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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.