What Are Work Values? Identify Yours and Learn What They Mean (2023)

Blog Culture

By Shonna Waters, PhD

May 21, 2021 - 18 min read

What Are Work Values? Identify Yours and Learn What They Mean (1)

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What are work values?

Are work values important?

Benefits of identifying your work values

How to identify your work values?

16 examples of work values

Choosing the right job for you according to your work values

You spend 40 hours (maybe more) at your job every week.

But have you ever stopped to think about your personal work values? Employee and employer work values, not only determine work culture but also your optimal career path.

Work takes up a lot of space in your life as an employee. This means that the culture you find at your place of work impacts your morale, productivity, and happiness.

Spending all day ingrained in a culture that doesn’t resemble you and your core values can drain your energy and enthusiasm for your job. Even if the perks of the job are amazing, cultural issues can make those perks lose their shine.

But it goes deeper than culture: whether or not you share the same core values as your employer matters.

So, before you ask for that promotion or accept your next job offer, you need to be clear on the types of work values that are most important to you.

What Are Work Values? Identify Yours and Learn What They Mean (2)

What are work values?

Work values are beliefs or principles relating to your career or place of work. They describe what you believe matters regarding your career.

For instance, some people believe that getting a sense of achievement through their work is a core priority in their career. For others, a healthy work-life balance trumps anything else.

Employees typically have their own set of core values, but so will organizations. For example, some companies value transparency, while others will see value in teamwork and communication.

Your workplace values say a lot about who you are and what matters to you. This is not just for your career, but in your overall personality, too.

Are work values important?

Work values matter whether you are an employee or an employer.

When your work aligns with your values, it can help you find meaning in what you do daily at your job. Your career can have a deeper meaning than just putting money in your bank account.

Upholding workplace values can also help an employee further their career.

BetterUp performed a study on meaning and purpose at work and found that on average, employees that place a higher value on meaningful work occupy more senior and skilled positions. They also stay longer at a single company.

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Raises and promotions are also more common for people who value their work. This makes sense. It is easier to stay motivated and perform at a higher level when you find meaning in what you do.

Additionally, employees whose value systems align strongly with company leadership report higher job satisfaction than employees who feel misaligned.

The opposite is also true. BetterUp’s study on meaning and purpose at work found that in toxic workplaces, the rate of meaningful work for employees falls by 24% when compared to workplaces with low toxicity.

So, yes: having work values and finding a career that allows you to uphold these values contributes positively to your overall career goals. But, what about employers?

“More than ever, people are on the hunt for meaning and that includes at work, where more and more of our time is spent. To attract and retain top talent, and achieve optimal productivity, companies must build greater meaning into the workplace,” says Alexi Robichaux, Co-Founder and CEO of BetterUp.

Because employees want to find meaning in their work, employers need to uphold work values that match the type of talent they want to attract.

In fact, according to BetterUp’s study, employers who build greater meaning in their companies see, on average, productivity gains of $9,078 per year.

Working in a place that aligns with employees’ work values can also help reduce turnover and keep employees around longer. In the US, BetterUp’s study found that it saves up to $5.49 million from turnover reduction.

But that’s not all. Work values determine the culture of your workplace, and a healthy culture helps you and your colleagues adapt to change.

For example, 70% of transformations in the workplace fail, and 70% of those failures are linked to cultural issues.

Benefits of identifying your work values

Here's what else you can expect from identifying your own work values.

Get satisfaction from your career

On average, employees say their work is half as meaningful as it could be. Achieving your work values can help you get satisfaction from your work since you'll know what you want from your career.

By knowing what you want, you’ll be able to plan a career path that aligns with your values. If you value leadership, for instance, your career path should reflect it by including leadership positions.

However, you need to identify what those values are to achieve them in the first place.

Find a company with a good fit for your values

Not all businesses uphold the same values. The definition of meaningful work could be something completely different from one company to another.

Knowing your values will help you find companies that have the same values as you do. In turn, this can help you apply for the right job opportunities and avoid the ones that don’t fit with your values.

When you find a job within a company that values the same things you do, you have a higher likelihood of being successful at this job, obtaining raises, and getting promoted.

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Become an asset for the right company

Because organizations need to try to attract and retain talented employees who fit with their culture and company values, the topic of work values often comes up in interviews.

When you share the same values as a potential employer, you become more of an asset. But you must know how to explain what those values are and why they matter to you if you want to make a good impression and become an asset.

Make better career choices

Your values can guide every decision you make throughout your career to make it easier to make those choices.

Not sure whether you should take that job opportunity in a new company? Consult your work values and see which path is more likely to fit with your values and help you find meaning.

Sign up to receive the latest insights, articles, and resources from BetterUp.

Thank you for your interest in BetterUp.

How to identify your work values?

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1. Make a list of potential work values

Before you choose what your work values should be, you should start by listing out several work values. By doing this, you’ll be less likely to get stuck with blank page syndrome.

Keep reading for a list of work value examples.

2. Give every work value a score from 1 to 10

Now, for all the values you listed, rate them from 1 to 10. One is the most important value that you want to uphold above anything else. A score of 10 means you're completely against this value (or don’t care at all).

More than one value can share the same score, but try not to give out too many scores of one, since it will be more difficult for you to prioritize later.

3. Rank each work value in order of importance

Now list out your work values in order of importance. Values ranked at one are at the top, and values ranked at 10 are at the bottom.

4. Use the work values with a 5 or above to guide your career

Look at all the work values you listed as a five or higher. Do you feel like they are in line with what’s important to you in your career?

If so, you’ve found your work values. Keep the values with a rating of six or seven in mind as well, but those shouldn’t make or break your opportunities.

16 examples of work values

Not sure where to start? Here are 16 examples to inspire your search.

1. Accountability

Accountability involves taking responsibility for one’s actions. When you're held accountable in the workplace, you take responsibility for the results of your work.

But the same principle applies to your peers. In a culture of accountability, everyone helps keep each other accountable. The company should also be held accountable for what falls under its responsibility.

2. Orientation to detail

A detail-oriented person is organized, thorough, and accurate with their work.

When you value details, you understand that it’s better to take your time to complete a task instead of rushing. This will prevent the need to redo a task later on.

3. Reliability

As a reliable peer, your team members and your higher-ups can rely on you to get work done well and on time.

You should expect the same from your peers and higher-ups. In a work culture where reliability matters, you don’t have to stay stuck only relying on yourself to get something done well.

4. Positivity

Positivity involves holding a positive attitude, especially in the face of challenges. A workplace with this value prioritizes positive thinking. Ultimately, finding a solution instead of letting negativity bring the team down.

5. Punctuality

Punctuality doesn’t just involve being on time and finishing work on time — it’s all about respecting other people’s time.

When you value punctuality, you understand that other people rely on you to complete tasks on schedule. You expect others to do the same.

6. Team spirit

Having team spirit involves working well within a team. But it also prioritizes healthy communication and shared responsibility. The good of the team — and their accomplishments — matter more than the accomplishments of a single person.

7. Honesty

An honest person tells the truth and remains transparent in the workplace. Yet, valuing honesty also means you expect transparency from your team members and higher-ups. This allows you to understand what is happening and why.

8. Autonomy

Autonomy is the freedom to perform tasks without micromanagement. It’s also being able to make your own decisions at your discretion.

Autonomy usually falls in line with accountability. If you have the autonomy to make decisions, you should also be held accountable for these decisions.

9. Respect

When respect is part of your values, you believe in respecting others. In turn, you expect others to respect you.

Higher-ups should respect you, and you them. This applies even when you or your employer makes a mistake.

10. Receiving recognition

Receiving recognition happens when your hard work and commitment are recognized by your employer. If acknowledgment for your hard work is important to you, this may be one of your work values.

11. Motivation for self-improvement and learning

This value is about having the drive to continue to grow as an individual and an employee, while also seeking out new learning opportunities.

Seek out workplaces that invest in self-improvement opportunities for their employees.

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12. Loyalty

Loyalty is when employees stick with an organization and choose to improve themselves within a company. That is, not going elsewhere to search for new opportunities.

93% of organizations agree that a sense of belonging drives organizational performance, so loyalty does make a difference in the workplace.

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13. Professionalism

When you value professionalism, you hold yourself to high standards. You want to be held accountable for your behavior and the work you do. You also thrive in a work environment that expects you and your peers to act professionally.

14. Achievement

When you put importance on completing work that matters to you, you see value in your achievement. This value brings important work to the forefront of your life. Work becomes more than work — it becomes a calling where you can achieve your highest potential.

15. Leisure

For some, the flexibility to enjoy a healthy work-life balance is what matters most in their career.

While this may seem at odds with other values, like achievement and loyalty, it doesn’t have to be.

When companies value work-life balance, you can learn to achieve important things at work while still enjoying your life.

16. Making a difference

This value involves participating in work that can make a positive impact in the world and help others.

Personal achievements still matter to you. But you work at companies that value making a positive impact over-achieving high performance.

Choosing the right job for you according to your work values

Now that you understand your core work values, you can now spot companies, job offers, and career paths that align with your vision.

To discover your own work values and develop your personal career path, consider one-on-one coaching with BetterUp. See how it works by getting a demo customized for you.

What Are Work Values? Identify Yours and Learn What They Mean (8)


Published May 21, 2021

Shonna Waters, PhD

Vice President of Alliance Solutions

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