Magazine article Management Review

The Values of American Managers Then and Now

Magazine article Management Review

The Values of American Managers Then and Now

Article excerpt


American managers have a greater interest in values today than they had 10 years ago. They also report more interest in quality and a higher regard for customers, according to our survey of a cross section of American Management Association members in May of last year.

The 1991 study of the Values of American Managers" was undertaken exactly 10 years after our first study of AMA members. The nearly 1,100 respondents to our extensive questionnaire provide a fresh insight into the impact of the past turbulent years on the way American managers view themselves, their colleagues, their organizations, their responsibilities and the future.

Ten years ago, the "Reagan Revolution" was just getting under way. More than 60 percent of the AMA managers surveyed at that time believed that improving the nation's quality of life depended upon a "return to basic values emphasizing individual initiative and responsibility." Only 19 percent favored a value system emphasizing cooperation and the improvement of the total community." They most admired the qualities of honesty and competence in their bosses and colleagues. They gave a higher priority to their work responsibilities than to their family responsibilities. Female managers reported even stronger allegiances to their work than did their male counterparts.

Most managers felt that they shared the company's values and that they did not have to compromise their personal principles at work, even though they were not as confident about the ethics of their supervisors as they were their own moral principles. WHY THE INTEREST?

The intention of the AMA Values of American Managers survey, both in 1981 and today, is to take a broad look at managerial values because they are such a powerful force in organizational life. In 1981 we referred to managerial values as the silent power in personal and organizational life. Values remain at the core of our personality, influencing the choices we make, the people we trust, the appeals we respond to, and the way we invest our time and energy. As we said in our previous study, in turbulent times they can give a sense of direction amid conflicting views and demands."

In the intervening decade between these two surveys we have come to recognize, as Peter Drucker commented, that an organization's culture is a function of shared values. Or as Tom Peters and Robert Waterman reported in In Search of Excellence: "Every excellent company takes the process of value shaping seriously ... you either buy into the company's values or get out."

A host of researchers, in a variety of disciplines, have demonstrated empirically how values affect personal and organizational effectiveness. For instance, an accurate understanding of the job requirements, and the organization's values, has been shown to enhance people's adjustment to their jobs, as well as their subsequent level of satisfaction and organizational commitment. The significance of understanding managerial values is clear today, in contrast to 10 years ago-silent no more. WHAT'S NEW?

So, what has happened to the values of American managers? Are we more, or less, optimistic about the future? Do we believe that our organizations have become more, or less, ethical? Do we want the same qualities in our leaders for the'90s that we desired in the 80s? Are the views of shops and almost half said their firms did not have a written code of ethics.

In our earlier study, managers reported that the actions of their supervisors/managers were the most important factors that influenced ethical and unethical behavior. The same is true today. "Managers set the ethical tone for our organization" was a nearly unanimous refrain. On the other side, however, just about one-third of today's managers agreed that their bosses engaged in unethical behaviors, and that their bosses were less concerned about ethics than they were. Fifty percent of the managers agreed that morality in government was lower than in business, with only 20 percent believing it was the opposite way around. …

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