What Are Cultural Values?
The Business Dictionary defines cultural values as, “The commonly held standards of what is acceptable or unacceptable, important or unimportant, right or wrong, workable or unworkable, etc., in a community or society”. Here’s an example: A Hindu man would rather starve than slaughter and eat a cow, despite the fact that cows roam throughout his village. To the average beef-eating American, this seems strange. If you’re hungry, why not use some of the cows for a food source? After all, they’re just walking around in the street, blocking traffic. What’s stopping the Hindu man from taking advantage of this obvious food source? The answer – cultural values. The Hindus make up over 80% of India’s population and believe that cows are sacred and should not be slaughtered.
A group’s cultural values are often difficult for outsiders to understand. But for those inside the group, cultural values are the core principles that dictate the behavior and actions of an entire community. We’re seeing cultural values come into play more and more in today’s workplace. As various cultures are brought together in an office, some will place importance on a particular set of values, while others will have a completely different view. It can be challenging to navigate through it all and meld a diverse pool of employees into a cohesive, productive group.
Each of us is raised in a belief system that influences our individual preferences to a large degree. Often, we can’t even comprehend its influence. We’re just like other members of our culture and we’ve come to share a common idea of what’s appropriate and inappropriate. But understanding cultural values goes beyond the list of “dos and don’ts”. There are so many factors that make up a culture – manners, mind-set, laws, ideas, rituals, and language, just to name a few. Understanding the “why” behind culture is so important, particularly in today’s world. We need to understand how groups have been influenced over time by political, historical, and social issues. This is particularly evident in the workplace, which is becoming more and more diverse.
In order to attract, motivate, and retain the best talent, it’s important to be mindful of employees’ cultural differences, along with who they are as individuals. We are currently conducting cultural value assessments for organizations and we’re ready to help you delve into this important topic. Please call Leah M. Joppy and Associates at 301-670-0051 or email us at email@example.com to learn more.
Examples of American Cultural Values
Cultural values are really the collective programming of our minds from birth. These values shape the beliefs, mind-sets, and practices that we often adhere to at work, home, and social settings. We looked at an example of a Hindu cultural value in our previous article and how that value shapes the beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors of that group. But what are some values that are distinctly American and have helped shape the American workplace for generations? The U.S. is a culturally diverse society, but there is a dominant culture that has developed over many years. Here’s a sample of a few American cultural values:
- Personal control over environment and destiny: The future is not left to fate and lies in our hands.
- Equality and egalitarianism: People have equal opportunities and are important as individuals, not based on the family they are from.
- Competition and free enterprise: Competition brings out the best in people and free enterprise leads to progress and success.
- The importance of time: The achievement of goals depends on the productive use of time.
- Change and mobility: Change equals progress, improvement, and growth.
When discussing cultural values, it’s important to remember there are no rights and wrongs. Chances are, each of us has been raised with a different set of values from our colleagues. Education is the key to understanding these differences, particularly when diverse groups of people are working together. To learn more about how cultural values shape your organization and to discuss conducting a cultural value assessment for your business, please call Leah M. Joppy and Associates at 301-670-0051 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.