Few topics stir more emotion than organizational culture. Over the last year, we’ve spent a great deal of time examining what organizational culture is and how it affects individual performance and health.
Here are a three fallacies of organizational culture to consider:
- Organizations Have One Culture = FALSE
Organizational culture is an elusive, transitory and intensely personal description of the characteristics of your workplace. Within any given organization, Culture varies over time and differs across departments, functions, hierarchical levels and geographic locations, among other factors. In practice, organizational culture is in the eyes of the beholder – it is the aggregation of how you and others in your organization perceive it.
- The Larger the Organization the Less Important the Individual = FALSE
A commonly held belief is that the sense of belonging, so often associated with start-ups, is lacking in larger organizations where people can often feel isolated, unappreciated or worse – unnoticed. In practice, organizational culture in larger enterprises is a mosaic of micro-cultures created by the regional or functional areas and often fostered by the executive in charge – change the executive and change the micro-culture.
- My Values Must Align with Organizational Values = FALSE
Most organizations, explicitly or implicitly operate with a formal hierarchy and an informal network organization. Hierarchies are designed to keep the factory running while networks are designed to assess and respond to environmental changes. So, when it comes to values, the more aligned you are, the better positioned you are to work within the hierarchical structure of the organization. The more aligned your values, the better you fit with the rhythm of the business – the way the business is run today. The less aligned your values are with the organization’s, the more likely you are to provide the networked side of the organization fresh ideas and new ways of thinking(innovation) and working (collaboration).
If you find yourself asking do you belong here, it’s worth exploring how you, as a leader, can become an agent of change and right the wrongs you see in the system. Sure, some people and organizations just don’t mix, but before you jump ship, consider how you might turn a cultural mismatch into a career accelerator by considering the fallacies of culture discussed here.
Have an idea or story about culture that you think should be included in our work? Don’t hesitate to share your thoughts with me at firstname.lastname@example.org.