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Cultural Values And Personal Ethics Paper

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Cultural Values and Personal Ethics Paper

MBA/500 Foundations of Problem-Based Learning

R. Garth Ferrell

April 23, 2006

University of Phoenix

Cultural Values and Personal Ethics Paper

Every day people make decisions that may have profound effect on their personal and/or professional lives as well as the lives of others. The decision people make have a foundation on their personal, cultural, and perhaps organizational values. When these values are in disagreement, an ethical dilemma occurs.

This article attempts to explain how personal, cultural, and organizational values play significant parts in decision-making. In addition, the foundation of ethical dilemmas can often be traced to conflicting values. This paper will also briefly discuss how ethical dilemmas can be mitigated. A practical approach for understanding how ethical dilemmas occur, how dilemmas can be prevented, and how to make ethical decisions can best be done by studying how these values, particularly personal values, affect behavior and influence the decision-making.

Personal and Cultural Values

People's values have an immense effect on how people live and the choices they make. According to Disbrow (n.d.), "personal values will always be the cornerstone of decisions." The development of personal values and beliefs begin in childhood when people interact with organizational units such as families, caregivers, educational and religious institutions, etc. (Hopen, 2002). Experiences and interaction with organizational units influence the values people deem important to them. Personal values become a personal blueprint for people on how to live their lives, their convictions, and the decisions they make. Connor (2003) concludes "values are global beliefs that transcendentally guide actions and judgments across specific objects and situations."

Similar to personal values, cultural values are deep-rooted since childhood. Srnka (2004) states that cultural values are deep-rooted in social heritage/traditions and encompass psychological, religious or spiritual, and moral experiences. In his research study of ten nations, Jackson (2001) finds that "significant differences are shown to exist among country cultures on issues which, although relatively minor, are part of the decision-making fabric within organizations across the globe." In a culturally diverse population, decision-making can be very complicated as the participants have different cultural upbringing and cultures. Jackson (2001) adds that the challenge includes the culture's position on uncertainty-avoidance that affects the decision-making process. Furthermore, different cultures have different interpretation and adherence to rules, and consideration of outcomes that will affect how individuals and organizations derive a decision. Srkna (2001) further adds that there are four different levels of culture namely supraculture (similar economic system, ethnicity, religion), macroculture (origin, nationality), mesoculture (professional group or industry), and microculture (organizations, families, or clan). These varying levels of culture further adds to the complexity of the decision-making process as each individual has a unique mix of cultural values and may compete or contradict with the values of others.

The influence of cultural values has a significant impact on how people and organizations operate and make their decisions. As Srkna (2001) has discussed, cultural values are not limited to religious, national or ethnic culture. Cultural values include the principles set forth or upheld by families, clans, and organizations.

Organizational Values

Levitre (2004) defines organizational values as "shared views of right and wrong, accepted ethics, and established forms of best practice." Levitre further adds that these values help lead people to behave in a manner that the organization collectively believes to be right. In addition, these organizational values are established to protect the company from possible litigations, maintain a good public image, serve as a guideline for acceptable and legal behavior, and improve overall morale and productivity. Establishing clear organizational values and culture assist individuals and organizations in the decision-making process by clearly having guidelines on what is acceptable behavior and objectives within the organization. Tangri (2003) writes that organizational values are often non-negotiable. Employees and management must have an understanding that their decisions and actions that are divergent from these values will not be tolerated and perhaps may result into unfavorable actions from the organization.

Organizational values are a significant part of my professional life. Being part of the human resources department, I work with management to establish organizational culture, policies, procedures, and values and impart these to the employees. There are several critical decisions my department and my organization have to make such as the recruitment, termination, or disciplinary actions. The decisions I have to make as a representative of my organization must be aligned with the company's values and employment laws. Organizational values are best instilled when management and key departments (human resources, legal compliance department, etc.) acts as models of these values.


One of the main challenges in consistently employing values in the decision-making process occurs when two or more people have conflicting definitions of what these values are. Tangri (2003) adds that although management and employees may agree on a particular value such as integrity, both parties may have different interpretations of what integrity entails and the time to put this value into practice. The degrees to which these values are upheld also pose as a challenge to management and employees. Although both parties may agree to these established values, employees may be faced by situations where their personal and cultural values may contradict with the degree as to which the organizational values are upheld. The main challenge here is setting priorities among the values and objectives of the organizations or the people involved. Making the best decision suitable for the situation and the people concerned requires critical



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