The ten universal human values – a business interpretation

We look from many angles when we want to better understand the psychology of a person. The same if we are analyzing a nation, as we do in these articles.  

After reviewing Hoefstede’s dimensions in my previous posts, let’s move forward and look at an interesting proposal from Shalom Schwartz. He has defined a set of ten universal human values (that can also be understood as basic needs), underlying and driving the way we behave.  

Thus, the universal values theory defines ten broad values, each of them with a specific motivation associated. 

These 10 universal values are (you can read more about them at  

  • Universalism,  
  • Self-direction,  
  • Stimulation,  
  • Hedonism,  
  • Achievement,  
  • Power,  
  • Security,  
  • Conformity,  
  • Tradition  
  • and Benevolence.  

We will split these universal values in 3 categories, first in which Romania scores in the top 25% of the 25 European reviewed countries, second – in the middle 50% of the ranking and third – in the bottom 25% 

Where we score in the top 25%: Power, Conformity & Achievement.  Let’s understand the motivations behind these values. 


Motivation: restraint of actions, inclinations, and impulses likely to upset or harm others and violate social expectations or norms. 


Motivation: social status and prestige, control or dominance over people and resources. 


Motivation: personal success through demonstrating competence according to social standards. 

How can these findings be relevant for the business environment?  

I guess that the fact that we appreciate more than other nations the above values can explain some behaviors. One example would be that we usually conform not to upset “the boss”. Therefore, we’d like to have the power and make other conform to our rules. In order to attain this status, we need to be recognized as such, hence our desire for achievement. 

When managing a team, we should aim to align these motivations to the objectives of the community and of the company we represent.  

What can be done in the situation described above?  

  • Build a “no blame” work environment. Don’t expect people to share “out of the box ideas”. You will most probably need to encourage them a lot and facilitate the communication process, give people the comfort they need to overcome their natural desire for conformity, by creating a “no blame” environment.  
  • Be successful by making the team / organization successful. It is good to have people thriving for achievement and power, but only as long as they do it in compliance with the values of the company and also by sharing the same interest.  
  • Grow the right competences but also the right attitudes. Promote only the people looking to achieve their own and their company’s targets, with informal power within the community and a proven record of genuinely respecting the organizational values.