What Is a Value System?

Marlene Garcia

A value system consists of ethical and moral principles that guide decisions made by individuals or organizations. This ideology defines what is right or wrong and guides ethical behavior based on those beliefs. A person’s values determine his or her character and actions, even in situations where negative consequences might exist for doing the right thing. Moral decisions produce internal rewards when value systems and actions coincide.

The Ten Commandments are a value system defining right or wrong behavior.
The Ten Commandments are a value system defining right or wrong behavior.

In society, these systems depict accepted standards that serve the greater good of the nation or community. Laws typically define moral behavior acceptable to the majority of citizens based on honesty, integrity, respect for others, and religious history of the region. Value systems might vary by culture and religion, with emphasis on certain behaviors to guide morality.

Teamwork is often part of a business's value system.
Teamwork is often part of a business's value system.

In America, the national value system relates to the core beliefs of freedom and liberty. A person living in India might incorporate the ideal of leaving a positive memory with every person encountered throughout life into his or her value system. He or she might strive to exhibit peace and caring in words and actions.

One example of a value system can be found in Christian behavioral standards outlined in the Ten Commandments. These rules express straightforward definitions of right or wrong behavior. They provide a clear blueprint for a value system based on honesty, truth, fidelity, and loyalty.

Businesses or organizations might suggest an ethical system for employees or members to follow. These collective values typically stem from the core values of the organization and might include teamwork, professionalism, and trust. Corporate value systems summarize the vision for the company and standards for behavior by employees. Problems might arise when an employee’s personal value system conflicts with the firm’s collective value system.

Trouble might also erupt when norms fail to mesh with stated values. Norms represent informal rules generally accepted by a society or organization. Behavior might be morally or ethically wrong, but constitutes a normal part of doing business.

When a person makes an ethical decision based on personal values, he or she typically begins by evaluating the consequences of different actions. He or she might weigh the importance of other points of view and how they relate to his or her value system. Even when information is unclear or incomplete, an ethical person typically reacts to a situation using concepts of right or wrong.

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