Rokeach’s Personal Values Survey is a tool created by Milton Rokeach to help individuals understand their values. By prioritizing a list of 18 terminal values (where you want to end up) and 18 instrumental values (how you want to get there) you can develop self awareness.

Summary by The World of Work Project


Rokeach’s Personal Values Survey

Milton Rokeach did some interesting work on personal values that is still relevant and popular today. Understanding personal values is a great first step in developing self awareness. Improving our self awareness brings big benefits in the world of work. These range from improving our own wellbeing to enabling us to be vulnerable in the workplace and demonstrate authentic leadership.

Terminal and Instrumental personal values

In his research, Milton Rokeach separated personal values into two types: terminal values and instrumental values.

Terminal Values

Terminal values are values that reflect an individual’s desired stated of existence. These are end state values, reflections of how we would like the world to be and where we would like to end up. They are goals that we would like to see achieved.

Instrumental Values

Here’s a nice instrument…

Instrumental values are values that reflect how an individual wants to live their life. They capture a sense of behaviors and ways of interacting with and treating others throughout your life.

Discovering your Rokeach values

Rokeach’s Personal Values Survey can be used as a helpful tool for discovering your personal values. To complete this activity, simply review the schedules of 18 Terminal and Instrumental values below and priorities them. Once you’ve prioritized them, select the top three to five from each list, and these are your core personal values.

If you manage or lead others, using tools like this can help you support them with their personal development and self-awareness.

Rokeach's Personal Values Survey has two lists of 18 values

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Reflecting on your values

Once you’ve been through this lists that make up Rokeach’s Personal Values Survey and identified your core values, it’s important to spend some time reflecting on the exercise and what you’ve learned. The following questions may help that reflection process, and they can also form the basis of a group discussion

Reflection is important for Rokeach's Personal Values Survey
It’s important to reflect.

  • When you think of the word values what comes to your mind? How do your identified values fit this category?
  • Do you think your values are innate or learned?
  • Do you think your values will change over time? What are some of the reasons that your values might change?
  • Do you think it’s important to identify your values? If so, why?
  • What are your top three instrumental and terminal values? Why do they stand out to you? Do you feel that you currently living in line with them?
  • How could awareness of your values help you in choosing direction in your career, or in life in general?

Learning More

Understanding our personal values is a great starting point for developing our self awareness. By deepening our understanding of who we are we can improve our emotional intelligence and our self management. We’ve recorded podcasts on both of these topics, as well as the one below on emotions and social pain in work.

The World of Work Project View

We like Rokeach’s Personal Values Survey. We believe that understanding your values is important, at least for some people, and that this tool is a useful way to get a high level view of what your values are. As with all such exercises, it’s not cut and dry and you, or others, might find it a bit frustrating to complete.

The things that you choose as your priorities and key values today may not be your key values tomorrow, but the larger groupings will probably be fairly accurate. It is important to step back and reflect on your values, as well as where they come from, if you’re looking to deepen your self awareness.

This exercise could be a useful starting point for coaches or leaders looking to help individuals develop their self awareness. It’s worth remembering, though, that the values in this tool are quite broad and life focused and that other, more career or work focused tools exist that may be more helpful in certain circumstances.

Our Podcast

Our Podcast is a great way to learn more about hundreds of fascinating topics from around the world of work.

The Nature of Human Values. By Milton Rokeach. (New York: The Free Press, 1973.

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