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Organizational Culture

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Autor:  anton  14 March 2011
Tags:  Organizational,  Culture
Words: 1162   |   Pages: 5
Views: 490

Organizational culture influences many aspects of workplace life. A workplace with strong beliefs, values, behaviors, ideas and expectations define an organization. Well-communicated beliefs, values, ideas and expectations influence employee’s behavior and determine how employees communicate with others throughout the organization, thus defining the organization’s culture. Over the years, the topic of organizational culture has been studied in many disciplines from anthropology to sociology. A prominent theorist of organizational culture, Edgar Schein (2004), provided the following general definition of organizational culture:

A pattern of shared basic assumptions that was learned by a group as it solved its problems of external adaptation and internal integration, that has worked well enough to be considered valid and therefore, to be taught to new members as the correct way to perceive, think, and feel in relation to those problems. (p. 17)

Understanding an organization’s culture can help understand why change does not take place or why a project is not successful. Understanding the culture can also help determine where to make changes (Schachter, 2005). Making changes to an organization’s culture can determine the survival of the organization; therefore, modifying a culture can be sensitive and should be approached with caution.

Typically organizations approach a cultural change through a planned method of intentional, goal-orientated changes. The deliberate attempt by employees or managers to improve the function of teams, departments or the entire organization is known as planned organizational change. Economic and organizational development is two approaches an organization can take to make modification to their culture (Hellriegel, 2004). The economical approach focuses the change on structure and strategy within the organization with the attempt to increase profits. Last year, our Board of Directors made a significant change to our organizational chart and management structure. Since we are a not-for-profit organization that relies on federal funds, the implementation eliminated a department and reserved the overhead to serve more families and children. Opposite of economical approach is the organizational development approach. This approach focuses on the culture of the organization while developing the employee’s competencies. Organizational development approach is intended to development the employee’s commitment to the organization (Hellriegel, 2004). In our efforts to find more effective ways to reward employees, we developed a committee to review our performance evaluation and merit increase procedures. The purpose of this committee was to evaluate the procedures and make recommendations for improvement. By taking this approach, the employees have developed a sense of commitment to the organization and a sense of value as an employee.

Once an approach has been identified, there are several elements that can be modified or changed that will impact the organization’s culture. These elements include changing 1) what managers and teams pay attention to, 2) how crisis are handled, 3) criteria for recruiting new members, 4) criteria for promotion, 5) criteria for allocating awards, and 6) organizational rites and ceremonies (Hellriegel, 2004). To implement a change to culture, organizations can change the criteria for recruiting new employees. For instance, typically our recruitment procedures included advertising externally and internally for a period of two weeks for open positions. We have been unsuccessful at recruiting for vital open positions within the organization. To modify the procedures, we obtained the services of a temporary agency to facilitate the hiring process and fill open positions. This modification of our recruiting procedures has proved to be successful in filling open positions with a qualified, reliable candidate for the organization.

Implementing a change to an organization’s culture does not have to be a negative experience. Modifying the criteria for allocating rewards can be a negative or a positive change to an organization’s culture. Recently, our benefits committee made a substantial change to the eligibility criteria for receiving employer match and discretionary contribution to our retirement plan. Previously, our seasonal employees were entitled to employer match and discretionary contribution after the completion of two consecutive complete seasons which for some employees this meant the completion of their third season, second year with the organization. As of January 1, 2006, we modified the eligibility criteria to the completion of two years of employment with the organization. Although, this change has had an impact on the organization, the impact has been positive and beneficial to the companies’ human resources.

With every change comes resistance. Implementing a change involves moving away from the known to the unknown. Some reasons for resistance can be traced to individuals while other reasons can be traced to the organization. Employees experiencing individual resistance to change have stated the following four reasons: uncertainty, concern over personal loss, belief change is not in their own best interest and not in the best interest of the organization (Swist, 1996). Previously, I mentioned the change in our organizational chart and the elimination of a department. When this occurred, the employee’s within that department were reassigned to different departments. Some of the staff members expressed resistance to the change and stated they feared being supervised by another manager. The uncertainty on knowing their new supervisors management style filled the employees with anxiety. Others felt their position in the organization was being discounted and their influence or opinion not important.

Organizational change can be stressful and disruptive for anyone. For organizations to overcome the resistance to the change, management must not assume the employees believe in the mission for change and do not begin to make the changes until the employees believe in the mission (Babcock, 2005). Before we implemented the change in retirement plan employer match and discretionary contribution criteria, we trained the staff on the impact of the change and provided the employee’s with the effect the change would have on them personally. We provided personalized compensation statements which identified his/her eligibility based upon the old criteria and the new criteria. Once the employees identified the change to be beneficial to them, the resistance began to dissipate and acceptance became more prevalent.

Changing the culture of an organization is a complex and risky decision. When implementing a cultural change, the change should be tied to business goals and be linked to key organizational strategies. Additionally, regular communication on the organizational updates should be provided to employees about the progress and benefits of the cultural change. In practicing the above, employees will be more willing to accept the change and believe in the “new culture” of the organization.


Babcock, Pamela. (2005, September). A Calling for Change. HR Magazine. Retrieved May 31, 2006 from

Hellriegel, Don & John W. Slocum, Jr. (2004). Cultivating Organizational Culture. In Jack W. Calhoun (Ed.), Organizational Behavior (pp. 376 – 400). Cover to Cover Publishing, Inc.

Hellriegel, Don & John W. Slocum, Jr. (2004). Guiding Organizational Change. In Jack W. Calhoun (Ed.), Organizational Behavior (pp. 404 – 428). Cover to Cover Publishing, Inc

Schachter, Debbie. (2005, June). The Importance of understanding organizational culture. Information Outlook. Retrieved May 31, 2006 from

Schein, Edgar. (2004). Organizational Culture and Leadership. San Francisco: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Swist, Jennifer. (1996, November). Consulting Windowpains: Addressing the Challenges of Executive Change. Retrieved from

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