Frameworks for understanding & managing diversity part 4. Values differences

scales of valuesThis is the fourth in a series of articles on frameworks for understanding and managing diversity. Part 1 looked at different developmental stages. Part 2 looked at the huge issue of cultural diversity. Part 3 looked at the sensitive question of religious differences. This article builds on the previous articles and looks at values differences.

Each person has a unique hierarchy of values which determine their actions and filter the information they take in. If a person eats lots of unhealthy fast food, it is because they place a higher value on eating than on their health. If a person neglects their spouse to work 80 hours a week in their job, it is because they place a higher value on their work (or what their work gives them) than on spending time with their spouse. Someone for whom sports is a high-ranking value will read the newspapers differently to another person who values being informed about politics or foreign affairs. They might watch the same TV news and remember quite different things from it.

The values people live by are not necessarily the values that they will tell you if you were to ask them what their values are. Most of us when asked that question will give a list of values reflecting what we thing our values ought to be. These ideas of what our values should be, come from our culture, perhaps from our religion, and very much from our parents and other authority figures. We may sincerely believe that these are our values, but the real test is in how we live our lives. How do we spend our money? How do we spend our time? What do we do when there is nobody watching us? These are the real indicators of the values which drive us.

Even within one culture and religion, individuals will have quite different values. One person may value punctuality highly, while another places greater value on not leaving a meeting until everything has been said in an unhurried way. Problems arise when we expect others to live according to our values.

When managing people with different values it is important to understand what their highest values are. When you can link those values with the actions you want the person to take, you are more likely to get compliance.

Mike Lowe
Helping individuals and teams get into flow

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