born without a value system and believes nothing about any aspect of life, including work. In addition to infants, adults with brain deterioration and brain damage and extremely poverty-stricken people hold no value systems. People in System 1 react to warmth, pain, and hunger, but not to other individuals as human beings; therefore, they will not be found in the world of work.

Value System 2—Clannish

Beyond the reactive stage, people develop into a state of tribalism in which the values held come from a chieftain who may be a boss, spouse, or parent. The content of work is not important, but the leadership from the boss/chieftain is. People who exist at the clannish level of psychological development prefer strong leadership—a boss who tells them what to do and provides recognition when the work is done properly. Money and the other things necessary in life are for the purpose of existing. The formal education level of the clannish individual is quite likely to be low. Our studies show that many low-income employees are primarily clannish, and few, if any, professionals or others with advanced education and reasonable affluence are significantly clannish.

It is quite likely that human resource administrators will develop programs which are fundamentally inappropriate to the clannish employee population. For example, clannish employees respond best to simplistic graphic and personalized communication. They tend to read little, but do respond to pictures and appreciate eye-to-eye communication. As a result, many company handbooks are, in fact, completely inappropriate to the clannish person's communication orientation.

Clannish employees prefer routine tasks and find a great deal of satisfaction in repetitive tasks which have a rhythmic routine. It is perhaps fortunate that 25 percent of the employee population is primarily clannish, because industry offers so many clannish jobs. It would be a disservice to place a clannish person in a job which had excessive task variety or job enlargement. The clannish employee should be placed with a good chieftain and other employees who hold the same values.

The area of performance appraisal is another likely to miss the orientation of the clannish value. Performance appraisal practices for these employees need to be designed so that the leader may correlate them with the values he has given his tribe. This means that the responsibility for designing performance appraisal systems and carrying out the procedures must be group centered and determined by the immediate supervisor. Here the relationship to the boss and the group is more appraised than the individual meritorious productivity of one person.

Pay and benefits for these employees should be based on automatic increases determined by the immediate supervisor and related to seniority and length of membership in the tribe or the super-tribe—the corporation. Merit pay approaches and individual piece-rate systems are perceived as irrelevant. As far as benefits are concerned, any attempt to explain the details of the hospital/surgical plan is inappropriate, because this employee's orientation toward benefits is receiving the "benefit of the benefit" at the time when it is needed.

Motivation centers on recognition from the boss for doing a good job, not from the job itself. Continuous "stroking" is needed, not job enrichment. As long as management assures good quality supervision, these employees will respond with job satisfaction, loyalty to the boss, and high productivity. They want to get along, not ahead. While the needs and wants of the clannish employee in regard to placement, communication, performance appraisal, pay and benefit administration, and supervision may not feel good to the human resources administrator because of his or her differing values, they feel good to System 2 people.

Value System 3—Cynical

Egocentric employees are rugged individualists who are tough, aggressive, and often a source of great unhappiness to management. Because they tend to be suspicious and to engage in disruptive behavior at work, cynical employees need a job that does not tie them down and a boss who can control their behavior. Cynical individuals place themselves ahead of others and generally have difficulty living within the constraints of society, business policy, and ethics. Mild paranoia makes them difficult to deal with and very sensitive to what they perceive as discrimination.

Communications to cynical employees must be direct and authoritarian, and must explain the consequences of good and bad behavior. As with clannish employees, the printed word is not the most appropriate form of communication, but rather direct contact from the boss. With these employees, there is high probability that communications will be rejected as a fake, artificial "rip off."

Many organizations may choose to screen cynical employees out of the workforce entirely, since they have been shown to have a propensity for disrupting the workforce, filing charges of discrimination, and engaging in militant union activity. Cynical employees require a job with tight control, close supervision, continuous observation, and a boss capable of exercising authority and power. Cynical employees do find satisfaction in individualistic jobs, one-of-a-kind jobs, dangerous jobs, or jobs which require a great deal of physical toughness and ability. Management must learn to deal with these employees effectively, for if all cynical employees are simply screened out, a very large problem is created for society. To some degree, this has already occurred.

Performance appraisal for these employees must be individualistic, must come from the boss, and should be given on a regular basis—not at six months or annual performance review schedules. Because their view of the future resembles that of the clannish person—from paycheck to paycheck—writing things down for discussion may not be appropriate. The feedback loop is too long to generate response. Treating cynical employees properly is difficult, as they are always convinced they are being underpaid and if given the opportunity could do more. This is conceivable but frustrating. Pinpoint rates or automatic increases on a seniority basis are probably the best forms of compensation, as they leave less room for discussion, negotiation, and perceptions of unfairness. Benefit programs require increased seniority to get increased benefits.

Our studies have shown that cynical employees have the highest turnover rate of all value systems; they always become dissatisfied with the boss, the work, and the company, and move on or simply drop out of the workforce until it is financially necessary to get another job. Motivation, therefore, is not related to job enrichment or recognition from the boss, but rather to the direction and power exercised by the supervisor to get productivity. Cynical employees prefer a boss who lets them be tough, but is also tough. Supervisors of cynical employees must realize that they must be tougher than the employees.

Value System 4—Conventional

Conformists have the classic work ethic: they are oriented toward duty, loyalty, and what they "should" do. They have a high regard for the written word, policies, procedures, job descriptions, and work duties. The good boss here is one who provides structure and direction. Consistent rules, which everyone follows, and little favoritism by supervisors are essential.

In employee communications, conventional employees respond to policy manuals, procedures, duty lists, and "the book." Communications may take the interpersonal form, but the "shoulds" and "oughts" must be emphasized. System 4 people want to understand the logic and rationale of policies and procedures so they can assure themselves that everything is as it ought to be.

Selection and placement for conventional employees can be handled by the standard human resources practices traditionally used by most organizations. Human resource administrators should not look for creativity from System 4 people, and performance appraisal for them is in the best traditions of the field. Measurement of objective productive output versus job descriptions and externally imposed criteria is most meaningful to System 4 employees. Performance appraisals must be conducted, documented, and completed on a regular and timely basis. For conventional employees, performance appraisal and the opportunity for advancement are distinctly separate subjects, since these employees trust management to do the job of selecting people for promotions.

Performance appraisal for this value system reinforces loyalty and the recognition of seniority and meeting performance objectives set by the supervisor. Pay and benefits should emphasize seniority and longevity with the organization. Conventional employees view pay as being earned through hard work and are disturbed when others who have not worked hard or made a contribution to the organization's performance receive increases. Although merit increases may be used, highly leveraged bonus systems are inappropriate unless they are granted almost as a right of position and rank, and recognize status more than individual meritorious performance.

Fringe benefits are very important, for they provide security from a benevolent organization and should increase gradually with length of service. Conventional employees believe they have worked hard for what they have, they deserve some good breaks, and they respect an organization which takes care of its people through benefit programs. They have a high regard for the organization's handbook, particularly the sections which give detailed explanations of various insurance, pension, and vacation programs. It is important to have well designed and consistently administered pay and benefit programs for Systems 2, 3, and 4, as they respect structure and authority.

Motivation is primarily a response to job responsibility, loyalty, and the structure of the organizational hierarchy. Intrinsic job satisfaction is present so long as the job is well organized and clearly specified and duties are provided in written form. Achievement and individuality aided by pure job enrichment are not key motivating factors for conventional employees. They respond instead to jobs which permit their strong classic work ethic to be expressed.

Value System 5—Competitive

Manipulators are materialistic in their orientation toward life and work. They like "wheeling and dealing," opportunities for advancement, greater income, higher prestige, and room to carefully maneuver their career plans to achieve their goals. Opportunity to get ahead is the strongest motivator.

Communications are most meaningful when they stress opportunities for advancement, objectives of the institution, and challenges for people who are willing to work hard and make a contribution in order to achieve the rewards of our socioeconomic system. Written policies and procedures are not important and are often perceived as barriers to the accomplishment of work and the fulfillment of personal needs and goals. Competitive employees like to be "in the know." They will often arrange to find out what is happening before official announcements, and even influence the form and content of the communications from top management. They push the limits of communication. In their own communications to others, they may engage in manipulation of the facts, which they justify through "flexible ethics."

Selection and placement must be concerned primarily with the opportunities for future advancement and potential income levels. According to our research, competitive employees are most frequently found in positions of leadership, for example, management and professional activities including human resource administration. The competitive, materialistic value system could almost be called the managerial value system, since in the recent past as well as currently it represents the most outstanding attribute of people in leadership positions. Performance appraisal for competitive employees must be goal oriented and wrapped into the organization's planning system. A management-by-objectives approach is most effective here.

Appraisal is quite important to competitive performers, and they often initiate these activities themselves. Opportunities should be provided for them to assess their own performance, compare the assessment to the boss's judgment of performance, discuss the differences, and receive immediate concrete feedback. The clearest form of feedback in performance appraisal situations is the opportunity for advancement, career plans and goals, and significant pay increases. Pay is extremely important to competitive employees because of their materialistic orientation. Seniority increases in pay are not as effective as merit; however, it is possible to integrate the competitive value system with some of the others by placing the competitive individual on a base structure which takes care of basic income. If permitted to leverage base pay through merit increases, incentive awards, cash bonuses, and stock options, System 5s will have the opportunity for substantial monetary reward with immediate reinforcing impact.

Benefit programs are not as important to competitive employees as they are to Value Systems 2 and 4. Competitive employees respond primarily to a benefit program they perceive as providing benefits which increase with pay, or programs which permit them to select how they shall spend their benefit money. They are interested in the opportunity to buy benefits through the cost-effective approach of group plans, using their own additional payroll deduction.

Motivation for the competitive employee is a case of high achievement orientation, opportunity for advancement, and the money itself as a motivator. Many strong competitive people are found in marketing and sales jobs, and motivation by achievement, status, and money itself is legendary within American business and industry. The other strong motivator is a job which can be approached like a business game. In fact, the playing of the business game is the prime motivator, with money as the number one score-keeping device.

Value System 6—Compassionate

The sociocentric centers on people as the most important thing in society and within the organization. Interpersonal relationships, friendly supervision, and harmony with the work group are key values. Compassionate employees perceive power structures in institutions as hurting people or the environment. The human element must always be added in communications. The relationships among people within the institution, how people help each other, and how the institution helps society and mankind must be included. Employee newspapers must have the human interest angle, and company handbooks must stress actual case studies or examples of how programs have, in fact, benefited the people.

Selection and placement of compassionate employees is critical, for they prefer a group in which teamwork is possible, eye contact and verbal communication constant. Personal contact with the supervisor and a boss who is more of a peer than a traditional boss are important. Compassionate employees can respond to many factory and white collar jobs, but they should not be placed in jobs with heavy individual competition as should competitive persons. Attention should be paid to facilities and work conditions so that these do not block the interpersonal relationships.

Performance appraisal for these employees may be conducted on a peer evaluation basis or simply an evaluation of the entire work group without singling out individuals for different appraisal ratings. If individual ratings are necessary, supervisors should emphasize the human relations aspect of the individual's performance as well as the productivity, show how improving interpersonal relations can lead to higher productivity, and how higher productivity benefits not only the work group but the institution and the public it serves. Even with individual performance appraisals, the supervisor should be encouraged to meet with the entire group and discuss its overall performance as a group.

Pay and benefits are important, as they are to all value systems. Emphasizing pay differences and merit increases will be perceived as creating a "dog-eat-dog" world by the institution and the boss. Compassionate employees would pay everyone the same amount and give everyone exactly the same benefit program, regardless of position or length of service. Their orientation toward pay and benefits is usually the socialistic view. They will accept longevity and seniority-oriented pay increases just as Systems 2, 3, and 4, but merit pay is not appropriate for the bulk of this system. The only form of merit pay would be merit for the group in group incentive plans where everyone shares equally.

Motivation for the compassionate employee comes from social relations, interpersonal transactions, and the egalitarian democratic value. Individual achievement and responsibility are not key motivators. Job enrichment conducted with compassionate employees should emphasize recognition by the boss for a good job by the group and personal growth as a part of humanity. The most powerful motivator for a sociocentric, however, is the opportunity to get paid for helping people.

Value System 7—Conscious

Existentials are mostly concerned with themselves as individuals, but without the hostility and negative effect found in System 3 and sometimes in System 5. This is the individual for whom job enrichment and meaningful tasks are absolutely essential. Many of the theories of leadership, motivation, and organizational structure are perfect fits here. (These theories, as we have found in our research, are only partially compatible with some value systems and essentially inappropriate for others.) The opportunity to solve problems and engage in meaningful task variety, which demands challenge, imagination, initiative, and creativity, are the working values of the conscious employee.

Communications geared to conscious employees must relate to their favorite word—"why"? They have a high regard for the language and are not afraid of words, and they engage in many semantic games, exercises, and diversions. Conscious employees will read printed material, although they do not take the printed word as law as will conventional employees. They are most interested in communications which pull together all aspects of the situation to show the long-range effects of a course of action. They may tend to disregard policy manuals if they think them inappropriate or irrelevant to the immediate situation.

Selecting conscious employees is a very difficult task. They will refuse jobs which do not have challenge, opportunity, and intellectual stimulation. Placement is also very critical. Even though the task content may be appropriate, they operate well only under general supervision, where they participate in goal setting and in the formulation of strategies for achieving those goals. Furthermore, the style of supervision must also be conscious or possibly mildly competitive, since essentially conscious employees require no supervision. They are quite likely to either turn off or turn over if placed under a highly authoritarian conventional employee. They respond best to internal systems, such as job posting and bidding, which permit them to seek the type of work they want, as opposed to being placed by someone in authority. Given access to information about jobs, they will tend to seek out jobs which fit them best, and they resist regimentation.

Conscious employees tend to conduct their own self-generated performance appraisals constantly. The performance of the boss and the organization often appear to be appraised rather than the behavior and productivity of conscious employees themselves. Self-initiated performance appraisal with discussion with the boss is most important; however, numerical and work-rating scales that attempt to categorize the job performance of conscious employees will be resisted. They may prefer to have a conversation without documentation. Classic performance appraisal will be disregarded by the conscious employee and should be avoided if possible. Pay and benefits are important to conscious employees; however, money itself is not as important as what conscious employees do with it. They recognize that money is necessary to operate in our society, but having the money is not as important as what money can buy: the freedom and opportunity to be oneself. Conscious employees will accept the seniority or longevity-based pay system and some general form of bonus or incentive award, but they resist being manipulated by compensation schemes which they perceive as attempts to induce them to do things they believe are inappropriate or inefficient. Benefits are accepted, but at no time do they ever form "golden handcuffs" that keep conscious employees loyal or prevent them from quitting to pursue a more meaningful task elsewhere.

Compensation in all forms is necessary but not sufficient to get productivity from the conscious employee. The key is job enrichment. For here a major motivator is the sense of achievement that comes from solving difficult problems and reaching personal goals that are also important to the institution. The opportunity to grow, learn, change, make a contribution, explore new territory, and at all times to be original and creative are the most powerful factors. This new breed of individuals makes a striking contrast with other value systems which have existed for a longer period of time. However, the key to human resource administration with conscious employees as with all value systems is flexibility.

The Conscious Organization

"If it's right for you, it's wrong for your employees." As we have described, if it's right for you as a human resource administrator, it may be wrong for the rest of the employees. We need to follow a new concept and caution ourselves not to design programs that feel good to us, because there is a high probability that they will feel bad to many others. What we in human resource management may have been doing is designing programs for ourselves and our bosses. (Our research indicates that the attributes of human resource managers in terms of values are essentially those of executives.) Whether we design human resource programs for the wide range of values or whether we find ways to involve supervision and the rank-and-file employee in the design of programs is a matter of choice.

Selection and placement flexibility is critical. Because human resource administrators are often most attracted to people who have the same values, they might place them in a job which is better suited to a different value system. It is not necessary to have completely different programs for each value system. For example, it is not necessary to have six different benefit programs. Not only is it not feasible, it is not important. However, we will have to communicate these benefit programs in six different ways so that each value system can tune in to its own wave length. It is not necessary to have six different forms of pay. As we have seen, seniority-related or longevity-oriented pay will work with all systems (with the exception of System 5, which does need the addition of the individual bonus or award) as will some bonuses and awards for conscious employees, but they have much less impact. In other words, there is a difference between being "paid enough" and being "paid more."

Appraising performance requires flexibility, and it is possible that we may have to have six different systems. This approach is practical, however, for it is nothing more than providing six different forms or devising a procedure which can be used according to the values of the individuals being appraised. Communications is the key. With all of the flexibility that we might conceivably build into selection, placement, performance review, pay, benefits, and job content, communications must have a full range of values. We must find multiple words, multiple channels, multiple processes for communications so that each value can respond and comprehend in its own natural style.

This is our challenge and our opportunity.

Written by Dr. Charles Hughes of the Center for Values Research, Dallas, TX. For more information contact Dr. Charles Hughes, President of CVR at 972-720-9100.


Copyright 2004,Center for Values Research, Inc. All rights reserved.