Values differ greatly across generations, cultures, genders, personalities, and many other factors (Robbins and Judge, 2010). Yet, Robbins and Judge stated, a person’s “[v]alues represent basic convictions that “a specific mode of conduct or endstate of existence is personally or socially preferable to an opposite or converse mode of conduct or end-state of existence” (p. 145). In fact, values are the foundation of a person’s understanding of the attitudes’ and motivation’s of others insomuch that his or her perceptions are influenced by the values he or she has (Robbins and Judge, 2011).
Each person within an organization brings his or her own values to the organization, which contains individual interpretations of what is right and wrong implying a preference for certain behaviors and outcomes thereby influencing the attitudes and behaviors of an organization (Robbins and Judge, 2011). As noted by Yukl (2010), “[i]nfluence is the essence of leadership, and powerful leaders can have a substantial impact on the lives of followers and the fate of an organization” (p. 408). The personal values and ethics of the leaders of an organization often drive the values and ethical behavior of that organization (Yukl, 2010). Thus, it is paramount the values of organizational leaders are consistent and in line with the values of their organization (Yukl, 2010).
ALIGNMENT OF PERSONAL AND ORGANIZATIONAL VALUES
Our team researched and evaluated the organizational values and ethics of Sutter Health. Sutter Health is a not-for-profit network of physician organizations, hospitals and other health care providers (Sutter Health, 2008). Sutter Health focuses on enhancing the well-being of individual in the communities they serve through a not-for-profit commitment to compassion and excellence in health care services (Sutter Health, 2008).
The Ethics Awareness Inventory of our team member most closely aligned with the ethical profile of character (Williams Institute Ethics Awareness Inventory Assessment, 2011). Character-based individuals focus on qualities such as honesty, wisdom, and integrity, while their perspectives are based on personal virtue (Williams Institute Ethics Awareness Inventory Assessment, 2011). Similarly, Sutter Health’s six core values are centered on the values of honesty and integrity (Sutter Health, 2008). Sutter Health’s focus on honesty and integrity drives the organization’s mission to act openly and truthfully in everything they do (Sutter Health, 2008). This similarity between our team member and Sutter Health to focus on individual qualities results in the perspectives that good individual or organizations demonstrate good actions and good intent based on good individual or organizational character is more important than good outcomes.
Sutter Health’s six core values centered on honesty and integrity focus on a commitment to the community by working to understand and best serve the diverse needs of their communities while treating others they serve and one another with concern, kindness and respect (Sutter Health, 2008). Our team member’s Ethical Awareness Inventory aligned least with equity, which is committed to fairness to all involved, a wider sense of community, and respect for diversity (Williams Institute Ethics Awareness Inventory Assessment, 2011). While our team member tends to look beyond an individual’s actions to examine their character when determining whether the individual’s actions are ethical, Sutter Health focuses on a set of principles that govern the ethical behavior of the organization as a whole and the individuals within to ensure as few individuals as possible with be harmed by the organization’s actions.
DIFFERING PERSONAL AND ORGANIZATIONAL DECISIONS
Sutter Health’s and our team member’s values and ethical perspectives differ in certain areas because Sutter Health focuses on the greatest good for all involved while our team member focuses on the character of the individual making the decision. As a result, there are many scenarios in which a different ethical decision would be reached by our team member and by the organization.
A scenario that often arises in the healthcare context is one relating to community benefits. Community benefits are services that provide treatment and/or promote health and healing as a response to community needs, especially to the needs of special populations (Sutter Health, 2008). Many times individuals in the community that do not have a need take advantage of these services because the qualifying presentment of a need, in many instances, requires very little evidence that a need truly exists. As a result, some individuals that do not have a need for services provided through such a program often receive services.
TEAM MEMBER’S MOST LIKELY DECISION MAKING PROCESS
Based on the character-based profile of our team member, he would consider each individual situation and the character of that person before allowing services to be granted (Williams Institute Ethics Awareness Inventory Assessment, 2011). Our team member focuses on honesty and integrity above all else and would develop a set of rules to ensure organization’s reputation is protected and the right thing is done with those attempting to take advantage of the situation, while ensuring equal opportunity to the program is not compromised.
Moreover, because our team member looks for evidence that an individual is really a good person-deep down inside-and that goodness is evident in their character, he believes the process of living out one’s values is more important than the outcome of a decision (Williams Institute Ethics Awareness Inventory Assessment, 2011). As a result, our team member may support not granting benefits to those attempting to take advantage of the program as an opportunity to teach a lesson that honesty and integrity are more important than receiving benefits one might not deserve.
SUTTER HEALTH’S MOST LIKELY DECISION-MAKING PROCESS
As a not-for-profit healthcare organization, Sutter Health is focused on providing the same high-quality care and treatment at their facilities regardless of an individual’s ability to pay and the greater good (Sutter Health, 2008). According to the Ethics Awareness Inventory, these commitments tend to lead to the perspective that what counts most is common agreement about that which positively affects the future of society (Williams Institute Ethics Awareness Inventory Assessment, 2011). An organization that focuses on what most positively affects society as a whole is less concerned with ensuring each individual need is scrutinized because if a need did not exist that individual would not be seeking the services being offered.
Additionally, Sutter Health’s perspective is more aligned with the profile of equity, which tends to discount absolutes such as good people do good things (Williams Institute Ethics Awareness Inventory Assessment, 2011). Sutter Health may lean towards the idea that good people may at times feel overwhelmed and make bad decisions, such as attempting to claim a service that is desired but not needed, but those people should not be punished for a failure to understand the difference between a need and desire. In the end, it is more important for Sutter Health to help as many people as possible, deserving or otherwise, than to turn even one person away for being dishonest about whether the need existed.
While the values of an individual help shape the values of an organization, the mission, goals, and ethics of an organization may override those values. This is especially true when a character-based individual leads an organization that is more aligned with the equity Ethics Awareness profile. Our team learned that there may be scenarios in which individual values may need to be put aside for the betterment of society or in helping an organization achieve its goal of providing services to those in need.
Robbins, S. P. & Judge, T. A. (2011). Organizational behavior (14th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson/Prentice Hall.
Sutter Health. (2008). _Our Commitment to Community Benefit_. Retrieved from http://www.sutterhealth.org
Williams Institute Ethics Awareness Inventory Assessment. (2011). Ethics Awareness Inventory. Retrieved from Williams Institute Ethics Awareness Inventory Assessment, MGT521-Management course website.
Yukl, G. (2010). Leadership in organizations (7th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson/Prentice Hall.