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What Is Organizational Culture?

For HR professionals to have any impact on culture, they must first have a thorough understanding of what culture is in a general sense and what their organization’s specific culture is. They should have the best organisational culture characteristics so that they can handle the business affairs in a good way.

organizational culture characteristics
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At the deepest level, an organization’s culture is based on values derived from basic assumptions about the following:

  • Human nature. Are people inherently good or bad, mutable or immutable, proactive or reactive? These basic assumptions lead to beliefs about how employees, customers and suppliers should interact and how they should be managed.
  • The organization’s relationship to its environment. How does the organization define its business and its constituencies?
  • Appropriate emotions. Which emotions should people be encouraged to express, and which ones should be suppressed?
  • Effectiveness. What metrics show whether the organization and its individual components are doing well? An organization will be effective only when the culture is supported by an appropriate business strategy and a structure that is appropriate for both the business and the desired culture.

Culture is a nebulous concept and is often an undefined aspect of an organization. Although extensive academic literature exists relating to the topic of organizational culture, there is no generally accepted definition of culture. Instead, the literature expresses many different views as to what organizational culture is.

Organizational culture can manifest itself in a variety of ways, including leadership behaviors, communication styles, internally distributed messages and corporate celebrations. Given that culture comprises so many elements, it is not surprising that terms for describing specific cultures vary widely. Some commonly used terms for describing cultures include aggressive, customer-focused, innovative, fun, ethical, research-driven, technology-driven, process-oriented, hierarchical, family-friendly and risk-taking.

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