Organizational Culture

  Organizational culture can be viewed as an important concept in
organizational psychology and social psychology.   It is important to
define organizational culture.

Organizational Culture Definition:

    What is organizational culture?  There are many possible definitions
of organizational culture.  Below is one organizational culture definition:

Organizational culture reflects the values, beliefs, and norms that
characterize an organization as a whole.

This definition suggests that organizational culture reflects what is
common, typical, and general for the organization.   Values, beliefs, and
behaviors that are uncommon in the organization, or specific to a
particular subgroup within an organization, would not be considered to
be part of the culture of the organization.

Elements of Organizational Culture:

There are many possible elements of organizational culture.  The
above definition includes three of the elements of organizational culture.

Organizational Values.  Values reflect what we feel is important.  
Organizations may have core values that reflect what is important in the
organization.  These values may be guiding principles of behavior for all
members in the organization.  The core values may be stated on the
organization's website.  For example, an organization could state that
their core values are creativity, humor, integrity, dedication, mutual
respect, kindness, and contribution to society.

Organizational Beliefs.  Beliefs that are part of an organization's
culture may include beliefs about the best ways to achieve certain goals
such as increasing productivity and job motivation.  For example, an
organization may convey the belief that the expression of humor in the
workplace is an effective way to increase productivity and job

Organizational Norms.  Norms reflect the typical and accepted
behaviors in an organization.  They may reflect the values and beliefs
of the organization.  They may reflect how certain tasks are generally
expected to be acomplished, the attributes of the work environment,
the typical ways that people communicate in the organization, and the
typical leadership styles in the organization.  For example, the work
environment of a company may be described as relaxed, cheerful, and
pleasant.  Moreover, the organization may have a participative decision
making process in which many people in the organization are able to
express their views concerning important decisions.  Also, an
organization may have many meetings to discuss ideas.

The Importance of the Organizational Culture Concept

Organizational culture may be an important concept for a few
reasons.  First, understanding the culture of an organization may be
helpful for applicants.  They may have a better idea about whether they
would like to work for a company.  Second, understanding the culture
of an organization may help in training new employees.  Third,
understanding organizational culture may help leaders to identify
possible sources of problems in the organization.

Organizational Culture and Leadership

There may be at least three ways in which leadership is important
with respect to organizational culture.  First, a leader of an organization
may play an important role in identifying the elements of the
organization's culture.  The leader could make a list of the
organization's current values, beliefs, and norms.  Second, after
identifying the current elements of the organization's culture, the leader
can make evaluations of the elements of organizational culture that may
be negative.  The leader could make a list of the specific values, beliefs,
and norms that may contribute to major problems in the organization
(e.g., a lack of job motivation).  Third, after identifying the possible
negative elements, the leader could develop strategies to foster a
positive organizational culture change.  The leader could make a list of
the elements of a more ideal culture, develop specific ways to
communicate the changes, and develop techniques to motivate people
to adopt the new culture.        
Organizational Culture Change

    There may be many reasons why the culture of an organization
needs to be changed.  These reasons may include lack of  morale, lack
of job motivation, lack of job meaning, and changes in the business
(e.g., the development of a new product) that would require a change in
the way things are done in the organization.    
    For example, there may be too much micromanagment in a
company.  It may be better if employees had more autonomy.  This
may increase morale.  Sherman (1989) found that unit morale was
positively correlated with automony.  Because this finding is
correlational, we cannot make causal conclusions.
   This process of culture change should involve all members of the
organization.  This process of culture change could involve surveys in
which members describe specific elements of the organizational culture
that members view as negative.  

Culture vs. Organizational Culture

  Although the concept of organizational culture is similar to the
concept of culture(e.g., the elements of culture may be similar to the
elements of organizational culture), it is important to make a distinction
between the two concepts.  There may be a few ways in which these
concepts may be different.  First, organizational culture may be more
formal than culture. Some organizations may have a significant part of
their culture in written form.  For example, they may have the core
values stated on the website, and the values, beliefs, and norms of the
organization may be indicated in employee manuals.  In contrast, much
of the values, beliefs, and norms that are a reflection of a culture may
be unwritten.  Second, there may be less consistency between elements
of organizational culture than elements of culture.  Some of the
elements of organizational culture that are in written form may be
inconsistent with certain norms observed in the organization.  In
contrast, many of the norms of a culture may simply reflect the values
of the culture.


Sherman, J. D. (1989). Technical supervision and turnover among
 engineers and technicans.  
Group & Organization Studies, 14, 411-