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Values And Decision Making

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Stacy has been out of a job for 6 months, she is a divorced mother of three children, and times are tough. She has spent all her savings, and is now struggling to figure out where her next meal is coming from. She has no family to turn to, and is too embarrassed to go to her friends for help. While sitting on the bus stop bench on the way to the unemployment office, she notices a brown paper bag on the other end of the bench. She looks in and there are bundles of $100 bills; there must be $50,000 in there. That money would support her family for another year. What does she do?

We may never face a decision this difficult in our lifetime. We do, however, face decisions every day that draw on the same set of values that one would use to make the decision described above. German general Guenther Blumentritt once said:

Knowledge is important: efficiency even more so. But character and personality are the most important. Knowledge can easily fail and can, in fact, be the cause of failure. Not intelligence but character is the unfailing factor. Only character is reliable in tough situations, and . . . in combat (Roberts, 1994, 13).

What this means to me is that one's character, the combination of one's core set of values and beliefs, is what he or she must rely on when making decisions. One can research a problem, consult past practices, and confer with experts, but the most important factor that goes into making decisions, both personally and professionally, is their core set of values. The three main sets of values that influence decision-making are personal, organizational, and cultural values.

Your personal values are the ones that you have developed over the course of your life. Whether you value your commitment to hard work, dedication to your family, or your competitive nature, the values that you have shaped over your lifetime help make every important decision you make. When your boss asks for volunteers to work late to help finish a project, if you value hard work you probably will not hesitate to volunteer. If family is your top priority, you may not want to miss your nightly family dinner so you will refuse. What this decision accomplishes is shaping your life based on your values. By constantly working overtime and volunteering for projects, you are more apt to get that promotion and raise you are shooting for. The promotion probably means longer hours and more time away from the family, so by not volunteering to work late, you are subconsciously turning the promotion down so you can spend more time with your family.

Institutions have a core set of values they live by just as individuals do. Examine any corporation and you will probably find that the core set of beliefs that it follows is what propelled it to the current level of success. Some examples of values at businesses that helped shape them are

* The commitment to customer trust displayed by Sears by allowing any product to be returned with a money back guarantee from rural areas in the 19th Century (Posner).

* The belief in the values of ease of use and service to society exhibited by Apple Computer by creating the Macintosh to end people's fear of the computer (Posner).

* The value of systemization and standardization by Marriott, which enabled the seamless duplication of its hotel model across the country (Posner).

All these examples exhibit the impact that organizational values have on the strategies it takes, the decisions it makes, and the overall success of the organization. Your organization's values can also have an impact on your personal life as well. For example, company rules against fraternization can impact your social life; a company in Michigan, focusing on decreasing health care costs, has fired employees for smoking on their own time (Peters, 2005). Company values can have far-reaching affects.

Cultural values can seriously impact how a company does business internationally. Personal space, greetings, punctuality, gestures and their significance, titles, and negotiating tactics all must be studied so as not to offend the other parties



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