When you think of cultures in the workplace, you might think of the various nationalities of your colleagues. But the term has a much broader application. Wherever you have a community of people, that community develops its own culture. Regions and cities have their own cultures, as do industries and corporations. Understanding the culture of an organization means understanding how things get done, and anticipating how employees can be expected to react to new initiatives or changes in direction. A highly successful organizational culture is one that can execute business in an agile manner to stay profitable and competitive.
All organizations develop rules to govern the operation of the workplace. But not all organizational cultures value such rules. Employees might consider rules to be nothing more than words on paper. In a normative culture, the opposite is true. Employees recognize the rules and pay strict attention to them. Training programs make sure employees understand the principles behind policies and operational procedures. In some organizations, adherence to rules might be tied to insurance programs and the awarding of corporate bonuses.
Collaborative organizations promote information sharing. They value teamwork and expect full participation. They encourage open and active information sharing and idea generation, such as by designating meeting places specifically to foster brainstorming. White boards are not static pieces of equipment --- they are used regularly. The office setting tends to be sociable. People talk, because if they don’t, they can’t collaborate.
While collaborative cultures promote idea generation and teamwork, control-based cultures promote efficiency. The atmosphere can be considered more sterile and formal than that within a collaborative organization. A good example is a hospital setting, where efficiency is vital, particularly in emergency rooms where operational practice must enable quick and careful diagnoses. The ability to refine efficiency through controlled process improvements provides an advantage in meeting changing patient demands 24 hours every day.
Sales professionals provide a good example for what's known as a macho culture. Such cultures thrive in risk-and-reward environments, within which feedback comes in the form of financial gains. To excel in this type of organization, employees must be highly driven. Deadlines and meeting goals are constant motivators. Employees compete against their peers, but they also compete against themselves, because they typically must surpass their own performance levels from previous periods. Stress is high and never-ending.
A careers content writer, Debra Kraft is a former English teacher whose 25-plus year corporate career includes training and mentoring. She holds a senior management position with a global automotive supplier and is a senior member of the American Society for Quality. Her areas of expertise include quality auditing, corporate compliance, Lean, ERP and IT business analysis.