Organizational culture can be defined as a system of shared beliefs and values that develops within an organization and guides the behavior of its members. It includes routine behaviors, norms, dominant values, and a feeling or climate conveyed. The purpose and function of this culture is to help foster internal integration, bring staff members from all levels of the organization much closer together, and enhance their performance.
However, there seems to be a widely held misconception that throughout an organization or within a specific division there is only one uniform culture that exists. This definition does not seem adequate because it fails to recognize that in many organizations there are quite often groups that are unique of the dominant culture. They may have values that are not consistent, or outwardly reject the culture as a whole, yet at the same time they are still able to maintain their position within the firm. In addition, it has been a personal experience that in many organizations strong organizational culture can in fact be negative, and in fact actually damage the performance of their employees. The perception is due to the fact that in many organizations the culture can act as a barrier to the employee to gain status within the organization.
This perception may have also had a lot to due with the nature of the position that was held at the company. This company seemed to fit the criteria and meet the description of a “Fortress Culture”. This may have been the result of the fact that it business was in the highly competitive field of financial services. The management was very preoccupied with figures such as sales, growth and earnings, and they treated the staff as a commodity that could easily be replaced. As a contract employee there was little in the way of job security and essential no possibility to be rewarded for good performance. The theory is inadequate because it does not recognize the fact that in many businesses today, firms no longer retain all of their staff on a full-time basis. It simply assumes that many of the individuals are full time staff members and at least have short-term job certainty. It fails to recognize the fact that by having many individuals that are working in organizations as part time or contract staff is not really given the opportunity, or they do not wish to become part of the organizational culture. Hence they elect not to internalize the company’s culture and in turn establish their own distinct sub-culture of individuals that share their own beliefs.
Many of the fail points within the organization could be traced directly back to its socialization process. The socialization process is the process by which an organization brings new employees into its culture. The older members of the society transmit to younger members the social skills and knowledge needed to function effectively in the organization. This process of the organization develops the skills and competencies needed to perform the new job. Although the company seemed to be successful in the first two steps the remainder of the process seemed to be inconsistent with this theory.
The company followed the traditional pattern of selecting potential candidates through the use of trained recruiters and a standardized procedure. These recruiters looked for a variety of specific traits in each candidate that they believed would make them suitable for the position at the firm. Those individuals that did not meet these strict criteria were not considered for the position. The organization also had many similarities with the next step in which the successful candidates were placed in many challenging environments, or impossible situations to test their commitment to the position. The theory then suggests that at this point in the process those individuals who are not willing to accept the culture would be removed and all others allowed to proceed. Yet this does not seem to be adequate for two reasons. To begin with the theory does not account for the fact that in reality many individuals to not actual accept the norms and values but they simply give off the appearance that they do in an attempt to retain their position. Quite often individuals never really become part of the dominant culture yet merely they try to give that impression so that they are not dismissed. Secondly, it falls short in the case of many individuals that have been hired as a contract employee. Not having the certainty and job security of a full time staff member makes individuals less open towards the organization’s norms and values. By not having the confidence in their future at the firm individuals are likely to be very reluctant to make the effort and try to become part of the team, and eventually the firm’s culture.
In addition the candidates did not receive the extensive training that was needed to help develop their skills and perform the routine tasks of this very demanding position. This may have been a result of the fact that the company was unsure whether they would retain the services of the new staff. This in turn made many of the new recruits feel inadequate when compared to their full-time counterparts. Hence they did not feel part of the team and part of the organization. It also had the unintentional effect of reinforcing the feeling among many individuals that the company was not committed to them and that they did not want to make the investment in their training since they were uncertain whether they would keeping them as members of the organization.
There was also the feeling among the staff members that if the company was not committed to them for a specific length of time what importance is there for them to make the effort and try to belong to the company’s culture. The socialization theory simply concluded that the staff and the firm would work together in promoting these shared beliefs and the only recourse of this system did not work was to dismiss those individuals that deviated from the norm. It did not recognize that there could be failings within the process that may have required change on the part of the organization.
What may have also been a contributing factor to the failure of the socialization process, and an element that is not discussed in the theory, is how the socialization process works when the field of business is of a very competitive nature. In this case is does not seem that many of the older staff members would be willing to accept the new staff and help them develop their skills. This is due to the fact that if the new members performed the skills of the position better and more efficiently than the older staff it would have the effect of undermining the older staff members job security. It seemed more common that the existing staff would erect barriers for the new staff. They would do this in an attempt to secure the permanence of their position.
In this case if the organization wanted to maintain competition between its staff members what may have been a more appropriate action would be for their socialization process to be much more rapid. This is because it would have had the likely effect of reducing much of the uncertainty, and surrounding the new position. This is especially important for those individuals that were on a contract basis since they believed ahead of time that they were only going to remain at the position for a very short time, and thus there was no reason for them to be very productive.
Much of the uncertainty surrounding the position was also a reflection of the managerial style of the department head. He believe that the organization could maintain its identity and culture by constantly removing employees who deviated from his narrow and rigid opinion of accepted behavior and job performance. He believed that uncertainty in the organizations would make individuals within the workplace be more productive and remain in line with the firm’s notion of accepted norms and behaviors. The manager achieved this by regularly relying on firings, fear, and quilt to build the organization. In fact, this attitude had the exact opposite outcome. In prolonging the socialization period and by constantly making the individual feel inadequate the individual never really felt part of the culture. As a result these individuals quite often did not make the effort of buying into the values and norms of the company. This resulted in job dissatisfaction, low work motivation, tension, high turnover, rejection of values (which in many cases resulted in other subcultures), and an overall lack of commitment to the firm.
The company would have been much more successful if the manager were to try and promote the culture in a more positive way. This could be achieved by trying to establish a sense of pride and enthusiasm in the firm rather that requiring each individual to strictly adhere to a narrow and rigid behavior. In doing so the firm would more likely have a much more devote staff since they feel more comfortable about their position in the firm and the future. The staff would be encouraged by the fact that they feel part of the team and hence they would be more proactive, productive and add value to the company.
The theory seems to adequately explain how the organization failed to achieve their goal through the example of sharedness and intensity. Sharedness refers to the degree to which the organizational members have the same core values. The intensity is the level of commitment that the members of the organization make to the core values. Two major factors, orientation and rewards affect the degree of sharedness. In order for people to share the same cultural values they must know what these values are. This can be directly linked to their orientation and training programs. However, it is also significantly affected by rewards. When organizations offer promotions, raises, recognition, to those who adhere to the core values, it helps other individuals within the organization understand what the values are.
The degree of intensity can also be connected to the reward structure. When individuals realize that they will be rewarded for doing things the “Corporate Way” their desire to do so increases dramatically. Therefor, as the theory suggests if individuals, like contract staff or part-timers, did not feel part of the reward structure, because they did not receive the perks of the position or equal pay. In addition, these members of the organization did not also receive any non-financial rewards either.