Organisational Culture

This Chapter discusses how organisational culture influences the behaviour of organisations but as it is intangible it is difficult to define and understand. Organisational culture introduces unspoken rituals and tacit rules and addresses the actions, values, and behaviours, which, in combination, contribute to the overall philosophy and environment of the organisation.  It shapes the way in which employees behave and make decisions and is formed over time as a result of the experiences and values of the organisation and the way in which it reacts to internal and external circumstances. All of these factors impact upon organisational performance and profitability, as well establishing unwritten/implied guidelines on issues such as customer engagement, quality, innovation, and corporate social responsibility.

Given these challenges, the issues surround both organisational and national/regional cultural drivers are examined. In reviewing cultural aspects, the model proposed by Schein (2010) is presented noting his focus on artifacts and behaviours, espoused values and basic underlying assumptions. Handy’s (1996) linkages between  organisational culture and structure are also highlighted, outlining the impact of role, task, power and personal cultures and how this impact is shaped by the nature of the company concerned.

Having provided this context the work of Deal and Kennedy (2000) is then reviewed, whereby it is suggested that there are six interrelated elements defining organisational culture - history, values and beliefs, rituals and ceremonies, storytelling, heroic figures and cultural networks. It is argued that these create certain organisational characteristics such as the work hard/play hard dynamic, the tough guy/macho approach, process-driven entities and a ‘bet-your-company’ attitude in high-risk environments. This examination of organisational culture in the Chapter closes with an outline review of Johnson and Scholes’ cultural web (2002) and the challenges facing organisations wishing to change their corporate culture.

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Having reviewed the issues surrounding organisational culture, the Chapter then explores how this dynamic is further influenced by national/societal cultural drivers. Hofstede’s (2017) six dimensions of national culture are illustrated and it is shown how this work was further developed by Lewis (1999; 2006) to consider how this creates different communication dynamics that a business will need to address.

Having considered these challenges and the models that can be used to review cultural issues, the Chapter then provides an outline argument to demonstrate why it is important for a company to understand how these drivers can affect their business. The impact of multiculturalism is examined, noting how globalisation has increased workplace multiculturalism. Crucially, the Chapter emphasises that bringing employees from diverse backgrounds together does not mean that they will automatically work well together and that suitable intervention programmes will need to be developed. The way in which international work placements can be structured is cited as an example of how organisational and national cultural concerns can be shaped to deliver tangible business benefits.

The Chapter closes with a consideration of the challenges involved in managing international teams, stressing how effective engagement and cultural change can help a business to develop a more detailed appreciation of its competitive environment.


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