Journal of Management 1998, Vol. 24, No. 3, 351-389
Individual Values in Organizations: Concepts, Controversies, and Research Bruce M. Meglino Elizabeth C. Ravlin
University of South Carolina
The values of managers and employees in organizations are phenomena that have captured the interest of researchers, practitioners, social critics, and the public at large. Despite this attention, there continues to be a conspicuous lack of agreement on what values are and how they influence individuals. In this article we discuss how values have been defined and conceptualized. Focusing on values as desirable modes of behavior, we describe how they affect individuals in organizations and discuss some of the salient controversies that characterize contemporary research on values. Finally, we report on a comprehensive review of the most recent literature in this area. Values occupy a prominent place in the scientific and public discourse at a number of levels. They are "among the very few social psychological concepts that have been successfully employed across all social science disciplines" (Rokeach & Ball-Rokeach, 1989, p. 775). Values are believed to have a substantial influence on the affective and behavioral responses of individuals (Locke, 1976; Rokeach, 1973), and changing values are frequently evoked as explanations for a variety of social ills (Etzioni, 1993), employee problems in the workplace (Nord, Brief, Atieh, & Doherty, 1988), and a purported increase in unethical business practices (Mitchell & Scott, 1990). At the organizational level, values are viewed as a major component of organizational culture (O'Reilly & Chatman, 1996; Schein, 1985), and are often described as principles responsible for the successful management of a number of companies (e.g., Mitchell & Oneal, 1994). Values have also been characterized as "the most distinctive property or defining characteristic of a social institution" (Rokeach, 1979, p. 51). Despite their popularity, there is a lack of consensus on the nature of values themselves. Among other things, values have been considered as needs, personality types, motivations, goals, utilities, attitudes, interests, and nonexistent mental entities. This lack of agreement (see e.g., Kluckhohn, 1951; Rokeach & Ball- Direct all correspondence to: Bruce M. Meglino, The Darla Moore School of Business, University of South Carolina Columbia, South Carolina 29208; e-mail . Copyright © 1998 by JAI Press Inc. 0149-2063
B.M. MEGLINO AND E.C. RAVLIN
Rokeach, 1989; Williams, 1979) has created problems in interpreting the results of various studies, and has prompted calls for greater unanimity on how values are conceptualized, defined, and measured in organizational research (Connor & Becker, 1975, 1994). In this article we will attempt to provide some coherence on the issue of values by (a) describing how theorists have conceptualized values, (b) discussing some of the major controversies that surround values research, and (c) reviewing the recent literature on values in organizations. Because the space allotted to this article is extremely small when weighed against the diversity of the values literature, we were required to make a number of decisions about what to emphasize. In doing so, we focused on (a) the preponderance of theoretical views and (b) the utility of concepts for management and organizational behavior. Although we attempted to make these decisions objectively, we should state that we have previously taken positions on a number of controversial issues dealt with here (e.g., Meglino, 1996; Ravlin, 1995). Thus, it is likely that our prior work has had some influence on our present treatment of the issues discussed below. Scope and limitations of this review
As noted later, our primary focus will be on processes related to values as desirable modes of behavior. Not wanting to introduce an "ecological" error (Robinson, 1950), we will not consider...
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