organizational culture


Taslim Ahammad

Organizational culture is defined as the underlying beliefs, assumptions, values and ways of interacting that contribute to the unique social and psychological environment of an organization.

What is the culture at your office? Bigstock

Various written and unwritten rules govern the workplace

Every company has its own distinctive personality, just like most humans do.

The personality of an organization is referred to as its culture. Organizational culture is invisible, though a powerful force that influences the behaviour of members of that group.

Organizational culture includes an organization’s expectations, experiences, philosophy, and values that hold it together, and is expressed in its self-image, inner workings, interactions with the outside world, and future expectations.

It is based on shared attitudes, beliefs, customs, and written and unwritten rules that have been developed over time and are considered valid. It affects the organization’s productivity and performance, and provides guidelines on customer care and services, product quality and safety, attendance and punctuality, and concern for the environment.

Create and communicate

Leaders must appreciate their role in maintaining or evolving an organization’s culture. A deeply rooted and established culture illustrates how people should behave, which can help employees achieve their goals. This behavioural framework, in turn, ensures higher job satisfaction when an employee feels a leader is helping him or her complete a goal.

Leaders can create, and also be created or influenced by, many different workplace cultures. These differences can manifest themselves in a variety of ways, but not limited to, person culture and market culture.

How members of an organization conduct business, treat employees, customers, and the wider community are strong aspects of person culture and market culture.

Person culture is a culture in which horizontal structures are most applicable. Each individual is seen as more valuable than the organization itself. This can be difficult to sustain, as the organization may suffer due to competing people and priorities.

Adaptive cultures value change and are action-oriented, increasing the likelihood of survival through time. Adhocracy cultures are dynamic and entrepreneurial, with a focus on risk-taking, innovation, and doing things first.

How power and information flow through the organizational hierarchy and system are aspects of power cultures, role cultures, and hierarchy cultures. Power cultures have one leader who makes rapid decisions and controls the strategy. This type of culture requires a strong deference to the leader in charge.

Role cultures are where functional structures are created, where individuals know their jobs, report to their superiors, and value efficiency and accuracy above all else. Hierarchy cultures are similar to role cultures, in that they are highly structured. They focus on efficiency, stability, and doing things right.

In a task culture, teams are formed with expert members to solve particular problems. A matrix structure is common in this type of culture, due to task importance and the number of small teams in play. Clan cultures are a family-like, with a focus on mentoring, nurturing, and doing things together.

The way organizational cultures change

It is the duty of leaders to convince their employees of the benefits of change, and show through collective experience with new behaviours that the new culture is the best way to operate for success. So what can be done?

Formulate a clear strategic vision — this vision gives the intention and direction for the future culture change, guidelines for culture change. Display top management commitment — the top of the organization must favour the culture change in order to actually implement the change in the rest of the organization.

Model culture change at the highest level — the behaviour of management needs to symbolize the kinds of values and behaviours that should be realized in the rest of the company. Change agents are keys to the success of this cultural change process and important communicators of new values.

Modify the organization to support organizational change — identify what current systems, policies, procedures, and rules need to be changed so alignment with the new values and desired culture can be achieved.

Select and socialize newcomers and terminate deviants — encouraging employee motivation and loyalty to the company will create a healthy culture. Training should be provided to all employees to help them understand the new processes, expectations, and systems.

Develop ethical and legal sensitivity — this can identify obstacles to change and resistant employees, and acknowledge and reward employee improvement, encouraging continued change and involvement.

Cultural assessments and other activities such as cultural audits and 360-degree feedback may help uncover cultural inconsistencies. Then leaders and HR professionals can eliminate inconsistencies.

Authorities must be able to respond to nuances in communication styles, as well as deal with different expectations that employees have of their leaders across national cultures. Not meeting these expectations may doom the global organization’s chances for success in particular countries. These issues become even more complex in global business mergers.

Success in international mergers depends on the merged organization’s willingness to enable people with different cultural perspectives to engage in meaningful and valuable discussions about the new business.

Last but not least, culture dictates the freedom of participation in managerial decision-making. A strong culture has a strong influence on organizational members and creates committed employees by instilling clear cultural values and beliefs. A weak culture can breed apathy, resentment, and unproductive workers. Likewise, it highlights the idea that a stable destination may never be reached. The culture of the organization should always be about learning, training, and developing.


Taslim Ahammad is Assistant Professor at Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman Science and Technology University, Gopalganj, Bangladesh.

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