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Values are relatively stable beliefs about what is important and what ends should be sought. Values are generally consistent across various situations. Decision-making criteria and their relative weight in a decision-making process are a function of one's values. While attitudes are associated with people, products, organizations and other tangible things, values are desired end states. Values are essentially emotionally driven in that there is no empirically set standard as to what outcomes one should value. Without an affective system, an individual can determine through experience and research what particular paths are the most effective means of achieving an end state, but cannot determine what end state is more desirable.

Classification of Values

There are a number of classification schemes used to categorize values. Here are a few of them.

Terminal versus Instrumental Values. Terminal values are desired end states. They represent a position in life or society one desires to exist or achieve. When an individual can no long answer the question of why with because..., a terminal value has been reached. Instrumental values are desired means to achieve these ends. They represent preferred patterns of behavior.

Merit versus Worth. A similar distinction can be made between the two fundamental ways in which individuals access or attach value to things.  The two methods of evaluating values are the assessments of merit and worth. Merit is intrinsic and context-free value.  This is value in its own right, independent of possible applications, utility, or uses.   A scholar of Middle Eastern cultures and religions know as the preeminent expert in this field may be evaluated high in terms of merit despite the fact that her university has not program or course utilizing this expertise. Worth is extrinsic and context-determined value. This is value based on application or usefulness in solving a problem or accomplishment of a goal.  The worth of the same scholar would increase as the demand to courses in this field increases to the point that the university feels compelled to offer them.

Private versus Public Values. Private values are often called internalized values or enacted values. These are the values individual actually hold and use in making decision; especially those decisions of which others are not aware. I have heard these referred to as "what people do in the dark." Public values, or espoused values, are those values we wish others to believe we hold.

Personal versus Social Values. Personal values are unique to an individual and are a function of past experiences, developmental socialization and interaction with others. These are often referred to as internalized values. Social values are values espoused my members of a group (cultural values) or members of an organization (organizational values).

Values in Organizational Context

Here is a quick summary of the way in which values affect a number of important behavioral processes

Motivation. When thinking about motivation as a behavioral choice process, we most often turn to the Expectancy Theory of motivation. One of the three components of this model is the valance, or value, of the expected outcomes of a behavioral choice. An individual's value structure has very strong influence on the valance attached to various outcomes.

Decision Making. The decision making process is composed of three components; Criteria, alternatives, and cause and effect beliefs (theories). The value structure of individuals influences the weight or importance of various criteria used to make decisions.

Conflict. Conflict between individuals and groups is a function of either disagreement about theories or interests. The strength of or importance of a party's interests are a function of value structure.

Ethics. Values, both private and public, play a central role in determining what behaviors and choices are viewed as ethical or unethical by members of a culture.

Socialization. One of the roles of a socialization process in a group or organizations is to communicate its public values to new members. When the socialization process is most effective, the publicly stated values of the group or organization become internalized as private values of the individual.

Work-Life Balance. Work-life conflict and attempts to achieve balance between one's work and other activities is essentially a conflict between what an individual values. The priority that employees place on work, family, social and personal time is a function of their value structures.