Organizational culture represents a common perception held by the organizationâ€™s members. Culture is defined as a system of shared meaning. It should be expected that individuals with different backgrounds or at different levels in the organization will tend to describe the organizationâ€™s culture in similar terms.
Acknowledge that organizational culture has common properties does not mean, however, that there cannot be subcultures within any given culture. Most large organizations have a dominant culture and numerous sets of subcultures.
A dominant culture expresses the core values that are shared by a majority of the organizationâ€™s members. When we talk about an organizationâ€™s culture, we are referring to its dominant culture. It is this macro view of culture that gives an organization its distinct personality. Subcultures tend to develop in large organization to reflect common problems, situations, or experiences that members face. These subcultures are likely to be defined by department designations and geographical separation.
The purchasing department, for example, can have a subculture that is uniquely shared by members of that department. It will include the core values of the dominant culture plus additional values unique to members of the purchasing department. Similarly, an office or unit of the organization that is physically separated from the organizationâ€™s main operations may take on a different personality. Again, the core values are essentially retained, but they are modified to reflect the separated unitâ€™s distinct situation.
If organizations had no dominant culture and were composed only of numerous subcultures, the value of organizational culture as an independent variable would be significantly lessened because there would be no uniform interpretation of what represented appropriate and inappropriate behavior. It is the â€œshared meaningâ€? aspect of culture that makes it such a potent device for guiding and shaping behavior. Thatâ€™s what allows us to say, for example, that Microsoftâ€™s culture values aggressiveness and risk taking and then to use that information to better understand the behavior of Microsoft executives and employees. But we cannot ignore the reality that many organizations also have subcultures that can influence the behavior of members.
Comparison of Strong and Weak Cultures:
It has become increasingly popular to differentiate between strong and weak cultures. The argument here is that strong cultures have a greater impact on employee behavior and are more directly related to reduce turnover.
In a strong culture, the organizationâ€™s core values are both intensely held and widely shared. The more members who accept the core values and the greater their commitment to those values is, the stronger the culture is. Consistent with this definition, a strong culture will have a great influence on the behavior of its members because the high degree of shared ness and intensity creates an internal climate of high behavioral control. For example, Seattle based Nordstrom has developed one of the strongest service cultures in the retailing industry. Nordstrom employees know in no uncertain terms what is expected of them, and these expectations go a long way in shaping their behavior.
One specific result of a strong culture should be lower employee turnover. A strong culture demonstrates high agreement among members about what the organization stands for. Such unanimity of purpose builds cohesiveness, loyalty, and organizational commitment. These qualities, in turn, lessen employeesâ€™ propensity to leave the organization.