Organizational Culture and Employee Behaviour

Organizational Culture and Employee Behaviour

The organization consists of a collectivity with a relatively identifiable boundary, a normative order (rules), ranks of authority (hierarchy), communications system, and membership coordinating systems (procedures). The organization has its goals and human resources as well as constraints. Organizational employees have skills, knowledge, needs, and values pertaining to work and they both complement each other.

The organizational collectivity exists, on a relatively continuous basis in an environment, and engages in activities which are normally related to a set of goals. The organizational activities have outcomes for the organizational members, the organization itself, and for the society. The essence of organization revolves around the development of shared meanings, beliefs, values and assumptions which guide and are reinforced by the organizational behaviour.

Employees are important asset of the organization. They serve as human capital for the organization. Organization makes use of the employees’ skills, knowledge and abilities in carrying out and fulfilling the organizational objectives. Organizational culture is the environment which surrounds employees at work all of the time. Culture is a powerful element which shapes employees work enjoyment, work relationships, and work processes. However, culture is something which the people cannot actually see, except through its physical manifestations in workplace.

Organizational systems always find ways of controlling employees’ behaviour so as to maintain a balance in the system, even when that balance can be less than optimal for the success of the organization. Some of the ways organizations do this are through the formal and informal cultures in place. Every organization has a culture which sets the rules for employee behaviour. Culture is the style or behaviour patterns which the employees use to guide their actions. For example, an organization whose culture values the initiatives of all its employees has a different climate than an organization in which decisions are made by senior managers and enforced by their subordinates.

Culture is defined as ‘the complex whole which includes knowledge, beliefs, morals, capabilities and habits acquired by persons as members of the society’. It consists of patterned ways of thinking, feeling and reacting, acquired and transmitted mainly by symbols, constituting their embodiments in artifacts. The essential core of culture consists of traditional ideas and especially their attached values.

Organizational culture evolves from the social practices of the organizational employees, and hence, it is a socially created reality which exists in the heads and minds of the employees as well as in the formal rules, policies, and procedures of organizational structures. Culture is an ongoing process of reality construction, providing a pattern of understanding which helps the employees to interpret events and to give meaning to their work and workplace. Thus, culture is an evolutionary and dynamic process which incorporates changing values, beliefs, and underlying assumptions regarding the organization.

Culture ensures the norms of behaviour and also gives mechanism which helps the employees in their personal and social survival. The culture is the man made part of environment. It reflects the way of life of people, their traditions, heritage, design for living, etc. It is the totality of beliefs, norms and values, which is related to the patterned regularity in people’s behaviour, while the organizational culture is a combination of environment employees operate in, their way of interaction with one another, the policies, and procedures taken up in the environment.

Further, the organizational culture means work related activities and meanings attached to such activities in the framework of norms and values of the organization. These activities, norms, and values are normally contextualized in the organization. The organizational culture normally focuses on employee centricity, teamwork and continuous process improvement. It is also expressed in terms of values, ideologies of the organization. It further makes the foundation of integrity, thoughts and actions of the employees working there.

The culture of the organization is to be developed to support continuous improvement, improve employees’ style of performing their job and thus develop quality awareness. Organizational culture has influence on employee work behaviour as a result on the acceptable behaviours and attitudes to different jobs in the organization. Organizational culture is a major determinant of the employees’ efficiency and effectiveness in carrying out their jobs. Hence, organizational culture determines of how employees perform or behaves in his job.

The organizational culture develops step by step. The purpose of organizational existence is to improve solidarity and cohesion, stimulate employees’ enthusiasm and creativity, and to improve the economic efficiency of the organization. Like culture in general, organizational culture is also complex and unique. It is based the organizational history, the management, and the employees.

For the organization, employee the basic constituent units, and culture is the common value and code of conduct shared by the employees. The organizational culture can provide employees with a relaxed working environment, and harmonious interpersonal relationships in order to give full play to their ability. The culture allows employees to have a sense of mission and feel responsibility, and work towards the overall goal of the organization.

The competitiveness of the organization is not only reflected in its technology, but also in its culture. A positive organizational culture promotes healthy development of the organization. It also actively mobilizes the performance of the employees, and makes them work with more enthusiasm. Move over, it improves production efficiency. In short, the benefits of a positive organizational culture are self evident.

Organizational culture is a two-level process, which differ in terms of the visibility and the resistance to change. At the less visible level, organizational culture refers to values which are shared by the employees of the organization. These values tend to persist over time despite changes in the organizational membership. For example, the notion of what is important in life can vary in different organizations. In some organizational settings, employees can care deeply about money, while in other settings about technological innovations or employee well being. Culture at this level is very difficult to change, partly because the employees are frequently unaware of many of the values which bind them together. At the more visible level, organizational culture represents the behaviour patterns or style of the organization which persist since new employees are automatically encouraged to adopt them by their fellow employees. Those who fit in are rewarded and those who do not are sanctioned.

Organizational culture can also be viewed as a system. The inputs to this system include feedback from the society, professions, laws, stories, heroes, values on competition or service, etc. The process is based on the organizational assumptions, values and norms. For example, the organizational values on money, time, facilities, space and people. The outputs or effects of culture are organizational behaviours, technologies, strategies, image, products, services, appearance, etc.

There are seven primary characteristics which capture the essence of the organizational culture (Fig 1). These are (i) innovation and risk taking which encourages the employees to be creative and to take risks and hence improve the productivity, (ii) attention to detail which means that the employees are attentive, and their attention to details determine success or failure, (iii) outcome orientation which means that the organizational management focuses on final outcomes or the processes used to achieve the goals, (iv) people orientation which means that the consideration in management decisions tends to affects people within the organization, (v) team orientation which reflects that the work events are organized in the organization among teams or individual employees, (vi) aggressiveness which shows that the employee is aggressive and competitive or easy-going during work, and (vii) stability which reflects  that the organization is looking forward to maintaining the status quo or keeps growing.

Fig 1 Primary characteristics of organizational culture

There are four key uniqueness of the organizational culture which have been identifies. These are (i) values which constitutes the beliefs which lie at the heart of the organizational culture, (ii) heroes which means the employees who embody organizational values, (iii) rites and rituals which means those routines of interaction which have strong symbolic qualities, and (iv) the culture network which means the informal communication system or hidden hierarchy of power in the organization.

Different characteristics of the organizational culture have influence on the employees’ behaviour. It is seen that the values in the workplace are influenced by the organizational culture. There can be several cultural groupings in the organization which have an effect on the employee behaviour. There are normally six dimensions of culture (Fig 2) which affects the employees’ behaviour, These dimensions are (i) power distance, (ii) individualism and collectivism, (iii) uncertainty avoidance, (iv) masculinity or femininity, (v) long term orientation, and (vi) indulgence versus restraint.

Fig 2 Dimensions affecting employee behaviour

Power distance – Power distance is the first dimension and it reflects the inequality in the organization. Some employees have more power than others, while some other employees have better status and respect  in the organization. It reflects such inequalities among the various departments of the organization. Despite this, different organization managements find different solutions to deal with the inequality in the organization. However, not all the organizational managements regard inequality as a problem.

In the workplace, power inequality of the line manager-subordinates relationships is objective. In the large-power-distance situation, line managers and subordinates consider each other as existentially unequal. This happens normally in the organization in which the power is centralized in the top management as much as possible. In the small-power-distance situation, line managers and supervisors consider each other as existentially equal and the hierarchical system is established for convenience. Such type of the organizations is fairly decentralized, with flat hierarchical pyramids and limited numbers of supervisory personnel.

Individualism and collectivism – Individualism and collectivism is the second dimension of culture. In this dimension differences between organization interest and employees’ self interest has perfectly been matched. In collective cultures, the interest of a group or organization is valued more than the interest of an individual employee. In contrast, in an individualist organization, an individual employee’s interests are valued over the interests of a group. The organizational expectations in terms of individualism or collectivism are reflected by employees in the organizations.

In the workplace, employees in an individualist culture are expected to act according to their own interests, and the objectives of the work are to be organized in such a way that these match the individual’s interests. In a collectivist culture, individual employees are part of groups. The employees act according to the interests of their group, which cannot always match with their individual interests.

Uncertainty avoidance – In the dimension of uncertainty avoidance, all employees have to face the fact that they do not know what is going to happen tomorrow. Hence, every organization is to develop ways to deal with it. The ways can belong to the domains of technology, financial planning, risk planning, and disaster planning etc. Technology, from the most primitive to the most advanced, helps organizational management to avoid uncertainties caused by nature. Financial planning provides organization stability during lean periods. Risk planning helps management to take needed risks while disaster planning provides the organization to overcome disasters with confidence.

In a strong uncertainty avoidance culture, employees prefer rules, regulations, and the conservative legal order, and do not like adventure and innovation. In order to avoid risks, they prefer stable jobs, a secure life, avoidance of conflict, and have a lower tolerance for deviant persons and ideas. In contrast, in a weak uncertainty avoidance culture, conflicts and competitions are acceptable.

Masculinity and femininity – Masculinity and femininity reflect whether a certain organization is predominantly male or female in terms of cultural values, gender roles and power relations. Every organization has males and females employees the numbers can vary from organization to organization. They are biologically distinct. Males are relatively taller and stronger. At the same time, females are thinner and more agile.

In masculine cultures, some occupations are structured based on genders, which means some jobs are given to males and others to females. There is also a stronger emphasis on achievements, growth and challenge in jobs. In this type of culture, employees emphasize job performance more than individual interests. Additionally, employees prefer to receive money, titles or other materialistic or status-oriented rewards. On the contrary, in feminine cultures, good working conditions and job satisfaction are preferred. Meaningful rewards are leisure time, improved benefits, or symbolic rewards.

Long term orientation – Long term orientation is another dimension which consists of long term orientation and short term orientation. The long term orientation dimension can be interpreted as dealing with organization search for values, focus on the future, and pay attention to learning and perseverance. Additionally, the organizational culture with short term orientation normally has a strong concern with establishing the absolute truth.

Indulgence versus restraint – Indulgence relates to the organization which allows relatively free gratification of basic and natural human drives related to enjoying life and having fun. Restraint relates to the organization which suppresses gratification of needs and regulates it by means of strict norms.

Organizational behaviour

Organizational behaviour is determined by the employees’ behaviour within the organization, like the interface between employees’ behaviour and the organization, for the purpose of applying such knowledge toward improving the effectiveness of the organization.

Organizational behaviour applies to the knowledge acquired by individual employees and groups’ behaviour within the organization in order to make work more effective. Thus, organizational behaviour is concerned with what the employees do in the organization and how their behaviour affects the organizational performance. As a result, organizational behaviour is closely associated with such issues as decision-making, leadership, motivation, personality, productivity, human performance and management. Organizational behaviour fall under three domains namely (i) individuals, (ii) groups, and (iii) organization structures.

Individual employee level variables – Individual employees are the basic units with the same direction, but each is different in terms of personality, education, and experience. The challenge of an effective organization is to successfully match tasks. In an ideal situation, in order to approach tasks efficiently and conflict freely, line managers are to identify the tasks first, and then assign them to the employees who have the required skills. During this process, the most obvious characteristics which affect include age, gender, abilities, personality characteristics, perception, values, and attitudes. These characteristics are summarized as the individual level variables which affect employees’ behaviour and include biographical characteristics, abilities, values, attitudes, personality, emotions, perception, individual decision making, learning and motivation.

Group level variables – Group level is the second variant of organizational behaviour. A group is composed of individual employees, but employees’ behaviour in groups is more complicated than the sum total of all the individual employees acting in their own way. The group level variables which affect employees’ behaviour include communication, leadership and trust, group structure, conflict, power and politics, and work teams.

Organizational system level variables – Organizational system level is the highest level of organizational behaviour. The organizational system or organizational structure is developed to determine how the organization operates.  The organizational system assists the organization in approaching its goals to allow for future growth. Just as employees’ behaviour in groups is more complicated than the sum total of individuals acting on their own, so is organizational behaviour is more complicated than the sum total of its member groups. The structures of the organization, the organizational culture, and the practices all have an impact on the organization system level variables.

Organizational culture and behaviour influencing employee behaviour

Organizational culture, like morals, laws, and customs, shape employee behaviour and is something which older generations of employees hand down to younger generations. It is a collective programming of the minds of the employees to differentiate them from employees of other organizations. This programming of the minds is derived from the social culture to explain the impact of culture on individual employees. Organizational culture can be likened to a large complex computer which programs the responses and actions of the employees. The individual employees are to learn the programs of the organizational culture in order to make the system work.

Organizational culture permeates organizational environment in such a way as to influence every aspect of the organization. It has an effect on the productivity level of the organization in the sense that it influences employees’ behaviour to work and it is the input of the employees to the organization which determines the organizational performance level. It has been suggested that organizational culture affects such employees’ outcomes as productivity, performance, commitment, self confidence, and ethical behaviour. Organizational culture is one of the core determinants of the organizational success as it influences employee work behaviour.

Organizational culture plays several roles within the organization. In the first place, it gives the organization its identity, which means it creates boundaries between the organization and the competitors. It provides identity to its employees. Further, organizational culture can transform employees’ self-interests into something bigger which coincides with the organizational goal. Additionally, since organizational culture regulates the behaviour of the employee by providing appropriate standards, it enhances the organizational system level. Finally, the organizational culture acts as a behavioural mechanism which guides and shapes the attitudes and behaviour of the employees.

The causes of employee behaviour while staying on a relatively general level can be distinguished between ‘volition’ and ‘ability’ for the employee, ‘empowerment’ and ‘obligation’ for the situation as well as the ‘situational enabling’ as shown in Fig 2. If an employees’ behaviour does not meet the expectations, then the reason can be (i) they are not able to do it, (ii) they do not want to do it, (iii) they are not allowed to do it, and (iv) they do not have the necessary resources or there are impeding barriers.

Fig 3 Causes of employee behaviour

It has been found that several factors of the organizational culture such as openness, confrontation, pro-action, collaboration, communication, trust, and autonomy and career development helps in bringing the employee involvement on the board. A climate of management openness refers to employees’ collective perception as to what extent the management is receptive to and encourages new ideas, suggestions and even dissents. This in turn results in employee involvement. It is nothing but the employees’ involvement in the organizational activities and it is what is needed. The cultural norms have a great influence on employee involvement as it is the determinant of the employees’ opinion about the organization. The organization with characteristics like larger power distance, top to bottom communication, less support and delegation downwards, normally has employees who are silently taking up their jobs and have minimal involvement with the workplace.

The phenomenon of organizational culture associated with employee behaviour appears to be increasingly important in the present day workplace environment. Hence, the relationship between organizational culture and organizational behaviour is becoming increasingly important. It is normally seen that there exist a positive relationship between the organizational culture and the organizational behaviour. Several studies have shown this positive relationship by applying different methods such as theoretical study, field study and empirical study and so on.

In one of the studies on the relationship between organizational culture and organizational behaviour, the conclusion is categorized into two models namely a contingency model and a universal model. The contingency model has indicated that better performing organizations have strong cultures, but only if the culture fits the organization’s environment. In contrast, the universal model outlined that if an organization wants to behave well in the long term, it is to have a culture focused on three of its stakeholders namely employees, customers, and shareholders.

The operant conditioning model is a model which is used to explain employee behaviour. Conditioning is a systematic procedure through which associations and responses to specific stimuli are learned. Operant conditioning is defined as a type of learning in which the desirable or undesirable consequences of behaviour determine whether the behaviour is repeated. It is also known as instrumental conditioning. The probability of an event occurring depends on its consequences. The basic principle which governs operant conditioning is known as the law of effect, which states that the behaviours followed by desirable outcomes are more likely to recur than behaviours with unpleasant outcomes and vice versa. Rewards and punishments do affect our behaviour. Shaping is an operant conditioning procedure in which closer and closer approximations of the desired behaviours are reinforced, as a way of eventually producing the desired behaviour.

Further, cultural factors and personalities affect organizational behaviour. Organizational culture is one of the many variables which can contribute in explaining the employee behaviour. The organizational culture being composed of six dimensions of power distance, individualism and collectivism, uncertainty avoidance, masculinity or femininity, long term orientation, and indulgence versus restraint have significant impact on how the organization functions. Some variables in the relationship between culture and behaviour are significant since they can have significant influence on the employees, leadership, and organizational strategy as well as on the organizational commitment. In practice, the organization culture has a considerable impact on the organization functioning, management, employees and the organizational future. The organizational culture affects behaviour in six aspects.

First aspect is that the organizational culture has as a guiding role. Organizational culture not only affects clearly the highest or long-term objectives, but also targets the organizational objectives as individual employees’ goals. The objectives set by the organization allow the employees to feel the value of work and inspire the desire of succeeding.

The second aspect is that the organizational culture restraints employees’ behaviour. This refers to organizational culture constraints and set standards for the employees’ behaviour. For the smooth functioning of the organization, rules and regulations are necessary. Still, it is difficult to standardize all the behaviours of the employees.

The third aspect is the cohesive effect of the organizational culture. When a certain organizational value is recognized by the employees, it becomes a shared bond. Through this impact, employees generate a sense of loyalty towards the organization.

The fourth aspects show that the organizational culture has an impact on the incentives. This refers to the organizational culture has the effect which enables employees generate a force to get attached to the organization emotionally. Promoting the organizational culture is the process which helps the employees looking for the sense to work and to establish a shared behaviour. Through this process, employees can form common values and behaviours with the organization.

The fifth aspect consists of a radiation effect. The organizational culture not only affects inside an organization, but also has an impact on the society through various channels. People in the society understand the deeper values of the organization through symbols, advertising, architecture, products and services. There are several channels to radiate this to the society such as media and the organizational public activities.

The sixth aspect is the innovation. A good organizational culture provides a working environment for its employees which inspires innovation, encourages difference, and tolerates failure. It is necessary not only for the efficient functioning of the organization but even for its survival.

In addition, the influence the organizational culture has on behaviour is also reflected in the management and the role of line managers. When making decisions, management is to confront many complex challenges. The success of the line managers depends on several factors, for example on their knowledge and understanding of the organizational culture. The line managers who understand the organizational culture and take it seriously are capable of predicting the outcome of their decisions in preventing any anticipated consequences. It is notable that most human behaviour is learned through imitation. In order to get employees to behave as expected, the role of line managers is indispensable. In addition, the management success depends on sending and shaping correct contents about the priorities, values and beliefs. Once the culture is established and accepted, it becomes a strong leadership tool. It associates the employees with the beliefs and values of the organization and helps the management to guide the employees.

Organizational employees are intentionally acculturated into the assumptions and belief systems of the organizational culture.  One method of transmitting cultural values and beliefs is through organizational norms. Norms help to shape the behaviour of the employees so that it is in accordance with the values and beliefs of the organizational culture. Culture, acting through institutionalized belief systems and organizational norms, can be a very effective means of directing the behaviour of the employees toward activities deemed important to the goals of the organization. Some examples of organizational cultural impacting on employee behaviour are briefly described below. These are all based on the several studies on the subject on the effect of culture on performance and behaviour.

Understanding of the organizational history and current approach – Knowing the culture of the organization allows employees to understand the organizational history and current approach. Once the organizational culture has been established, it tends to perpetuate itself in a number of ways, normally through the organizational employees. The existing employees can screen the potential employees to test how well their values and behaviour fit in. Newly selected employees are explicitly taught the organizational style. Historical stories and legends are told again and again to remind everyone of the organizational values and what they mean. Line managers explicitly behave and act in ways which exemplify the culture and its ideals. Organizational management can communicate the key values over and over in their daily conversations or through special rituals and ceremonies. Those employees who follow the cultural norms are rewarded and those who do not are penalized.

Commitment to the organization is influenced by its culture, especially if the employees share the values of the culture. These can include identifying with the organizational goals, a willingness to help others, and valuing individual differences and creativity. As an example, at one software development organization, there is an unspoken need for employees to work as hard as possible to build a technically superior product faster and cheaper. It is competitively crucial to be the first to market with new technology. Besides, the challenge to build new innovative computer applications is exciting and appealing to the group of employees who want to be on the cutting edge of technology. They are encouraged by management to do whatever is necessary to get the products designed and built. Management is able to emphasize the values of the culture to help productivity. After the team successfully delivers the product, line managers are able to use their understanding of the organizational culture to encourage new goals and behaviours to be adopted. They tap the value of the hard work demonstrated by the organization to solve a problem with new product development teams.

Commitment to corporate philosophy and values – Organizational culture can promote commitment to organizational philosophy and values. Commitment to organizational philosophy and values can be improved by focusing on the actions of the present employees, by adding people who represent the culture, and by socializing employees to new ways of behaviour. Although, it is important to implement performance measures to direct behaviours, however, it is equally important to have informal mechanisms such as stories, celebrations, and symbols to encourage behaviour change.

As an example, one organization wants to encourage all employees to initiate problem solving discussions and generate solutions to those problems. One group of employees solves a quality problem by redesigning the packaging of the product, and these employees become instant heroes. Their names are published in the organizational newsletter; they receive plaques for their innovation, and are praised in management speeches and talks. Such stories and symbolism undoubtedly reinforce the employees’ commitments to the corporate philosophy and values.

Control mechanism for employee behaviours – Organizational culture serves as a control mechanism for employee behaviour. If the culture of the organization is characterized by competition (money oriented culture), then employees tend to behave in ways that are self-serving rather than in the best interest of the system. On the other hand, if the culture is characterized by collaboration (community culture) then employees tend to behave in ways which serve the whole organization. However, sometimes, there is a clash of cultures, especially when an employee or a group of employees has a different set of values than the ones prevailing in the organization.

Employee ethics – Ethical behaviour is defined as that which is morally accepted as ‘good’ and ‘right’ as opposed to ‘bad’ or ‘wrong’ in a particular setting. Organizations vary in the ‘ethical climates’ they establish for the employees. It is also clear that the ethical tone or climate of the organization is set at the top. The actions of the management, and the culture it establishes and practices makes a big difference in the way lower-level employees perform and in the way the organization as a whole acts when faced with ethical dilemmas. Depending on the issue, the type of culture in operation influences the choices employees make to a large extent.

Consider for a moment, the networked culture and its propensity to tolerate poor performance. Line managers in such an organization frequently ‘carry’ the weak employees rather than fire them. The long-term effect is normally damaging to the collective good. Organizational performance can soften, hurting performances, and ultimately can affect good employees who have to be laid off to reduce costs. In other cases, the strong performers can burn out from doing the bulk of the ‘carrying’.

This raises a big ethical question, but some people can look at the scenario and say, ‘it is okay to cover for a colleague than fire one, which suggests that such line managers are not prepared to sacrifice individuals for a group. Others can look at it and say that ‘sometimes, employees need to be fired for the survival’, suggesting that the line managers have a higher comfort level with putting the collective good of the organization first. This does not mean that one response is better than the other, only to say that there is a wide range of what employees are willing, eager, and able to do for the organizations based on the existing culture.

Another ethical question which the employees face is ‘how much they are willing to fit in’. Of course the organization places a layer of norms and rules upon its employees. It asks the employees to conform in different ways, requiring them to leave, in varying degrees, parts of their authentic selves outside the work place. The real issue for the employees then becomes whether they fit within the organizational culture, and if not, how much are they are willing to compromise their true identity in order to enjoy the rewards of the organization.

It is important to note that an effective organizational culture needs to encourage ethical behaviour and discourage unethical behaviour. Granted, ethical behaviour can ‘cost the organization at the short-term, but long-term, the organization gets benefitted.

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