General individual values of Indian government servants: what lies beneath?

AuthorPande, Sanjay


People are found to attach more importance to the values they can readily attain and lessen the importance of values whose pursuit is blocked (Schwartz & Bardi, 1997). In case of values that concern material wellbeing and security, a reverse movement is noticed, i.e their importance is more forcefully felt when they are blocked (Inglehart, 1997).

Life circumstances are one of the most potent tools in creating opportunities or constraints in pursuing or expressing some values as compared to others. Therefore, life circumstances are also found to be greatly instrumental in deciding which values are adopted by people. Work plays an important part in the creation of life circumstances of a person. A given job provides a certain degree of freedom of choice, freedom of decision, level of responsibilities, creativity, risk, variety of possible benefits, security etc. And in doing so, a job creates opportunities or constraints in pursuing or expressing of some values and rejection of others. It is therefore reasonable to expect that two different types of jobs would create different life circumstances, which, in turn would press, pull and motivate their respective employees towards different sets of values. This also means that two similar jobs must pull the employees towards similar set of values or that those in the same job will find themselves pulled towards similar set of values. Though, this argument cannot be automatically extended to mean that the employees in one particular job will have an exactly uniform set of values, it does indicate towards the possibility of a common need structure underlying these values.

In this paper our focus is on the government servants. The possibility of a common need structure underlying the values of government servants, however, emerges not only because of the above argument of life circumstances, as we just proposed, but from a completely different but, perhaps, equally, if not more, compelling and scientific argument. This argument is contained in the theory of "Public Sector Motivation". As we shall note from the detailed literature review later, there is ample evidence of a unique set of intentions to make social change and shape those policies which might affect the society, for which one joins public service (Perry et. al, 2010). Given this "unique set of intentions" amongst those who join the public service, it might be natural to suspect that there is a common need structure underlying the values of those who join public service.

Literature Review

The roots of the study of values have traditionally been found in the study of axiology. These roots can be traced back to the teachings of Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle in the form of virtue ethics (Hosmer, 2003; Jackson, 1996; O'Hear, 2000). In recent times, however, the concept of values has been extensively examined at a more earthly level. Rescher (1969:5) describes values as "... things of the mind that are to do with the vision people have of 'the good life' for themselves and their fellows ...". Values have been linked with moral ideology by Wright (1971: 201), which he said was concerned with "... beliefs about what is wrong and the values that define the positive goals in life". In his seminal work on values, Rokeach (1973) defined that values are "enduring belief that a specific mode of conduct or end state of existence is personally or socially preferable to an opposite or converse mode of conduct or end state of existence" and these transcend specific contexts. This apart, the values also define and re-define our sense of self and enhancing our self-esteem (Milton, 2004; Rokeach, 1973; Watson, 1994). In fact, Meglino and Ravlin ((1998: 356). cite from the work of Kluckhohn (1951) to argue that human always experience a need to validate or confirm their values "... any actions that are inconsistent with these values will result in feelings of guilt, shame, or self-depreciation ... Thus; individuals will exhibit value-related behavior in private in order to avoid negative internal feelings"

The above review of the literature deals with "Personal Values" in general. They do not differentiate between personal values as general values and work values. Therefore, before exploring the literature deeper, we identify the difference between these two types of values. From general values we refer to such values which are "generally" relevant in life circumstances and which are not restricted to or relevant in specific life domains only. The "work values" are a more appropriate example of the latter. Nord et al (1990) has defined work values as end states that guide individuals work related preferences that can be attained through the act of working. Therefore, values like 'avoidance' 'making a living' and 'gaining status' are examples of "work values". Attitude towards or orientation with regard to work is central to work values. On the other hand, values of achievement, power, benevolence, materialism and self-expression etc. which manifest themselves in general life circumstances of persons and which are not restricted to merely work circumstances are more appropriately referred as general values. In the following sections we undertake a review of some important conceptualizations of "general values".

There are many conceptions of values. One of them is offered by Rokeach (1973). Vinson et. al (1997) state "Rokeach constructed a model which posits that beliefs, attitudes, and values are all organized together into a functionally integrated, cognitive system. Within this system, beliefs represent the most basic element and may be considered simple propositions, conscious or unconscious, and may be inferred from what a person says or does". They further state "In this model, a value is viewed as a single belief which guides actions and judgments across specific situations and beyond immediate goals to more ultimate end-states of existence". Rokeach identified two broad categories of values: instrumental values and terminal values. The former of these are beliefs about the desirability of various modes of conduct and the later are beliefs about the desirability of various end-goals of existence. Many studies used Rokeach Value Survey (RVS) (Braithwaite & Law, 1985; Feather, 1991). This is an instrument designed by Rokeach to operationalize the value concept. It is an instrument for measuring personal and social values

In more recent development, Schwartz (1992) identifies 10 values, referring to the motivation that underlies them i.e power, achievement, hedonism, stimulation, self-direction, universalism, benevolence, tradition, conformity, and security. Some of these values are compatible (e.g., conformity and security) but some of them contradict one another (e.g., benevolence and power). This compatibility and contradiction amongst values is what is referred to as "Structure of values". The conception of value in the theory of Shwartz contains six main features: (1) Values are beliefs linked inextricably to affect. (2) Values refer to desirable goals that motivate action. (3) Values transcend specific actions and situations. (4) Values serve as standards or criteria. (5) Values are ordered by importance relative to one another. (6) The relative importance of multiple values guides action. So far as the relation between these values is concerned, Schwartz proposes organization of these values along two bipolar dimensions. One dimension contrasts 'openness to change' and 'conservation' values and the other dimension contrasts 'self enhancement' and 'self-transcendence' values. The first dimension reflects a conflict between emphasizing independence of thought, action, and feelings and readiness for change and emphasis on order, self-restriction, preservation of the past, and resistance to change. The second...

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