What Is Organizational Culture?

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

People in every workplace talk about organizational culture, that mysterious word that characterizes a work environment. One of the key questions and assessments, when employers interview a prospective employee, explores whether the candidate is a good “cultural fit.” Culture is difficult to define, but you generally know when you have found an employee who appears to fit your culture. He just “feels” right.

Culture is the environment that surrounds you at work all of the time. Culture is a powerful element that shapes your work enjoyment, your work relationships, and your work processes. But, culture is something that you cannot actually see, except through its physical manifestations in your work place.

In many ways, culture is like personality. In a person, the personality is made up of the values, beliefs, underlying assumptions, interests, experiences, upbringing, and habits that create a person’s behavior.

Culture is made up of the values, beliefs, underlying assumptions, attitudes, and behaviors shared by a group of people. Culture is the behavior that results when a group arrives at a set of – generally unspoken and unwritten – rules for working together.

An organization’s culture is made up of all of the life experiences each employee brings to the organization.

Culture is represented in a group’s:
• language,
• decision making,
• symbols,
• stories and legends, and
• daily work practices.

Something as simple as the objects chosen to grace a desk tell you a lot about how employees view and participate in your organization’s culture. Your bulletin board content, the company newsletter, the interaction of employees in meetings, and the way in which people collaborate, speak volumes about your organizational culture.

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