Organizational Culture

    Paula Fulghum
    A lot of topics regarding the organization relate back to its culture. More diversity may enhance the culture, satisfied workers will positively affect culture, or micromanagers may also affect a culture in positive and negative ways. But what exactly is organizational culture? Why does it matter? How does it come about? What can managers do to change it? These are all important questions to understand to enhance the environment in your organization.The organizational culture is the beliefs and the values that arise in an organization and affect the behavior of the members of that organization. For example, a positive cultural environment may have employees that all believe that their organization and co-workers are very supportive of each other, and they may value passionate dedication to the work of the company, understanding the value of the product produced or service offered. A negative environment may value making ends meet regardless of how you get there and may not believe in upholding common courtesy or respect for one another. Workers in those very dissimilar environments are going to have a vastly different experience at work, and will act in very different ways as workers. As many sociologists say, we are products of the culture in which we reside, so isn’t this true in the organizational world? Individuals work towards fitting into the flow of the organization and the norms of the company, so it is important to make sure that the flow is one that is desired.

    There can be many different types of organizational cultures. There isn’t any one correct type of culture. The culture of an organization should depend on the type of work, the individual employees, the necessity for control, and the vision of the company. For example, an innovative, upbeat, and collaborative environment would be great for a cutting-edge information technology company; however, allowing employees a lot of freedom, choice, and supporting a highly fun and interactive culture might not be the best approach for a heavy manufacturing company. Employees on an assembly line can’t exactly choose how they want to put on a part and may need a more rigid hierarchical structure for the company to be successful and productive. In some types of corporate office structures, however, what is the harm in letting employees have some control over what projects they are working on, taking down the cubicles and letting people interact in productive teams, or letting employees have input on organization decisions. Organizations can be successful in all of these varieties of forms, they just need to be sure that the culture they create is the one that the managers and the owner(s) want to fulfill their ideals for the company and keep employees happy and productive.

    So how does an organizational culture come about? A ton of factors can contribute. The culture will almost always start developing in the earliest days of a company. It begins with the founder and the idea that the founder has for the organization. The owner may be envisioning an authoritative chain of command with strict compliance to be very competitive in the economic market, or an owner may be looking towards a lively workplace with casual Fridays and employees that are more like family than co-workers. As the company grows, it is most likely going to reflect those founding ideals. Employers are going to promote actions that agree with their vision and are going to train employees to fit that mold. The culture is further strengthened as a company grows with more and more people starting to share those company-wide beliefs and values. Cultures as well can change over time where there is obviously going to be much more order and structure generated when a company moves from two college buddies starting a business to a corporation with 500 or more employees. Choices made by managers, policies of the company, and general interactions at all levels of the environment are going to act in shaping the culture. Once a culture is firmly established, it is harder to change. After all this is not the beliefs and values of just the CEO of the company, but those that become shared among all of the employees. A change in an organizational culture requires steps in helping all new and current employees identify with the beliefs and values of the changing organization. Managers can take steps like adding in fun dress-up days or birthday celebrations if they want to loosen up the culture a little. Or if managers see it necessary to become more hierarchical, it is important to show why the tightening up of the organization is necessary and employees should go along with the changes.

    Whatever the cultural ideal, it is important that it is reflective of all of the employees that make up the company, that it matches the ideals of the organization in the present and for the future, and it creates the best possible work environment for the situation. The culture of an organization isn’t a small deal that should be simply taken for granted, but the culture should be embraced. With such a huge potential impact, managers and supervisors should take advantage of shaping the organizational culture to achieve optimal success and well-being of all the employees and for the company at large.

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