Societal Impact on Fixed Value Systems
The dynamic of values subjected through the mind set of individuals directly is a result of the consequences of the environment we are subjected to. Effective relationships with a myriad set of vendors, customers,
stakeholders and clients requires applying basic ethical principles when associating and forming linkages with people and organizations that can have an effect on your life and livelihood. I intend to explore how my own personal constitution is the bedrock upon which value judgments are decided.
Culture emanates from a set of moral principles that guide and shape our values. Cultural and personal values are shaped in our formative years, providing a guide to the nature of our identity and how we identify with others in a social context. Being responsible, and virtuous or true necessitates adherence to laws and norms that govern aspects of our interactive behavior. Therefore, cultural behavior is shaped by cultural, organizational and personal values. These values then, define the ways in which we interact on a professional scale, whether in the workplace or the community.
We are not only creatures of habit- our fundamental principles shape and guide the decisions that we make that are most functional and palatable to us. In part, the rationale for justifying learned, agreed and patterned states of behavior is based on not only obeying the law because we have to, but laws in and of themselves do not constitute ethical behavior. The law and principles that are established could be argued are standards for ethics, but only in a free society where laws are established by the consent of the governed. Societies that have no barriers between church and state apply no official sanction for what is considered wrong or right and justice can be metered out by the state, the community, or the family. Hence, individuals are responsible for their actions, but not their decisions. In this society we are subject to the whims of popular discourse, new regulations, outdated laws that no longer apply and the like. People routinely leave their children in hot cars in the summer, not realizing it is dangerous or against the law now. Others don’t follow township regulations and water their grass on uneven days, for example. The rude fan at the football game who spills a cup of beer on you while cheering or the lady who refuses to take off her hat in church don’t realize that it sometimes is not them, but you who face the consequences of shame and/or disillusionment because a) that is not my team or b) you don’t speak on a lady’s fashion at church. I do not presuppose that laws are made to be broken but some in our society have taken to a fundamentally individual focus on extremism.
Without regard to practicality and common sense, ever since I became culturally aware and more socially conscious, I have noticed this subtle shift in attitudes to a more sub strata type of co existence in my society. From Hollywood stereotyping during the exploitative filmmaking era of the 1970s that characterized young African American men and women as hustlers, pimps and hookers; to the gangsta rap era of drive bys, drug sales and casual sex, I have witnessesed and experienced firsthand the novelty of freedom of expression but the despair and distraughtness over the realities of unencumbered free association. For example Gordon from Sesame Street was one of the most stereotypical black Hollywood actors as a pimp and a hustler, yet progressed career wise into a paternal father-uncle figure to children once he received a measure of success. Just last week personally I was going to get beat up by a friend of my brother’s who kept impaling me with ideas like ‘everything in life ain’t all about school’, ‘you act like but you don’t know you(‘re) a ‘God’, a reference by members of the Nation of Gods and Earths that men are gods and women are earths. I had had these issues before, up until about 15 years old in school and until about 25 ‘on the street’. Now that most of my peers have matured, little of this subjugation based on education remains but is often taken for granted to not speak on educational attainment as an unspoken show of mutual respect to those who have learned how to survive in the street or as a form of endearment to elders who may have had to work hard and struggle to provide for us without the benefits an education brings.
The focus, instead is material and expressive. It focuses on the ‘bling’ or flashy jewelry, money, cars, fine homes and other aspects that satisfy our basic needs of food, clothing and shelter as espoused by Maslow, but are more of a status symbol of what one is able to get away with, by any means, (but not necessary). According to Nonis, Sarath, Swift, Cathy O. (2001), for example, situational factors may cause different value dimensions to have more or less of an influence in different contexts.
Sometimes this manifests itself in many unusual ways of socializing, such as going to work in Grosse Pointe watching customers grab their kids, purses, bags, lock their cars and all that while I have several degrees, 2 jobs, volunteer in the community and seek support and investment. But does it justify the manager who socializes with the line staff, playing video games and chasing women while on the clock, because the most efficient team is on the floor? Or how about the six year veteran of the company who takes a little here and there from donations to a non profit organization, because oh, they’re all millionaires (founders, sponsors or benefactors) and they won’t miss a few grand. Byrd (2005) suggests
students so often think of themselves as powerless that they neglect to look at their lives in terms of the decisions they have made. They do not see that one bad decision can transform them from a student with friends, a car and a room of their own to a lonely individual in a ten-by-twelve cell.
We must accept that humility and a willingness to listen should form the basis for rational decision making. Filtering out extraneous messages and delineating the best course of action is a consequence of correct behavior. For example, who wouldn’t jaywalk to catch a fleeing bus or to hail a passing taxi? Only by peaceful nonviolent protest for example, can we petiton city hall or picket unfair labor practices. However, jostling in line to get great tickets to the big game or sleeping outside the electronics store to get a free laptop may be fraught with insecurities and uncertainties about what standards we accept as ethical or right. Imagine the dilemma faced by a social worker who won’t tell a young girl’s parents that she is pregnant. Confidentiality agreements and codes of ethics regulate us and hinder the capacity for freedom of thought and action. What if that same worker pressured a physician to perform an abortion to save face, money and attention given to the matter all the way around? Some of the principles we learned I felt assumed we always base our relationships with people based on our core cultural values. That is, expectations will be set before you even speak with someone, or form an opinion about their behavior, or characteristics that may or may not have been acquired or acquiesced but on existential traits that cant be truths only hypotheses.
I recently got my first 76 in the mystery shop score, a tool our organization (Staples) uses to measure customer satisfaction. The customer complained I had bad karma. But my super had us hustling to clean up and make the store more attractive to ostensibly cover him when the corporate VP came by for a visit. I brought the issue up to my super because I wanted to show that I found out about it and understood that he was held responsible for such a gaffe that I had never had any issue with before. But our organizations core values place the focus on team to the public, but the responsibibility on the individual (i.e. what if this got in the news, what would your mother think). Responsibility carries with it an awesome measure of power that can influence the way people think. The only consequence, therefore is whether or not we can assess how fair in our dealings, tradings, selling and promotion we can be. Acting out of self determination does not relieve us of our words, ways and actions but external variables can make us creatures of habit, making little conscious effort to remain true to ourselves when living, working and playing within the context of an even larger network of presuppositions, expectations and norms. George Fotis (1996) explains that with balanced self discipline, this person listens, and therefore, communicates well. This individual is tactful and highly persuasive, adapts to new situations and is objective, yet sensitive to the feelings and needs of others.
I don’t want to become a bitter old man, waxing paradoxically about what could have been, what breaks I didn’t get, or who wasn’t in my corner. I cant bring back the past, no matter how much I can relive an idyllic lifestyle or wish to bring back 1976. But my community, my religion, my company, my country, my school all keep me grounded to the environment that shapes my life. When I decide to run for an office, I know that socially you have to go to the right church, marry the right woman, be raised in the right family and have the right politics, I have no problem with that, nor with stating any differences I have with any subgenre of those issues. But when I feel that I have measured what I have to give I want to follow Tait’s example,
…the true role of public servants is not just to serve “customers” but also to balance the interests and preserve the rights of citizens. For this perspective, renewal of the public service does not mean choosing between the “traditional” and “new” values. Rather, serving the public interest in some instances, means finding the appropriate balance between them.
References and Citations
Byrd, Ronald E. (2005). Decision-Making. Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute, curriculum unit 80.06.03. Retrieved October 11, 2005 from http://www.yale.edu./ynhti
Colero, Larry. http://www.ethics.ubc.ca/papers/invited/colero.html, visited October 14, 2005.
Fotis, George W. Management Review. New York: Dec 1996. Volume 85, Issue 12; pg. 46, 2 pages.
Nonis, Sarath, Swift, et al., (May/Jun 2001). Personal Value Profiles and Ethical Business Decisions. Journal of Education for Business, 08832323, 8 pages.
Tait, J. (1997). A strong foundation: Report of the Task Force on Publis Service Values and Ethics (the summary). Canadian Public Administration/ Administration publique du Canada, 40, 1-22.