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What Is an Organizational Culture and What Are Its Different Types

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We see cultures all around the world. We see it in the way other cultures practice varying religions, ways of dressing, and even different standards. Japan, for example, has different beauty standards than South Korea which is just a few hundred kilometers away from them. It goes to show that varying cultures can be totally different even if they are physically close.

In fact, if you look at cultures between offices, you can see how easy it is to create varying cultures. The organizational culture of one office can be totally different from the other company’s two floors over. And since we’ve already tackled cultures in a larger sense, let’s look at culture in a smaller sense – the culture not everyone knows exists because they’re each unique according to every company.


What Is Organizational Culture?

Organizational culture is the values, behaviors, and beliefs that shape the way an organization operates. It’s often used to describe the nature of the workplace, but it can also refer to any non-commercial organization.

To best understand this, take a look at your office and the people you work with. All of you can work together in a professional level, but if you ever just wanted to go out and do something outside of work that interests you, would your relationship with even just a handful of co-workers make you want to invite them along, or would that be considered inappropriate? Or are you not close enough on that level that you don’t want to invite them in the first place? To put it simply: if you ever received a friend request from that person on Facebook, would you accept it, reject it, or report it to HR?

While there are certain labor laws that dictate how a company should treat its employees, there’s no written rule about how its employees should act. For example, some companies may impose a business attire dress code in their office (which they are allowed to do), while other companies allow a casual workplace.

Organizational culture is the personality of an organization. It’s unspoken and invisible, but it influences the behavior of the people who are a part of it. For example, if the culture is similar to that of a group of friends, newcomers who enter the organization will slowly develop the same culture by becoming closer to the other people in the organization.


What Influences Organizational Culture?

Organizational culture is influenced by the values, beliefs, principles, and unofficial rules of any organization. However, other factors may influence the culture as well. For example, an office where supervisors have a casual management style and are friendly with their employees has a different culture compared to offices where there is a clear feeling of who is in charge. In another example, a team where everyone works together to reach a certain goal is different from a team where they are pitted against each other in a bid to reach the goal first.

It is possible for certain organizations to become so big that there are sub-cultures underneath it. It is possible for these sub-cultures to be conflicting with the main culture and the other sub-cultures, but this is because it is possible for a completely different sub-culture to exist even when it conflicts with others – similar to the way countries have sub-cultures that go against its own main culture.


Uses of Organizational Culture

You can find different types of organizational cultures aside from offices, companies, and other types of commercial establishments. Organizational culture also refers to the culture (and sub-cultures) in your:

  • Schools
    • School Organizations
    • Athletics Teams
  • Universities
  • Learning Institutions
  • Non-profit groups
  • Government Agencies

These are just a few of the many examples of organizations that exist. However, the term “organizational culture” isn’t as popular as the terms “company culture” or “campus culture” to specify the organization in question. However, the term “organizational culture” and its concept began as early as 1951 in Elliott Jaques’ The Changing Culture of a Factory. The terms “corporate culture” wouldn’t appear in business terms until the late 1980s.


Types of Organizational Culture

If we’re going to look at the different types of culture, we’re going to have to go through tens of models of management and organizational culture as defined by many business and management experts. Some of these models also tend to overlap because they are all looking at the same thing but viewing culture in different ways.

For this purpose, we’ll be looking at the model created by Kim Cameron and Robert Quinn from their research in 1999. They believed that culture was based on two binaries (flexibility vs. stability and internal vs. external focus) which created four quadrants. According to their research, there are four types of culture:


Clan Culture (Internal Focus, Flexibility)

This is a friendly, family-like organization where leaders act as mentors and everyone is working towards a common goal. The organization exists and operates as one through loyalty and tradition. It’s not a working organization where you go in, do your part, and then go out, since there is a high level of engagement and people have similar shared interests.

This type of culture values the importance of people who work well together and can interact on a personal level rather than limiting themselves to the goal at hand. By doing so, a member’s relationship with the people in the organization can boost morale, teamwork, and participation.


Hierarchy Culture (Internal Focus, Stability)

A more formal version of the clan culture, hierarchy culture is very process-driven and a formalized workplace. Leaders act like coordinators and are more formal in their handling of their employees. Operations are based on procedures and efficiency in order to smoothen operations. By doing things formally, the office is stable and provides results via smooth execution that isn’t affected by personal issues.


Market Culture (External Focus, Stability)

The culture in this organization if focused on productivity. As long as you get the work done, achieved your desired results, and outdid your competitors, then that’s it. Supervisors push their employees to get results done, even if at the cost of being hostile or unlikable to their employees because that is not the focus of the organization.

This type of culture cares more about completing the work, which means that its members are more focused on the goal and look at each other as people who will help them reach that goal. In this culture, success is determined by how well they do in relation to their competition.

Adhocracy Culture (External Focus, Flexible)

Mostly seen in start-up organizations rather than large, established organizations, adhocracy culture still focuses on the market and how well they do on an external perspective, but it allows its members to take risks and innovate in an ever-changing and competitive setting.

Members are aware that not all innovations and ideas work, but success in a company is based on the profitable products and services they put on the market.

It is important to know an organization’s organizational culture beforehand because not everyone can thrive in certain cultures. If you like to keep to yourself and see work as work, you won’t do well in an office with clan culture (even if it has the most positive employee attitudes) because you might find yourself being forced to interact on a personal level with the people you work. And if you prefer a laid-back setting and working at your own pace, you may not enjoy working in cultures like market and hierarchy cultures that focus too much on goals and are too formal for your taste.

By understanding an organization’s culture, you can tell whether or not it’s a group you want to be part of and if you can see yourself working with others in that organization even before you start.


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