Every organization has a culture that encompasses its core values and beliefs, and its priorities. According to Carter McNamara of Free Management Library, “organizational culture is the organization’s personality.” The culture is normally established by the top level of management, both directly through overt, explicit means and indirectly by more subtle, understated methods. As a result, the members of the organization understand who they are, how they operate and what’s important to the organization. In some instances, a company’s perceived culture and the actual culture are totally different.
An organization that fosters open and honest communication encourages employees to offer suggestions and constructive criticism to improve the company. Also, when the organization makes mistakes, it quickly acknowledges these errors. However, an organization that does not foster open communication may do so by refusing to share information with the employees (and the media, if applicable), and creates an environment in which employees are penalized for voicing their disagreements with company policies and decisions.
An organization that is committed to a high standard of ethics has an honor code that is both expressed and implied. However, an organization that operates in a morally gray area may outwardly express its commitment to honesty and integrity, but it allows or even encourages unethical behavior and practices. Employees learn that the ends justify the means and they perform accordingly.
An organization that values its employees focuses on their well-being. This type of organization embraces a holistic approach that provides opportunities for training and development and also incorporates personal growth and interpersonal relationships. On the other hand, an organization that focuses on project and task completion, with no regard for employee stress and burnout, creates a demotivating environment in which employees learn that they are not valued.
Barry Phegan of CompanyCulture.com says, “Nationwide the greatest loss to American business is the withheld energy and creativity of employees at all levels.” If organizations with negative cultures are going to succeed, they need to bridge the gap between tangible and intangible forms of organizational culture. Often, this means realizing the disparity between the two, and changing the subliminal messages that they send employees.