Central Concepts about Culture

From Susan M. Heathfield,
Your Guide to Human Resources.

Professors Ken Thompson (DePaul University) and Fred Luthans (University of Nebraska) highlight the following seven characteristics of culture through my interpretive lens.

Culture = Behavior. Culture is a word used to describe the behaviors that represent the general operating norms in your environment. Culture is not usually defined as good or bad, although aspects of your culture likely support your progress and success and other aspects impede your progress.

A norm of accountability will help make your organization successful. A norm of spectacular customer service will sell your products and engage your employees. Tolerating poor performance or exhibiting a lack of discipline to maintain established processes and systems will impede your success.

Culture is Learned. People learn to perform certain behaviors through either the rewards or negative consequences that follow their behavior. When a behavior is rewarded, it is repeated and the association eventually becomes part of the culture. A simple thank you from an executive for work performed in a particular manner, molds the culture.

Culture is Learned Through Interaction. Employees learn culture by interacting with other employees. Most behaviors and rewards in organizations involve other employees. An applicant experiences a sense of your culture, and his or her fit within your culture, during the interview process. An initial opinion of your culture can be formed as early as the first phone call from the Human Resources department.

Sub-cultures Form Through Rewards. Employees have many different wants and needs. Sometimes employees value rewards that are not associated with the behaviors desired by managers for the overall company. This is often how subcultures are formed, as people get social rewards from coworkers or have their most important needs met in their departments or project teams.

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