Organizational Culture - What You Should Know About It

By Dr. Faiez Kirsten

Are you aware of the unfortunate fact that what science recommends is often not implemented by business?

Why do I say this? I will get to this further on.

But firstly I want to start off by describing to you two serious problems that exist in many companies and organizations across the world. And they are, firstly, the extremely high levels of stress and unhappiness that exists amongst the employees of these companies and organizations. And the second is the poor performance, not only of individual employees, but also of the companies themselves.

OK, let me explain what I mean by way of a story which involves J.E. a job-hopping employee. Over the past 2 years J.E has worked for 4 different companies. In the first 2 he experienced severe stress and unhappiness.

Now in the first company

• J.E.'s experience was that despite his superior performance his remuneration was far less than certain of his co-workers who performed less well than him. He worked hard and always produced his best but was paid less than certain under-performing workers.
• These co-workers he noticed were always doing favors for the top managers and bosses of the company.
• When he tried to air his view about the inequitable and unfair reward system that existed at the company he was told that if he did not like the situation he could leave.
• This gave him many sleepless nights.
• So he left and joined another company.

Although he found the second company a little less stressful the strict bureaucratic nature of the organization was very stifling to him.

• He discovered that this company did not really view him as a person but as an entity whose function was to perform a collection of roles.
• The fact that he had to virtually behave somewhat like an unimaginative robot in this company caused him great anxiety.
• And his stress was compounded by the fact that those who had more important roles and functions in the company held more power in it.
• His anxiety became severe. So he moved on.

Now his experience in the third company was much more to his liking because in this company workers had a high degree of flexibility and autonomy.

• And this company also placed a great emphasis on the completion of tasks or the achievement of goals and objectives.
• But what he liked most was the fact that the people worked in teams which were highly-driven energized and motivated to complete the tasks which were assigned to them.

Now when this last company that J.E found himself working at acquired another company he was moved to this acquired company.

• And he really like this company too, maybe even more - because this company viewed itself as being subordinate to, or dependent on, its people for its existence.
• In fact its people came first before everything else.
• It placed great emphasis on nurturing the personal growth and development of its people and on the sharing of information, decision-making and influence amongst its people.

What our friend J.E. has been experiencing and what caused him to feel stressed in the first two companies and then happy and satisfied with his job in the last two is something referred to as Corporate or Organizational Culture.

And what I have described to you in terms of the experiences of J.E is just a very broad overview of the different types of Corporate Culture that exists. In terms of the companies described they are as follows:

The first company had a Control, Power or Autocratic Culture The second a Role Culture The Third an Achievement or Task Culture and The Fourth a People or Support Culture

OK so what is Corporate or Organizational Culture exactly?

Well it is the shared beliefs, values and consequent feelings and behavior of the people of a company or organization and which they subconsciously assume to be correct and valid. It is in fact their shared attitudes. Similar to each person who has his or her own unique personality so an organization's or corporation's culture can be seen as its own unique personality.

Now in order to understand culture more clearly we must look at the components or dimensions of culture rather than a broad description of it. And the following are just 3 components of culture. There are of course many more.

1. Methods of resolving conflict - most organizations are beset with conflict of some kind or another. And in many instances this conflict is quite severe. However many companies have very ineffective conflict resolution methods in place - or worse none at all.

2. Employee inclusion or participation - this involves the inclusion of employees in decision-making processes which allows it to make better-quality decisions. It also prevents employees from feeling that decisions are foisted on them without respect for their feelings or points of view.

3. Management style - this includes trustworthiness or integrity of managers and their willingness and availability to listen to employees. It involves management support which consists not only of motivation and assistance, but also includes clear and frequent communication with the workers. Good managers ensure that appropriate and accurate information is provided and allowed to flow unhindered throughout the organization. They keep all employees updated and provide them at all times with all the relevant information they require. Unhappy workers are encouraged to inform and question management about their grievances.

Now why is organizational culture important?

Well, probably the most important reason is that it is a major factor which determines the success or failure of a company. Or, at least, it distinguishes mediocre performers from excellent performers.

And of course an important factor in the performance and success of a company is the health and wellness of its people. And organizational culture as we have seen has a significant impact on this factor.

Now let us get back to the problem of business not implementing the recommendations of scientists.

So why do I say this? Well despite the fact that scientific research has shown that those organizations which actively measure, manage and develop their cultures have healthier and less-stressed people - and of course perform much better - many organizations and companies around the world fail to do so in any meaningful way in keeping with these scientific findings. But worse, many do not even do this at all and actually completely ignore this all-encompassing aspect of their companies or organizations. Historically this has been the case more often than not but, fortunately in recent years, the issue of culture is being taken more and more seriously.

So if companies and organizations want to have healthier & less-stressed people who perform optimally, then they need to take heed of what science says about organizational culture - and implement its recommendations as a matter of priority.

My book on organizational culture provides more information about the experiences of J.E. and the cultures of the different companies he worked at. It also describes the various components of culture from the perspective of an extremely high-performing company and various other aspects of corporate culture such as its origins and functions, its relationship to financial performance and its management amongst others.

Thank you for taking the time to read this article

My website is at

If you are interested in learning more about organizational culture including the impact it has on the well-being and performance of people, and the organizations and corporations themselves, then please follow the link below. It is a link to the page describing my book on organizational culture entitled NOT AS SOFT AS YOU THINK - What You Should Know About Organizational Culture

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Leadership - Traits & Skills

By Khalid Nasr

Organizational Leadership is at a premium today and there is a clear recognition of the fact that in most situations the enthusiasm & motivation aroused in people by powerful & positive leadership is the most potent strategic weapon that provides sustained competitive advantage.

Today, management is defined as, "The process of getting things done though others"; whereas leadership is defined as "The process of getting things done willingly through others". The difference between the two definitions is one word but that word willingness and the degree of willingness aroused determine the effectiveness of the leader. Positive and powerful leader has an extraordinary ability to arouse such degrees of willingness & motivation in people that the impossible seems to become possible. The willingness aroused by a leader in organizational situations translates into achievement & excellence.

The Major Ingredients of Effective Leadership:

1.The ability to develop a climate that is conducive for motivation through personal example.
2.A leader's ability & confidence to inspire.
3.The ability to comprehend human behaviour and apply this knowledge to people & situation.

The various roles played by Effective Leaders of today are identified as follows:
1. Envisioner
2. Role Model
3. Motivator
4. Goal Setter
5. Initiator
6. Decision Maker
7. Informer
8. Conflict Resolver
9. Controller
10. Team Builder
11. Spokesman
12. Crises Manager

Major Characteristics of Effective Leaders: Intellectual Characteristics:
1. Originality
2. Far-sightedness
3. Receptiveness
4. Decisiveness
5. Sense of Timing
6. Intelligence

Personality Characteristics:
1. Personal Integrity
2. Self-confidence
3. Emotional Balance & Control
4. Adaptability
5. Assertiveness
6. Tough Mindedness
7. Resourcefulness
8. Tolerance of Stress
9. Perceptual Objectivity
10. High Need for Achievement

Task Related Characteristics:
1. Task Knowledge & Expertise
2. Administrative Ability
3. Responsibility Acceptance
4. Deadline & Schedule Orientation
5. Team Management Ability
6. Proactive Orientation
7. Ability to identify and Focus on Key Issues
8. Decision Making & problem Solving

Socially Related Characteristics:
1. Humanism & Empathy
2. Personal Impact / charm
3. Socio-cultural Sensitivity
4. Interpersonal and Social Networking
5. Social Participation & Friendliness
6. Tact & Diplomacy

Leadership Skills: A leader must have some basic skills to perform his duties effectively. A list of suggested leadership skills critical to success in the global economy includes the following:

1. Cultural Flexibility:Cultural awareness and sensitivity. He must recognize and celebrate the value of diversity in their organizations.
2. Communication Skills: Written, verbal, body language & listening skills.
3.HR Development Skills:Development of the human resources through training,career-counseling, job evaluation.
4. Creativity:Problem solving, innovation, setting goals and assisting subordinates to be creative.
5. Self -- Learning:Learning is a continuous process. A leader must learn new methods, skills and technology. He must be self-learner.
6. Time & Stress Management Skills.
7. Delegating Skills.
8. Motivation & Influence Skills.
9. Team Building Skills.
10. Conflict Management & Negotiation Skills.

Skills & Abilities For Effective Leadership:
o Social Objectivity: Ability to act free of racial, ethnic, gender or other biases.
o Inner work Standards: Ability to set & meet highly personal work goals.
o Self-Understanding: Ability to recognize one's strengths & weaknesses.
o Introspection: Ability to learn from experience & self-study.
o Vision: Ability to imagine a different & better situation and ways to achieve it.
o Entrepreneurism: Ability to spot & take advantage of opportunities.
o Empowerment: Ability to share influence & control with others.

Effective Leadership Traits:
o Intelligence & Analytical Ability
o Energy & Personal Drive
o Self- Confidence
o Dominance & Assertiveness
o Desire to Lead
o Honesty & Integrity
o Knowledge & Expertise
o Need for Achievement
o Creativity & Intuition

Various Types of Behaviors Displayed by Effective Leaders:
1. Consideration: It is the extent to which a leader is approachable and shows personal concern for subordinates.
2. Initiating Structure: The degree to which a leader concentrates on groups' goal attainment.
3. Reward Behaviour: The extent to which a leader provides his subordinates with compliments, tangible benefits and desired specific treatment.
4. Punishment Behaviour: The leader's use of reprimands or unfavourable tasks assignments and active with holding of rewards.

Khalid Nasr is a retired Major from Pakistan Army. He completed his MBA from IBA, Karachi University. Presently, head of Business Administration department in a University at Lahore. Khalid Nasr is member of Hamdard Thinker's Forum and Eilaaf Club in Lahore.

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