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Cultural Values Personal Ethics

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Essay title: Cultural Values Personal Ethics


Cultural Values and Personal Ethics Paper

August 8, 2005

Cultural Values and Personal Ethics Paper

All people have personal values and ethics, just as they have cultural values. Often times, those personal values and ethics may clash with those of their employer. As an example, as an individual, a person’s ethical guidelines might require honesty, integrity and respect. If that individual works for a company that does not necessarily operate under those same tenets, the employee may well face an ethical dilemma. This paper looks into how personal values, organizational values and ethical values come into play in the decision-making process.

Personal Values

One’s personal values are acquired early in life and they tend to remain fairly steady. Personal values are those that set the tone and the direction for one’s life and for the decision-making process. As an example, my own personal values are based upon trustworthiness, loyalty, respect and dignity. Those values have not changed over time. They are, however, more firmly held than they were when I was younger.

One of my personal values is that of trustworthiness. To honor that value, I tend to be very honest and forthright, to the point where I am apt to divulge information to a client that the company and/or my coworkers would not. Not divulging the information to the client, about a faulty product or a significant billing error, for example, presents an ethical dilemma to me.

Everyone has their own set of personal values and it is those personal values that establish the framework of our decision-making abilities and processes. Because people have different personal values, it is often those differences that serve as the catalyst for ethical dilemmas. What may be an ethical dilemma for me, based upon my personal values, may not present an issue at all for one of my coworkers, or conversely, what does not present an issue for me may pose a significant issue to a coworker.

Organizational Values

Organizational values are the principles under which the organization operates. As an example, General Electric cites their organizational values in very few words: Imagine, Build, Solve, and Lead (General Electric, 2005). It is those words that guide every activity within the corporation. Simply stated, if an activity does not support one of those values, the activity is eliminated. Another example of organizational values is that of Verizon Communications, whose values are based upon integrity, responsibility, accountability and trust (Verizon, 2005). As with GE, it is these few words that are meant to guide every activity within the corporation.

Imagine the ethical dilemma an employee of one of these companies might face knowing full well what the company expects but also knowing that a given product or process does not support the value statement. Employees may well be hesitant to report such an issue if one of their personal values entails career advancement.

Cultural Values

As noted by Ludwick and Silva, “Cultural values refer to enduring ideals or belief systems to which a person or a society is committed. The values of nursing in the States are, for example, embedded in the values of the U.S. American culture with its emphasis on self-reliance and individualism. Basic to the value placed on individualism are the beliefs that ‘individuals have the ability to pull themselves up by their bootstraps’ and that an individual’s rights are more important than a society’s” (Ludwick & Silva, 2000, para 3).

Ethical Dilemmas

An employee faces an ethical dilemma if their personal values are opposite their employer’s organizational values. An excellent example of this type of ethical dilemma was evident when Sherron Watkins, as the Enron Corporation’s vice president wrote a letter to the company’s chief executive office, Kenneth Lay, to advise him that the company’s accounting practices were improper (Castagnera, 2003). Watkins’ decision-making process in this case undoubtedly called upon her personal values because she was driven to expose what was ultimately uncovered as gross negligence and fraud. Clearly, Watkins’ personal values were built around honesty and integrity and Enron’s, at least those of Lay and his co-conspirators, and therefore, the public’s view of the corporation’s values, were based upon obtaining as much wealth, as quickly as possible, at any cost.


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