Culture Within Organizations: Southwest Airlines

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A culture is a set of values that are adopted by people who co-habit any place. It consists of shared traits and lifestyles. Within an organization, culture refers to values and norms that are prevalent throughout the workplace and amongst the employees. This includes their mannerisms, attitudes, and work ethic. Culture within an organization exerts control over the behavior of people. Growth and success of a company depends largely on the type of culture which is prevalent within an organization. Many different types of culture exist in businesses today. Certain cultures encourage employees to work and grow together as a family—thereby creating unity. Others may place emphasis on higher ranking employees, which leaves those at the bottom of the hierarchy bitter or resentful, creating a workplace which may not be friendly or comfortable. Some companies may opt to stick to what they know, thereby stifling creativity and growth by eliminating experimentation. On the other hand, a company may be overly innovative and always looking for new ideas and taking new risks. Although this sounds good in theory, it may lead to an unstable work environment. Culture can either make or break an organization. Culture is not a tangible object. It is the result of management’s beliefs and values and employees’ implementation of those beliefs and values. It exists within all organizations and can be determined, for example, by looking at the dress code within the workplace. It can also be seen by observing employee interaction and behavior. One can also get an idea of an organization’s culture by taking note of its dealings with those outside of the company (i.e. customer service). Culture makes up the personality of an organization. It is crucial that a positive organizational culture is created, taught and adhered to. It can be used to improve the efficiency and work ethic of employees in an organization. It also has a powerful influence over the behavior of individuals and drives performance of the workforce. A strong personality adds character to an individual. Likewise, organizational culture gives a business its own special identity. It creates unity among employees and embeds in them the spirit of teamwork. An example of an organization which has a strong culture that has helped it thrive in the aviation industry is Southwest Airlines. Southwest Airlines (SWA) was founded by Rollin King, M. Lamar Muse and Herb Kelleher in 1966. They began servicing Dallas, Houston and San Antonio in 1971, after winning a legal battle fought in the U.S. Supreme Court. The airline started off by offering six daily roundtrip flights between Dallas and San Antonio, and 12 daily roundtrip flights between Dallas and Houston. They began with one simple notion: “If you get your passengers to their destinations when they want to get there, on time, at the lowest possible fares, and make darn sure they have a good time doing it, people will fly your airline” (www.southwest.com). This notion has led to a very unique culture at SWA—one that puts customer service at its center. This can be seen through their mission statement, as per their website: “dedication to the highest quality of Customer Service delivered with a sense of warmth, friendliness, individual pride, and Company Spirit”. Their exemplary form of customer service comes as a direct result of how employees at SWA are treated. “We are committed to provide our Employees a stable work environment with equal opportunity for learning and personal growth. Creativity and innovation are encouraged for improving the effectiveness of Southwest Airlines. Above all, Employees will be provided the same concern, respect, and caring attitude within the organization that they are expected to share externally with every Southwest Customer” (Freiberg and Freiberg). SWA management has created a culture where employees are treated as the company’s number one asset. There is...
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