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
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 typi
cal and accepted behaviors in an organization. They may reflect the va
lues and beliefs of the organization. They may reflect how certain tas
ks are generally expected to be accomplished, 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
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 autonomy. 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-