The Characteristics of Business Culture

Positive corporate culture is vital to success.
Positive corporate culture is vital to success. (Image: business colleagues image by Vladimir Melnik from

Corporate culture is the dynamic blend of values, beliefs, taboos, rituals and myths that all companies develop over time, according to Entrepreneur's Small Business Encyclopedia. A company’s culture may be written in a mission statement or simply lived out day by day, but the true culture of a company has a profound effect on the way owners and employees behave and therefore a profound effect on whether or not a company succeeds.

Company Personality

According to Free Management Library, new employees quickly sense the culture of an organization. Everything about an organization demonstrates its culture: the physical working conditions, the style of clothing people wear, the management style, and how success is defined internally. Basically, the culture of a company is its personality.

Types of Cultures

According to Free Management Library, corporate cultures can be divided into personality types. The "academic culture" of universities and hospitals provides highly skilled individuals with opportunities for long-term employment and advancement through professional development. The "baseball team culture" of advertising and investment banking employs individuals with valuable skills who can easily find jobs elsewhere. The military and law enforcement are examples of the "club culture," in which “fitting in” and seniority are very important. Large manufacturers and retailers often display the "fortress culture," a sense of being under siege by competition, which can result in job insecurity.

Leadership Values

According to a 2008 report published by Harvard Business School, organizational leaders are essential in maintaining company values, vision and purpose. Values must be lived out by example, instead of just being written down. Values are those things that a company is willing to invest in, as opposed to slogans and empty promises. Recognizing employees who exemplify a company’s values and celebrating team successes are methods of reinforcement.

Benefits of a Positive Culture

Companies with clearly defined values, vision and purpose come to be regarded, both inside and outside the organization, as good places to work. This increases the pool of prospective employees, increases employee retention and loyalty, and increases customer loyalty.

When Cultures Go Bad

Corporate culture is a dynamic concept and those that are adaptable can handle change. According to Harvard Business School, reasons that cultures disintegrate include success and subsequent apathy, loss of interest in creative change, breakdown of communication, and leaders who are overcome by a sense of their own importance.

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