Roles of Culture in Organizations

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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...
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