Differences Between Espoused Value and Enacted Value

Differences Between Espoused Value and Enacted Value

Topic 2, Question 1: What is the difference, if any, between an ‘espoused value’ and an ‘enacted value? What are the implications for individual behaviour in organizations?

by Allison O’Toole
January 18, 2007

To define what a value is can be a monumental task. It can be as simple as pulling a definition out of a dictionary, or as complex as polling strangers for what a value means to them. Likely, no two answers will be the same. In a corporate structure, values must be declared and defined, for the public to whom the company is accountable to will demand nothing less. What customer would willingly patronize a company without some knowledge of how the company carries out its affairs?

All organizations have both espoused and enacted values. The word ‘espouse’, from the dictionary, means to marry, or to adopt or support a cause. In the corporate world, an ‘espoused value’ means values we want others to believe we abide by to create a positive public image. The word ‘enact’, from the dictionary, means to establish by legal or authoritative act, to make into law, or to act out a role. In the corporate world an ‘enacted value’ is taken to mean values that actually guide our decisions and actions.

It would seem logical that in a perfect world, a corporation’s espoused values would match its enacted values, implying that there should be no difference between the two. The match of two sets of values is also known as ‘values congruence’ a situation where two or more entities have similar value systems, such as between an organization and their employees. Transparency within a corporate structure from top management down through the departments and portrayed accurately to the public, should create an environment of trust, respect, and accountability, thereby generating loyalty from both employees and customers. Abiding by and acting upon an accepted set of values should result in a happy and productive environment. Unfortunately, there are...

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