What’s the role of culture in modern corporations and how can it be managed effectively?
People in every workplace talk about organizational culture and that mysterious word that characterizes a work environment. One of the key questions and assessments, when employers interview a prospective employee, explores whether the candidate is a good cultural fit. Culture is difficult to define, but you generally know when you have found an employee who appears to fit your culture. He just feels right.
Culture is the environment that surrounds you at work all of the time. Culture is a powerful element that shapes your work enjoyment, your work relationships, and your work processes. But, culture is something that you cannot actually see, except through its physical manifestations in your work place.
There are so many different definitions of culture in the past by many scholars in the past. The variety of meaning is so diverse that it is impossible to offer any value as a research topic. Culture seeks to describe those facets of human experience that contribute the differences and similarities in how people perceive and engage with their world. We define organizational culture as a set of shared, often implicit assumptions, beliefs, values and sense-making procedures that influences and guides the behavior and thinking of organizational members, and continuously enacted and in turn reinforced –or changed- by the behavior of organizational members.
Our definitions is fully compatible three characteristics universally seen as central to the concept of culture: (a) it emerges during the adaptive interaction between people and their environment, and therefore it will change when these interactions change; (b) it is by necessity constituted only of shared, intersubjective elements; and (c) it is transmitted to members across time periods and changing member cohorts or generations.
In many ways, culture is like personality. In a person, the personality is made up of the values, beliefs, underlying assumptions, interests, experiences, upbringing, and habits that create a person’s behavior. Culture is made up of the values, beliefs, underlying assumptions, attitudes, and behaviors shared by a group of people. Culture is the behavior that results when a group arrives at a set of rules (generally unspoken and unwritten) for working together.
An organization’s culture is made up of all of the life experiences each employee brings to the organization. Culture is especially influenced by the organization’s founder, executives, and other managerial staff because of their role in decision making and strategic direction.
Edger Schein’s (1985) three levels of culture: artifacts, values and assumptions. For Schein, the essence of culture is located at the level of basic assumptions which reflect how members of culture experience reality, how they perceive the physical and social world, and how they think and feel. These assumptions are taken for granted, and rarely questioned. A culture’s assumptions provide the basis for and interact with values –Schein’s next level of culture. Values are the social norms, principles, standards and objectives that are valued by cultural members for their intrinsic worth. Values are accessible because they are revealed by behavior and priorities. Cultural values often indicate what is seen as morally right and wrong in a particular context.
Even though values remain subconscious, members are more aware of them than of their underlying cultural assumptions. In particular, members become aware of their values when they are challenged during times of change or when someone violates conventions. Values are linked to artifacts, Schein’s third cultural level, in that values-congruous behaviors express and manifest the cultural values and assumptions located at the other levels. This can happen through deliberate expressive actions, through unintended expressive actions, or through other actions that manifest cultural assumptions and values. Anything observable linked to behavior can be seen as artifacts including objects, verbal expressions and activities.
But how culture effect on organizations? The culture of a country or region in which the organizations function influences the way of motivating employees. In some countries, such as Japan, giving an individual reward to an employee could embarrass the recipient and so be de-motivating. In high-context collective cultures, there are often expected norms of behavior for particular situations. Offering rewards for individual behavior that runs counter to group norms is unlikely to have a positive influence on motivation. In some countries, the perception of material items is as gifts rather than as rewards for performance. In China, for example, organizations often distribute food to all employees as holiday gifts. People in higher position positions get more or better quality items, but employees make no connection between their performance and the gifts.
People in different cultures communicate among themselves differently. The major differences in how people from different cultures communicate with each other are language usage, verbal style, and nonverbal communication. Two people may speak the same language but speak it quite differently. Verbal communication styles are another way for cultures to vary in their communication patterns. In cultures employing a direct style, the speaker tries to convey his true feelings through the choice of words.
In the indirect style, the speaker selects words to hide his real feelings. The direct style is common in individualistic, low-context cultures, and the indirect style in collective, high-context cultures. The direct style allows the individualist to express his own ideas clearly. The collective orientation is to maintain group harmony and concern for the feelings of others. There is a number of effects of culture on organization and making a diverse multi-cultural organization must be a great challenge to the managers, but there are also advantages of managing organizational culture.
There are seven characteristics of culture which can help managers to manage the culture more effectively. (www.about.com )
• Culture = Behavior. Culture is a word used to describe the behaviors that represent the general operating norms in your environment. Culture is not usually defined as good or bad, although aspects of your culture likely support your progress and success and other aspects impede your progress. A norm of accountability will help make your organization successful. A norm of spectacular customer service will sell your products and engage your employees. Tolerating poor performance or exhibiting a lack of discipline to maintain established processes and systems will interrupt your success. • Culture is learned. People learn to perform certain behaviors through either the rewards or negative consequences that follow their behavior. When a behavior is rewarded, it is repeated and the association eventually becomes part of the culture. A simple praise from an executive for work performed in a particular manner molds the culture. • Culture is learned Through Interaction.
Employees learn culture by interacting with other employees. Most behaviors and rewards in organizations involve other employees. An applicant experiences a sense of your culture, and his or her fit within your culture, during the interview process. An initial opinion of your culture can be formed as early as the first phone call from the Human Resources department. • Sub-cultures Form through Rewards. Employees have many different wants and needs. Sometimes employees value rewards that are not associated with the behaviors desired by managers for the overall company. This is often how subcultures are formed, as people get social rewards from coworkers or have their most important needs met in their departments or project teams.
• People Shape the Culture. Personalities and experiences of employees create the culture of an organization. For example, if most of the people in an organization are very outgoing, the culture is likely to be open and sociable. If many artifacts showing the company’s history and values are in evidence throughout the company, people value their history and culture. If negativity about supervision and the company is widespread and complained about by employees, a culture of negativity, that is difficult to overcome, will take hold.
• Culture is negotiated. One person cannot create a culture alone. Employees must try to change the direction, the work environment, the way of work is performed, or the manner in which decisions are made within the general norms of the workplace. Culture change is a process of give and take by all members of an organization. Formalizing strategic direction, systems development, and establishing measurements must be owned by the group responsible for them. Otherwise, employees will not own them. • Culture is Difficult to Change. Culture change requires people to change their behaviors. It is often difficult for people to unlearn their old way of doing things, and to start performing the new behaviors consistently. Persistence, discipline, employee involvement, kindness and understanding, organization development work, and training can assist you to change a culture.
Your work culture is often interpreted differently by diverse employees. Other events in people’s lives affect how they act and interact at work too. Although an organization has a common culture, each person may see that culture from a different perspective. Additionally, your employees’ individual work experiences, departments, and teams may view the culture differently.
Your culture may be strong or weak. When your work culture is strong, most people in the group agree on the culture. When your work culture is weak, people do not agree on the culture. Sometimes a weak organizational culture can be the result of many subcultures, or the shared values, assumptions, and behaviors of a subset of the organization. For example, the culture of your company as a whole might be weak and very difficult to characterize because there are so many subcultures. Each department or work cell may have its own culture. Within departments, the staff and managers may each have their own culture.
Ideally, organizational culture supports a positive, productive environment. Happy employees are not necessarily productive employees. Productive employees are not necessarily happy employees. It is important to find aspects of the culture that will support each of these qualities for your employees.
Managers must know well how to manage the organization’s culture and have to explore many aspects of organizational culture and cultural change to make organization more effective and productive. The concept of culture will become useful for the managers to make successful and productive organization by managing culture effectively. Managing culture is very much concerned with leadership of a manager.
Culture is a difficult to define concept and is capable of being misinterpreted by managers who must attempt to make use of it in their work activities. A range of definitions were explored, as were number of facets of both organizational and national culture relevant to the human experience of work. New employees must be effectively integrated into the organization if they are to become productive members.
It is not possible to manage every person all the time that they are at work. Internalization of responsibility and knowledge of requirements must be delegated if effective management is to be achieved. Culture is able to offer a meaningful way of accounting for many related phenomena. However, the notion of culture, particularly a strong culture, however attractive, provides a conflict-free way for managers to ensure harmony and the achievement of objectives, is simplistic and does not reflect experience.
Culture is a problematic concept because it is difficult to define in precise terms. It is an easy term to recognize in that it is relatively obvious how organizations differ. When visiting an organization, a ‘feeling’ becomes apparent which provides a general indication of the culture. For example, one organization might feel busy with a buzz of activity and a feeling of purpose; while another might feel relaxed with a feeling of calmness in the approach to work. It is important for managers to study other cultures also because their competitors, suppliers, shareholders, or employees may come from other cultures. In developed countries there is also an increasing number of immigrants and workers bringing their own cultures into their new homes. Managers have to be able to integrate them into the new work environment. Hence, it is necessary for managers to know their culture as well as to understand their way of life.
i. “Organizational behavior & management, by John Martin fellenz.” Publisher “South- Western” ii. “Organizational behavior-an experiential approach, by Joyce S, David A, Irwin M, and Marlene E.” Publisher “Pearson” iii. www.about.com
Courtney from Study Moose