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GuidesEmployee experienceA guide to personal values in the workplace

A guide to personal values in the workplace

Last updated

21 September 2023


Dovetail Editorial Team

Reviewed by

Lara Leganger

Your personal values guide your actions and decisions. They serve as a moral compass, helping you distinguish between what is ethical and unethical, and assisting in meaningful life and career choices.

However, before you can employ the power of personal values to achieve fulfillment, you need to understand how values differ and select those that align with your aspirations for the future - as both a person and an employee.

What are personal values?

Personal values are central beliefs that help guide your actions. They influence not only your personality traits but also your behavior. Your behavior will help steer you through challenging times as well as times of success.

Your personal values can also help you with your relationships, decision-making, overall disposition, and leadership style.

Personal values are a significant part of your identity. They help identify the actions that make you feel fulfilled, shape you into the person you want to be, and give you a sense of purpose. These values can also help you set goals, drive your personality, promote your well-being, and allow you to feel satisfied in your relationships and career.

How do your values guide decision-making?

When you become aware of your personal values, you can use them to help you make decisions. When faced with many options, your personal values can help point you in the best direction.

Knowing these values can also help you make decisions about your career and your future. For example, they might help with the following questions:

  • What type of job should I pursue?

  • Should I accept a promotion?

  • Should I start my own company?

  • Should I start on a new career path?

Why some personal values are better than others

When it comes to personal values, there are some that may be a better fit for you than others.

Evidence-based values vs. emotion-based values

It’s common for people to make decisions inspired by their feelings and actions rather than information and knowledge. However, in many instances, these feelings are warped, self-centered, and focused solely on short-term benefits.

Unfortunately, you’re less likely to be satisfied when you make decisions based on feelings. This means it’s vital to use evidence that supports your conclusions.

Constructive vs. destructive values

Don’t value things that can hurt you and others. Although this might seem like a simple concept, there’s often a thin line between harm and growth that can make choosing values more challenging. Your intention is what matters most. It’s more important to know why you value something rather than what you value.

Controllable vs. uncontrollable values

Valuing things that are uncontrollable can leave you feeling frustrated and unhappy. Money is one such example of an uncontrollable value. While you may have some input into how much money you make, you don’t have total control over it. If everything you do is to make more money and you lose it all due to an unfortunate event, you may end up losing your perceived life purpose.

This is why you need values you can control. Otherwise, the values can end up controlling you.

Types of personal values

Below are some of the common core values:

  • Family: Family values, like fairness and honesty, help define what you and other loved ones in your family consider to be right and wrong. They can help you make decisions about everyday activities and significant life changes.

  • Management: This personal value refers to establishing and maintaining stability in your life. It’s often associated with competence and authority.

  • Relational awareness: This value refers to the individual responsibility for developing yourself and figuring out the quality of relationships with others. Relational awareness is associated with acceptance, choice, and balance.

  • Systems awareness: Systems awareness refers to how you interact within groups and society at large. This value is associated with things like beauty, collaboration, development, and community.

  • Expansion: This value is associated with future-orientated aspirations and goals. It includes things like human rights, inspiring others, and spirituality.

It’s also important to note that these personal values can change over time as people mature and their situations change. For instance, your values will have developed over the course of your life and with changing circumstances.

How do you live in harmony with your values?

Your values should serve as a compass, steering your decision-making and actions. However, identifying your values and aligning them with your behavior can be difficult.

Here are some practical tips for living in harmony with your values:

  • Make a list of your personal values, especially workplace values, and explain what they mean to you. The list can also use inspirational words that have some type of meaning. When you are finished, return to the list to reflect on your values and what they mean for your goals.

  • Read the list as often as possible and remind yourself of your personal values and how they should impact your goals.

  • Create tasks that involve your values. Then, take steps to move toward a more fulfilling life.

  • During your downtime, consider ways to add more meaning to your life and think of specific actions to make this happen.

  • Don’t sacrifice your time on busy tasks that don’t matter. Instead, focus on tasks that bring you one step closer to your goals.

  • Ask yourself every day if your actions and goals are in the pursuit of your highest values. If not, change what you are doing.

How to discover your values

To identify the personal values that mean the most to your life or workplace, consider the following steps:

Think of some of the most meaningful times in your life and  career

Consider why these moments were so meaningful to you and where you were when they happened. For instance, you might have helped a colleague while they were struggling with their job, and your advice helped them through. Or perhaps you came up with a solution that had a significant positive impact.

As you make a list of all these meaningful moments, you’ll be able to see a theme emerge that can help reveal your core values.

Pay attention to what inspires you

When you hear the news or read stories, are certain topics catching your attention? What type of people do you respect or admire? Consider why these types of stories and individuals speak to you. 

Figure out what upsets you

Another way to learn about your values is by figuring out what upsets or irritates you. For example, do specific tasks or coworkers make you angry or make your job harder?

By understanding these feelings, you can learn more about the values that matter to you most. If you value communication, not having it can make you frustrated and angry.

Picture the perfect environment

Consider what your perfect workplace looks like. What would you change if you could change anything about the company or its culture? Think about the benefits that are provided or those you wish were.

While you reflect on these things, you might stumble upon the values you want to see in your workplace and your life.

Consider your accomplishments

Think about the times in your life that filled you with pride. What were you doing in these moments? How did they impact your life? Think about why these accomplishments mean a lot to you.

You may identify some type of overlap in your most meaningful moments as you explore them. This overlap can provide more insight into the values that matter the most to you.

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