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An Analysis Of The Importance of Organizational Culture to Motivation and a Company or Business

Updated on September 26, 2013


Henry Mintzberg describes organizational culture as the “soul of the organization-the beliefs and values and how they are manifested. I think of the structure as the skeleton, and as the flesh and blood. And culture is the soul that holds the thing together and gives it life force.” An organization’s culture provides its members with a unique set of values or beliefs. An organizational culture consists of certain features, characteristics, and possible subcultures. In addition, there are four basic types of organizational cultures. Organizational culture also effects members’ motivation and job satisfaction, as well as how conflicts are handled within the organization. Finally, in order for an organization’s culture to be beneficial it must be understood and maintained through appropriate management.


Features of an organizational culture include ceremonies and rituals, stories and myths, heroes, language, and material symbols. Ceremonies and rituals are recurring events that teach organization members about the culture, such as promotions or sales meetings. Stories and myths are narratives about an organization and/or its members. These narratives may include descriptions of the birth of the organization or the achievement of record high sales. Heroes are typically within the company such as leaders or founders of the organization. They typically embody the values of the organization’s culture. Language within the organization embodies the specific jargon or acronyms which the members use. Material symbols may include work attire, or the organization’s logo, and they reflect the culture (Aiman-Smith, 2004).


An organizational culture is comprised of several characteristics which, depending on the organization, may be rated at varying degrees. One characteristic is innovation and risk-taking. Different organizations may or may not place as much value on innovation (Robbins and Langton, 2003). For example, Google prides itself on its innovative culture. Google’s former senior director, Douglas Merrill, once explained that “Innovation doesn’t happen on the way by, it must be designed” into everything that Google does (Farber, 2005). Another characteristic is detail-orientation. Some organizations are more concerned with attention to detail, precision, and analysis than other organizations (Robbins and Langton, 2003). According to Chaneski, Fredon Corporation has been able to build strong, long-term relationships with its customers due to its dedication to detail (2001).


Other characteristics of organizational culture are outcome orientation, people orientation, and team orientation. Outcome orientation involves managers concentrating on results or outcomes rather than on methods used to achieve results. People orientation entails whether or not the managers deem the effects of decision-making outcomes on individuals in the organization to be relevant (Robbins and Langton, 2003). Organizations which have a low or non-existent people orientation typically encounter more cynicism and distrust of management within the system while organizations with high people orientation are more likely to maintain loyal employees (Grinder, 2003). Team orientation may be described as an organization placing more emphasis on teamwork to accomplish work objectives rather than an emphasis on individual work (Robbins and Langton, 2003).


The final characteristics of organizational culture are aggressiveness and stability. An organizational culture that maintains a higher degree of aggressiveness relies on members’ assertiveness and competition, whereas, an organization with a low degree of aggressiveness has a culture which is more relaxed and laidback. Stability encompasses to what degree an organization places significance on activities which either uphold the status quo or initiate growth (Robbins and Langton, 2003).


Companies can have cultures that are very different from one another. There have been many ways that these cultures have been grouped and identified. One of the most common ways to break down these different organizational cultures is by using the four culture types: Hierarchy, Clan, Adhocracy, and Market.


The Hierarchy culture, or Control culture, is defined by stability and control and has integration and internal focus (Tharp, 2009, p. 3). In this type of culture control, standardization, and well-defined structure for authority and decision making are valued (Tharp, 2009, p. 3). The structure makes a formal place to work and smooth running. All the activities are governed by a set of rules and there is very little discretion provided to the staff (Academics at American Jewish University, 2009). Leaders that have been found to be effective in this type of culture have great organizational and coordination skills and are able to monitor people and processes effectively (Tharp, 2009, p. 3). Another culture that is close to that of the Hierarchy is the Clan culture.


The Clan culture, also known as Collaborate culture, encompasses cohesion, morale, and development of human resources (Academics at American Jewish University, 2009). In this culture there are shared values and goals as well as individuality (Academics at American Jewish University, 2009). There is a strong internal focus like that of the Hierarchy culture as well as having values of high flexibility (Tharp, 2009, p. 3). Discretion is also sympathized in contrast from that of the Hierarchy culture (Tharp, 2009, p. 3). This makes a company a friendlier place to work where everyone is open and there is a sense of loyalty. The Adhocracy culture shares some similarities with that of the Clan culture.


The Adhocracy culture, also known as the Create culture, emphasizes flexibility and discretion like the Clan culture (Tharp, 2009, p. 4). However, the focus is external and there is a concern for differentiation (Tharp, 2009, p. 4). They also value adaptability, creativity, entrepreneurship, innovation and prosper in what may be seen as a chaos; this type of culture is what companies like Google have (Tharp, 2009, p. 4). Companies that succeed using this model need to change direction without warning and rely on individual risk taking (Academics at American Jewish University, 2009). In order to effectively manage this type of culture one cannot become stressed in the uncertainty that may arise, instead they need to turn the stress into creativity; also being successful every time should not be the main concern, the main concern should be innovation (Academics at American Jewish University, 2009). Growth and acquiring new resources are the long term emphasis (Tharp, 2009, p. 5).


The Market culture, also known as Compete culture, focuses on goal achievements, market shares, and beating competitors (Academics at American Jewish University, 2009). This culture does not focus on the needs of internal stakeholders; rather it focuses on the needs of constituencies meaning that it has external orientation (Academics at American Jewish University, 2009). Stability and control are valued as well as differentiation over integration (Tharp, 2009, p. 3). Companies that utilize this culture focus on relationships with customers, suppliers, contractors, etc (Tharp, 2009, p. 3). Being competitive and productive through emphasis on positioning and partnership are what Market organizations are concerned with (Tharp, 2009, p. 3). Some of the objectives of these companies are financial results, profitability, and ability to create market niches (Academics at American Jewish University, 2009).


All of the above culture types are differentiated by different beliefs, attitudes, values and behaviors. Different cultures work better for different companies. The different culture types have differing attributes, concerns and methods.


Job satisfaction and motivation play an important role in any type of organization’s culture. A strong organizational culture usually translates into having high employee job satisfaction and motivation to be working for the organization. Having the strong organizational has been shown to increase job satisfaction and motivation greatly. In turn, having the high job satisfaction also leads to having a reduction in turnover rate. This is because employees are satisfied with the job and motivated to work. If this was not the case, employees would be discouraged and looking elsewhere to be employed by an organization with a strong organizational culture.


A strong organizational culture is especially important in nonprofit organizations. This is because in nonprofit organizations, employees need to be reminded what they are exactly working for, what they are committed to, and how they are effective. By reminding the employees that what they are doing is important and necessary and that they share the same goals and values of the organization is extremely important in a nonprofit organization. In nonprofit organizations, the organization’s ability to maintain a steady work force is relied upon its ability to show its employees that what they do is more important than high paying salaries. This is the main reason that most nonprofit organizations have strong cultures, usually stronger cultures than most business. Turnover in the world today, is a serious problem. Employees in the upcoming generation are going to find themselves not just working for the first company they get hired by for the rest of their lives. Instead, the upcoming generation will likely work for four or five different organizations within their lifetime. To solve the issue of turnover, employers must recognize that high job satisfaction is extremely important. People are most likely to join and stick with the organization if they feel that their own personal values are being concentrated on. A foundation with a strong culture will keep its employees because the employees feel that their work is important and that they are working alongside like minded people toward a common goal.


Just as job satisfaction is extremely important to any organizational culture, motivation of the employees is just as important. One of the most widely disputed arguments is, “Does money motivate?”


In recent surveys, it is determined that nonprofit employees come to work for exactly the right reasons. They come to work because they are motivated primarily by the chance to accomplish something worthwhile. Surveys show that employees are more motivated by the feelings they experience at work than by salary. Nonprofit employees know that they have chosen their career paths based on a desire to improve their communities, or society as a whole, not to make money. It is shown that nonprofit employees understand that they can make more money elsewhere.


Most employers believe that when employee’s morale is low, that it is because they are receiving low salaries. A leader who fails to remind his or her employees that the employee is helping the organization meet its mission and improve the lives of less fortunate communities will find that his or her organization has high turnover and low job satisfaction.


Nonprofit organizations are probably the best example of how an organization should motivate their employees. When employees are motivated through values that they believe in and look forward to reaching goals based on those values, everyone wins. The organization will end up with better success and the employee will have greater job satisfaction. As discussed, while most organizations and people believe that employees are purely motivated through money, this could not be more further from the truth. It is shown through nonprofit organizations having some of the most motivated employees in organizations and those employees having high job satisfaction while still earning very little money, that money is not the main motivator. While it may drive some sort of influence on people to get up every day it is not the true reason that employees choose to work where they do.


When conflict arises within an organization it is the result of differing views about how an organization got to where it is, is going and how it should get there, and when views are similar but expectations are different. For conflict to exist it must be perceived by the parties involved. In our culture conflict is sought out and used as an opportunity to grow and learn from certain situations. It is used as to increase knowledge and skill and increase innovation and productivity in the organization. A successful organization needs conflict so that differing views can be offered, and new ways of doing things can be created and used in the future. However, conflict is not always valued in other cultures such as the Korean and Japanese cultures where it is to be avoided ("Role of culture," 2001).


When dealing with conflict within an organization there are three main types. First there is conflict between two individuals which is the interpersonal form. This conflict usually stems from personal dislikes and opinions. Other times differing values can get in the way of work and conflict can arise from this. A technical conflict can also arise between two individuals when a difference of opinion comes about on a task related object in the workplace. Another form of conflict can be seen between an individual and a group. In this case, an individual usually resists the group or does not want to conform to the group. If an individual is seen doing more or less work than the rest of the group a conflict may be started also and someone may be shut out of the group or be looked down upon. In this situation a group member either conforms or quits. A third type on conflict can be seen between the individual themselves when two conflicting views are present. This can be seen when there are two appealing offers or objects. Such as that someone is content and likes their present job but gets another offer and they are then conflicted between the two jobs. Another type of conflict within an individual could be that one thing has both positive and negative aspect to it so it makes it harder to make a decision such as liking a new job opportunity but not liking the new locations ("Organizational culture," 2008).


If a conflict is avoided and not dealt with in the right way it will escalate and the conflict will become bigger than when it began ("Role of culture," 2001). In dealing with a conflict between two individuals, it is very important to first see if these two people can separate the issues from the individuals themselves, and try to work things out for the sake of the organization. If a problem cannot be solved by the people themselves, a source of leadership must step in and try to help. In high power differential countries, such as France and Germany, a source of authority is looked to first to help. It is important that a manager or boss is not the only one who is dealing with the conflict and trying to resolve the conflict alone. It is important that the responsibility is shared and that employees play a role in solving the conflict also. In low power differential cultures, such as our own; a source of mediation is looked to first to help. It is important that mediation is used and authority steps in as little as possible so that it becomes natural and conflict is resolved again in a similar way ("Role of culture," 2001).


Managing culture is a determining factor on whether an organization will be successful. Many new or even existing managers don't know the culture within their organization. Managers have many obligations to fulfill, but one of them should be to find and maintain their organization's culture. As a manager, the first step to find organizational culture is the data collection stage. During data collection managers use a variety of techniques to collect information on an organization's culture and the systems, structures, and processes that support it (“Culture Management,” 2004). To collect data managers conduct interviews, culture surveys, and organizational development surveys. Interviews are with selected employees to help identify the nature of the company's culture (“Culture Management,” 2004). Culture and organizational surveys can be questions a manager feels are relevant to their organization. These surveys help identify the extent to which the company is experiencing problems with respect to its systems, structure, and culture management process (“Culture Management,” 2004).


After the data has been collected, the manager or management team analyzes and synthesizes the data. The data is then used to create a formal report. A manager should form this report to outline the following elements: the organization's real culture, gaps (if any) between the current culture and the culture that management desires for the organization, the organizational systems, structures, and processes that are supporting the current culture and either reinforcing or obstructing the desired culture, and recommendations designed to increase organizational effectiveness and improve management of the desired culture (“Culture Management,” 2004).


As the report is being completed, a manager should be thinking of some type of learning opportunity for the employee's to discuss their thoughts on the organization's culture. One article, “Culture Management”, suggests having a culture workshop. During this workshop, management may assist participants in understanding what culture is, developing an understanding of their organization's culture, creating a statement of their organization's desired culture, and beginning to develop action steps for managing their organization's culture more effectively (“Culture Management,” 2004).


Now that culture has been established within the organization, a manager should easily be able to define culture and what the organization believes culture is. Also, culture management should now be able to determine what the culture is to promote behavior consistent with the company's goals (“Culture Management,” 2004). Lastly, a manager should be able to take an organization from where it is to where it needs to be with respect to its culture (“Culture Management,” 2004).


As the organization grows, how does a manager effectively maintain the culture established? One of the key factors for maintaining business culture is to define the desired organizational culture from the beginning, and integrate it into how employees are hired and treated, the type of customer service provided, and the general environment of the organization (Lieberman, n.d.). To ensure that the culture lasts, managers should develop a strategic plan for implementing culture (Lieberman, n.d.). Also, senior management must implement culture in all they do including: hiring, compensation, rewards and incentives, creating the environment, and marketing (Lieberman, n.d.). As the organization starts to relate to the culture, managers should constantly assess progress and acknowledge their employees.


Organizational culture encompasses the unique values and beliefs of an organization which are reflected in its features and characteristics. There are four basic types of organizational culture which place more or less emphasis on certain characteristics of the culture. A strong and agile organizational culture leads to greater job satisfaction and motivation within members of the culture. The type of culture which an organization has influences how the organization manages internal conflicts. At the same time, managers need to comprehend their organizations’ cultures in order to facilitate change or maintain the current culture depending on which is deemed necessary. An organization’s culture provides the substance and essence for the organization and heavily influences how successful the organization may be since it is inextricably intertwined into all aspects of the organization.


References


Academics at American Jewish University. (2009). Deal and Kennedy’s Four Generic Cultures. Retrieved from http://academics.ajula.edu/Content/ContentUnit.asp? CID=1211&u=3151&t=0


Aiman-Smith, L. (2004). What Do We Know About Developing and Sustaining a Culture of Innovation. Retrieved from http://www.ncsu.edu/cims/downloads/ Research/71_WDWK_culture.pdf


Chaneski, W. S. (2001). Company Emphasizes Quality and Attention to Detail. Retrieved from http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m3101/is_4_74/ai_78840586/


Culture Management. (2004). Retrieved from http://www.mgtsystems.com/products/culture-management.jsp


Farber, D. (2005). A View into Google’s Inner Workings. Retrieved from http://blogs.zdnet.com/BTL/?p=2065


Grinder, D. (2003). People-Oriented Leadership. Retrieved from http://policechiefmagazine.org/magazine/index.cfm?fuseaction=display_arch&article_id=112&issue_id=102003


Lieberman, S. (n.d.). How to Creat and Maintain the Culture of Your Organization as You Grow. Retrieved from http://www.simmalieberman.com/articles/howtocreatemaintain.htm


Organizational conflict - the good, the bad & the ugly. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://work911.com/conflict/carticles/orgcon.htm


Organizational culture. (2008, December 28). Retrieved from http://organizationalclimate.wordpress.com/category/types-of-organizational-conflict/


Role of culture in achieving organizational integrity, and managing conflicts between cultures. (2001, April 29). Retrieved from http://www.ethicaledge.com/quest_5.html


Tharp, Bruce M. (2009, April). Four Organizational Culture Types. Haworth, 1-6.


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