Many times I come across statements like “hire someone who will fit our organizational culture”, “this will not work on our organizational culture”, “the culture in this organization is different, and you need to adapt to…”…. What’s the organizational culture?

If it means anything, culture should describe the day-to-day experience of the ordinary worker. Culture is what makes the experience working at one company different from doing the same work at another company offering similar services or products.

The culture mostly gets developed in something “below the surface” organization. Remember the iceberg, that we have been shown in multiple management presentations, imagine that, and the tip of the iceberg is “the apparent organization” and the one which is not visible but heavily impacting the “culture” is “the below the surface” organization.

Small tip of iceberg is an”apparent organisation” rest of below it.

The hidden “below the surface” organization is what impacts most of us at workplace and our experience around it. This informal organization has its unofficial leaders, even rules to join or get a membership, they have their communication channel (some time more effective than formal organization). The informal organization makes decisions that affect whether or how well the official decisions are implemented.

The higher one is in an organization is, it’s less likely to know or understand what the everyday workplace experience is for an ordinary employee. Even one who rose through the ranks is unlikely to get it. Therefore, managers and leaders are the least likely to understand the culture of their organization though, ironically they are the ones most likely to talk about it.

The culture I think is a three dimensional thing, with following three axis

  • How do I feel about my job (High-Low)
  • How do I feel about my workgroup (High-Low)
  • How do I feel about my company? Valued? Included? Proud? (High-Low)
It’s complex, but once you know what it is, you will find a way to influence the culture and align it.

Giving meaning, purpose, direction and focus to work is the quintessential leadership role, leader need to understand the culture from ordinary employee’s point of view and support the organisation environment to make “culture” more inclusive and supportive to make it a success.

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