Chatman & Cha (2003) suggest that strong (organizational) cultures are based on two characteristics, high levels of agreement among employees about what is valued and high levels of intensity about these values. If both are high, a strong culture exists; and if both are low, the culture is not strong at all. A weak culture; one that is not congruent with regard to its espoused values not only creates cynicism and other negative emotional states in employees it can lead to unethical behavior.
It has been argued that values are so central to an individuals’ personality and cognitive structure (Pitts & Woodside, 1991) that they influence every facet of human behavior (Rokeach, 1973); such as attitudes decisions, moral judgments, evaluations and social action (Suar & Khuntia, 2010.)
When values congruence is low there is incompatibility between personal values and organizational values. Consequently, cognitive dissonance sets in and this cognitive dissonance allows organizational members to rationalize unethical behavior or decreased work so as to reduce the dissonance (Suar & Khunita, 2010.)
This lack of congruence would also seem to affect the development of trust in an organization as trust is rooted in predictability, such that another person is more likely to be seen as trustworthy when their behavior is consistent and reliable (Edwards & Cable, 2009.) Thus the discrepancy between espoused and actual values and behaviors lead to a variety of negative circumstances highlighting the criticality of behavioral integrity in organizations.
When it is discovered that divergence is harming the organization the best solution is communication, lots of communication. My previous organization tackled the dilemma through clarification of key values in town hall meetings, social media, and face-to-face leader visits; the old “leadership by walking around approach.” While a slow process; it did begin to restore some credibility (Simons, 1999) across the organization.
Chatman, J. & Cha, S. (2003). Leading by Leveraging Culture. California Management Review, 45(4), 14.
Edwards, J. & Cable, D. (2009). The Value of Value Congruence. Journal of Applied Psychology, 94(3), 23.
Pitts, R. & Woodside, A. (1991). Examining the Structure of Personal Values and Consumer Decision Making. Journal of Business Research, 22(4), 2.
Rokeach, M. (1973). The Nature of Human Values. New York: Free Press.
Simons, T. (1999). Behavioral integrity as a critical ingredient for transformational leadership. Journal of Organizational Change Management, 12(2), 15.
Suar, D. & Khuntia, R. (2010). Influence of Personal Values and Value Congruence on Unethical Practices and Work Behavior. Journal of Business Ethics, 97, 17.