A Wildly Unofficial UO Assessment I Drew for You:

Do you prefer the images on the left or those on the right?

This is a measure (that’s not remotely valid) of a psychological trait called universal orientation (UO). If you are high in UO, you tend to prefer non-hierarchy and you are also attracted to heterogeneity.

The images on the left are high-UO. UO isn’t a good/bad thing, it’s just a personality trait.

I’m high in UO and I don’t find hierarchy to be particularly compelling.

That said, hierarchy can be extremely useful for decision-making. Military and medical settings are obvious examples of this. Someone has to make the call and be responsible for the outcome, and the structure of hierarchy facilitates this happening more quickly and effectively.

The best personal application of hierarchy I can think of is a values hierarchy.

I believe that dilemmas or disagreements are indicators of differing values hierarchies.

Ex: My friend’s niece was misbehaving in school. Mom thought that as a consequence, she shouldn’t be allowed to go to her friend’s birthday party. Dad wanted her to still go to the birthday party, arguing that if she didn’t, it would be the birthday girl, not their daughter, who would experience the negative consequences. Mom was from a more individualistic culture and dad from a more collectivist culture, and their values hierarchies reflected that.

Let’s take a dilemma that’s common for many high-integrity people:


If you want to negotiate compensation you feel great about, but are reluctant to do so, you may value the opportunity and the relationship more than maximizing your potential financial gain.

In order to support you in negotiating, I don’t try to change your values hierarchy and get you to prioritize money over all else. I honor that you don’t prioritize money over all else.

Instead, I try to bring in one of your values that wasn’t on the table. One that’s even higher in your values hierarchy.

Sample values that are often even higher than closing the opportunity ASAP or having the smoothest relationship possible with the employer/customer could be things like:

  • Your family’s financial future

  • Your goals for contribution

  • Pay equity

  • Setting a reputation as a high-performer

My clients make so much more money when we work together on their values hierarchy. Like “Tay.”

He was resistant (understandably) to negotiate more for money he didn’t really need from a job he was really excited about and didn’t want to let slip away. He has a family to support.

Other people he respects told him not to negotiate. Other executives and an executive recruiter.

Connecting with his values hierarchy (and then giving him the words to use with the CEO) allowed him to negotiate in a way that honored his integrity. He got tens of thousands of dollars more, just from speaking a couple sentences.

If there is an area of your life where you are stuck…

An area where you want to make a change, but you need a nudge to make it happen…

Perhaps focusing on your values hierarchy could help you move forward.

  1. Write out where you’re stuck

  2. Identify the value(s) that the “stuckness” shows you you’re prioritizing

  3. Search for values that are even higher in your hierarchy

If you’d like support, I’d like to help.

Thanks for reading. I’m in your corner.


Emma Garrett is an Executive Career Coach, helping high-integrity leaders position themselves for what’s next in work and life. Ready to start doing things differently? Consider scheduling a free call to share your situation and goals or checking out the resources at