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Human Relations in the Organization: Chapter 8 Organizational Culture Study Guide/Notes

Updated on June 27, 2015

8.1 Organizational Culture

  • In what way is Nordstrom’s company culture so distinctive?

Nordstrom has a legendary service culture that strives to keep the customer happy in nearly any way possible. Its employees are unusually empowered to seek customer satisfaction in any way they see fit.

8.2 Understanding Organizational Culture

  • Which of the following BEST describes organizational culture?

Organizational culture is a system of shared assumptions, values, and beliefs that help employees determine appropriate or inappropriate behavior. These have a strong correlative influence on behavior, as well as performance in the organization as a whole.

  • The men in the cartoon displayed above are both wearing silly checkered hats. What level of their company’s organizational culture do the men’s hats BEST represent?

Artifacts like silly checkered hats are tangible representations of organizational culture.

  • Imagine that a company called Acme, Inc. has a policy mandating that any worker who arrives at the office past 9:00 a.m. more than three times a year is automatically fired. This policy suggests that Acme holds which of the following values in high importance?

This policy, which seeks to incentivize Acme employees to consistently show up to work on time, indicates that punctuality is highly valued at Acme, Inc.

8.3 Characteristics of Organizational Culture

  • You are the manager of a hotel and have attempted to foster a particular culture. You instruct your employees to be attentive to guests and their conversations, and you have given them the autonomy to make a guest’s stay more enjoyable. You hire an origami artist to decorate each room with uniquely folded towels and washcloths. The housekeeping staff places mints on the pillows every day and ensures that the rooms stay clean. What type of culture are you attempting to foster?

The detailed-oriented organization is characterized by precision and attention to detail. In this type of organization, every little thing matters and is given the utmost importance.

  • Companies that value competitiveness in employees and outstripping the business competition have what type of organizational culture?

Organizations with an aggressive culture value competitiveness and doing better than the competition, but they can also fall short in social responsibility.

  • You have just begun working for a large clothing manufacturing chain. The company allows you to keep one item of clothing per month, free of charge, so that you can recommend items to customers. You are paid higher than average, have healthcare benefits, and the company promotes from within. What type of culture does the company have?

This is a people-oriented culture. Fairness, supportiveness, and individual rights are the hallmarks of people-oriented organizations; people are seen as the organization’s most valuable asset and are treated that way.

  • You have started a new job, and it has become clear that the organization is set up in teams of five to ten that are given specific projects. Biannually, a motivational speaker is brought in to discuss the power of teamwork and new ideas in the world of collaboration. You already have a great relationship with your team leader. Which type of culture does the organization have?

The organization has a team-oriented culture because it is collaborative and values teamwork and cooperation among employees. Employees in team-oriented cultures have positive relationships with one another and especially with their managers.

  • Which of the following examples BEST describes an organization with an outcome-oriented culture?

Being shown your daily sales is an example of an outcome-oriented culture. Outcome-oriented cultures value achievement, action, and results. They typically out-perform other cultures, but sometimes the drive to succeed can lead to unethical behaviors, especially when short-term results are rewarded.

8.4 Service and Safety Cultures

  • Nordstrom gives each employee the autonomy and empowerment to serve each individual customer’s needs, even going so far as to reach out to other retailers if they do not offer a particular item. What type of organizational culture is this?

This is a service culture. Employees are trained to proactively meet any customer need.

  • James works at a livestock processing plant and has to work with dangerous machinery and sharp knives when he works with the meat. However, he has noticed that almost every week someone is injured; workers rarely wear protective gear, and managers rarely pay attention to the production floor activity. What sort of culture should be established at James’s place of employment?

The livestock processing plant would benefit strongly from a safety culture, which emphasizes the safety of all employees. The managers should start requiring safety gear such as hard hats, gloves, goggles, and proper footwear. There should also be regular safety inspections and a willingness to spot and report all safety violations.

8.5 Strength of Culture

  • Under normal conditions, why is it possible for a strong culture to perform better than a weak culture in an organization?

In a strong culture, employees know the job requirements and expectations and can determine the best possible behavior. Employees agree on the values of the company, and this impacts how the employees make decisions and behave.

  • Which of the following statements is TRUE about strong cultures?

Depending on the types of values shared, a strong culture can either be an asset or a liability for an organization.

8.6 Do Organizations Have a Single Culture?

  • New York City includes a large area called Chinatown, where many Chinese Americans live, work, and have businesses. Signs are in both Chinese and English, and you are just as likely to hear Chinese spoken on the street as English. Chinatown is an example of what type of culture?

Since Chinatown has emerged as a separate and unique culture from the larger culture of New York City, it is considered a subculture. Subcultures can occur within cities like this, but they also often emerge within organizations.

  • You have started a new job and have already noticed that the company has a very innovative organizational culture. There are brainstorming and wildstorming sessions, project and creativity rooms, “no e-mail Fridays,” and an emphasis on working on personal projects. However, the marketing department is very aggressive and talks about running the competition out of business through marketing campaigns. Also, the department’s manager believes in making critical decisions to improve the company’s image, to the detriment of other organizations. How would the marketing department be characterized?

A counterculture is made up of shared values and beliefs that run against the overall organizational culture and often centralize around a charismatic leader. In this case, the marketing department manager is likely a very aggressive individual who has inspired the culture in his or her department.

8.7 Creating and Maintaining Organizational Culture

  • With regard to the generation of a unique organizational culture, which of the following statements is TRUE?

Despite changes in the business environment, the culture is continued if aspects of organizational culture prove successful. In the case of Ben and Jerry’s, social consciousness helped set the company apart in the early stages and distinguished the brand, and this culture was maintained after the company was sold.

  • Within a highly regulated industry, what type of organizational structure is typically most successful?

Highly regulated industries such as banking, health care, or power generation typically maintain a large number of rules, a stable culture, and a bureaucratic organizational structure.

8.8 How Are Cultures Maintained?

  • Which of the following is TRUE regarding the attraction-selection-attrition (ASA) process?

By attracting, selecting, and retaining people who share its core values and naturally excluding those who don’t, an organization can maintain its homogeneity through the ASA process.

  • Your friend Margot is very stable, dependable, and reliable. She is always on time, prepared, and able to complete tasks and to-do lists well. She does not like a lot of variety in her daily tasks and is able to work well on her own. According to the attraction-selection-attrition process, which of the following organizations would be best for Margot?

A school district office would offer a stable environment that values rule-following, stability, and bureaucracy, and would therefore be the best fit for Margot.

8.9 New Employee Onboarding

  • Which of the following is the process by which new employees learn the organizational culture factors necessary for success?

Organizational socialization, or onboarding, is the process by which employees learn the values, norms, attitudes, knowledge, skills, power dynamics, and hierarchy necessary to succeed within the organization. Networking, the reward systems, and mentoring can all be part of the onboarding process.

  • You have just started a new job and have been talking to one of your friends who has been working with the company for years. Which of the following is a piece of advice that your friend might give you?

Ask your manager or other coworkers to rate your work early on. Seeking feedback is an important early step in successfully getting on board at a new company.

  • Which of the following statements is TRUE regarding mentoring?

Mentors and protégés are usually more satisfied with a relationship when they have a voice in the selection process.

  • Which of the following examples of rewards systems correctly describes the impact rewards systems can have on organizational culture?

It is likely that a team-oriented culture has been developed if the manager uses a standard that applies to everyone equally. What behaviors are rewarded, which ones are punished, and which are ignored will determine how a company’s culture evolves.

  • You are part of a company that specializes in the sale of onboarding programs, tactics, and literature. You are attempting to create a pamphlet that quickly and clearly summarizes some of the most important concepts for organizations to consider when creating an onboarding program. Which of the following would you include in your pamphlet?

Establishing goals early in the process is crucial to the success of an onboarding program. It is also important to have a formal written plan and a clear schedule with lots of activities that encourage interaction.

8.10 Visual Elements of Organizational Culture

  • You have started a new job, and the building is set up with a very hierarchical organization. The top team is on the top floor, and there are many levels between you and them. You need a special pass to go anywhere besides your floor, and promotions are only given to the most successful individuals. There is an air of secrecy about the entire building, and it gives off an aggressive feel. What visual element MOST clearly supports this feeling?

The physical layout and arrangement of the offices and workspaces communicate what type of culture an organization chooses, in this case an aggressive and secretive one.

  • Which of the following is a statement of purpose describing a company, what it does, and why it does it?

A mission statement is a statement of purpose, and an effective mission statement is well known by the employees and influences employee behavior.

  • Every year, the CEO of a company holds a “state of the union” meeting in the organization’s hometown of Santa Cruz, California. All the managers attend and all the employees watch via simulcasting technology. There is a speech, an awards presentation, and an informal dinner. What type of visual element of culture is this?

Rituals are repeated activities that have symbolic meaning. Rituals help to create a sense of camaraderie and belonging among employees and teach new employees corporate values.

  • Which of the following statements is TRUE regarding the visual elements of culture?

Major events from the company’s history or outstanding efforts from a single individual can be communicated via stories to instill cultural values in employees.

8.11 Creating Culture Change

  • You are one of the top managers at your company. There has been a recent downturn in the economy, and your competitor is threatening to drive your company out of business. What is the first step you would take to enact a change of your company’s culture in order to survive the downturn?

The first step is to get others on board with the change through a sense of urgency so that they can be proponents of change as well. There are six steps to culture change: creating a sense of urgency, changing key players, modeling appropriate behaviors, training, changing the reward system, and creating new stories and symbols.

  • Which of the following examples would be considered an environmental condition that leads to change?

An environmental change would occur if the company was purchased by another company. A culture is changed when there is a disconnect between company values and the demands of the environment. Potential vehicles for cultural change include the company failing, going bankrupt, or being acquired or merged with another company.

  • You are part of a company that is undergoing cultural change. Recently, the logo was changed, the company handbook was rewritten, walls were taken down in the bullpen to create a more open office environment, and the first company newsletter was printed to share positive news about employees and projects. What step of the cultural change model is your company undergoing?

The company is creating new stories and symbols. The changing logo, company handbook edits, office layout changes, and company newsletter all represent symbols and stories that are being changed to promote the cultural shift.

8.12 The Role of Ethics and National Culture

  • Which of the following is the MOST influential factor in creating an ethical organizational culture?

The example of leadership is the most influential factor in creating an ethical organizational culture. If leaders demonstrate a good example for the most difficult of ethical behaviors, they are more likely to encourage similar behavior in their subordinates.

  • Which of the following correctly identifies a cultural impact on behavior within an organization?

In Japan, the harmonious culture and trend toward conflict resolution produces a more team-oriented culture.

8.13 Clash of the Cultures: The Case of Newell Rubbermaid

  • Which of the following did Joseph Galli do when attempting to change Rubbermaid’s culture?

One of the many steps Galli took to transform Rubbermaid’s culture was to make 141 changes at the executive level. He also cut 3,000 jobs, introduced new incentive plans, and started a boot camp for leadership to align employees around the new culture and goals.

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