Academic journal article Management Dynamics

The Measurement of Values: A Psychometric Evaluation of the Schwartz Value Survey in the South African Context

Academic journal article Management Dynamics

The Measurement of Values: A Psychometric Evaluation of the Schwartz Value Survey in the South African Context

Article excerpt


The universality of values, as well as their structural organisation, serves as an important theoretical base to link the individual to the larger society (Fischer and Schwartz, 2011; Schwartz, 2006). Initially described by Allport (1961: 543) as the "dominating force in life", values can be described as socially shared conceptions of what is good, right, and desirable (Knafo, Roccas and Sagiv, 2011). Values determine what is important, guide behaviours, and reflect real differences between cultures, social classes, occupations, religions, and political orientations (Lee, Souter, Daly and Louriere, 2011). One branch ofthis values research has focused primarily on work (e.g. Elizur, 1984; Hofstede, 1991; 1980) - that is, how values can be used as a theoretical base to understand behaviours, goals, and attitudes in the workplace.

If one considers organisations as social institutions with particular shared goals, personal values can be regarded as the shared motivational force that guides actions in pursuit of these goals. As a consequence, cultural values play an important role in how social institutions, including organisations, function. Scholars agree that values develop and evolve in response to basic challenges that are collectively faced (Sagiv and Schwartz, 2007). Organisations, like larger societies, differ in their response to the challenges that they face. Their responses are largely motivated by their shared cultural values, which dictate the preferred ways of interpreting and resolving disagreements. Some organisational cultures are more effective and adaptive than others. Research over the past decade has indicated that shared values, expressed as the organisation's culture, can be a powerful mechanism for management to fend off external threats or to capitalise on opportunities. Collins and Porras (1994) found that the main reason that many companies outperform their competitors over many years can be attributed to a strong orientation towards values.

Despite the importance ofvalues in organisational research, the conceptualisation and measurement of values have been the source of much confusion and disagreement. This confusion has resulted in a lack of definitional cohesion and conceptual conformity across disciplines (Fischer, 2012). This lack of agreement has been perpetuated by the fact that the term 'values' is often used interchangeably with related constructs such as 'attitudes', 'traits', 'norms', and 'needs', leading many researchers to avoid the topic completely. It is thus important that a clear definition of values is provided as a way to avoid possible confusion and to distinguishing the construct from other related concepts.


In moving towards an integrated definition of 'values', Schwartz and Bilsky (1987: 551) emphasised five elements common to most definitions of values, noting that "values are (a) concepts or beliefs, (b) about desirable end states or behaviours, (c) that transcend specific situations, (d) that guide selection or evaluation of behaviour and events, and (e) are ordered by relative importance". Schwartz's (1992: 2) definition of values encompasses all five elements: he describes values as "desirable states, objects, goals, or behaviours, transcending specific situations and applied as normative standards to judge and to choose amongst alternative modes of behaviour". Furthermore, Schwartz (2006; 1992) argued that all basic values are grounded in the basic requirements of human existence: organismic needs, requisites of social interaction, and the needs of groups. For example, values focus on attaining personal or social outcomes, values promote growth and self-expansion or anxiety-avoidance and self-protection, values express openness to change or conservation of the status quo, and values promote self-interest or the transcendence of self-interest in the service of others (Schwartz, 2011).

Although values are often confused with a number of related constructs, they differ from other personal attributes or concepts in several distinct ways. …

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