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What Causes Changes in Organizational Culture?

By Erik J.J. Goserud
Updated May 16, 2024
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When entering the workforce, a person may be surprised by the behavioral requirements that exist, depending upon his or her employer. These aspects of workplace culture can greatly affect the happiness, productivity, and overall success of an employee. The culture and overall vibe of an organization can therefore make or break the career experience, which is why it is important to be aware of the numerous factors that create changes in organizational culture. Among these driving forces behind changes in organizational culture are management, organizational attitude, and colleagues.

Managers are responsible for overseeing the employees of an organization and serve to better the efficiency of a business so that it runs like a well-oiled machine. Oftentimes, management is layered so that even general managers have managers above them who review their work. These many layers of management may be responsible for both positive and negative changes in organizational culture.

A laid-back manager, for example, acts differently compared to a strict manager in terms of dress code. The former may not require his or her employees to dress in a particular way as long as they are timely and effective in their work. While this may be beneficial for the employees in many ways, it could also drive the message that management will not regulate certain minute details of company policy. This may change the overall attitude of the company, causing a less serious environment that is not as effective in output as a more regimented one.

The more strict boss, however, could require collared shirts and long pants be worn to every shift of work. If an employee fails to abide by this rule, he or she may perhaps be punished. It is easy to see how the two different workplace philosophies may cause changes in organizational culture.

The overall attitude of an organization, which may itself be affected by the line of work the company is in, may also drive changes in organizational culture. A large bank, for example, is not likely to have the same attitude as a mountain biking company, which can cause environmental differences between the two organizations. When choosing a line of work to go into, a person should evaluate personal characteristics to ensure that they align with a potential employer's in order to produce the best employee–employer fit.

Colleagues may also play a significant role in creating changes in organizational culture. If a person is surrounded by hardworking, driven individuals who genuinely care about the organization's well-being, then they may be more inclined to share such an attitude. The other side of this would be a situation in which colleagues are bitter and do not possess a strong work ethic, perhaps subconsciously contributing to a similar organizational outlook.

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Discussion Comments
By candyquilt — On Jan 29, 2014

Does technology cause changes in organization culture?

By serenesurface — On Jan 29, 2014

@SarahGen-- I agree that administrators and managers impact organizational culture a lot. And employees always prefer the more laid back ones.

But every organization has a reason for why they have the culture that they do. Perhaps more strict organizations had negative experiences in the past. Perhaps they used to be more lenient but saw that employees were taking advantage of this and not working in a disciplined way.

An organization culture is actually not a rigid structure. It's more like an evolving personality. Just as we, as people, learn from our experiences and mistakes and improve ourselves, organizations do the same. An organization will maintain techniques and strategies that are successful and get rid of those that are not.

By SarahGen — On Jan 28, 2014

I think the personalities and worldview of administrators are the main factors affecting organizational culture.

I worked with two research organization recently. Even though the objectives of both organizations were very similar, their cultures were very different. One was very strict and bureaucratic whereas the other one was flexible and easy going. In one organization, I saw my manager three times during my entire time there, whereas in the other one, I could see and chat with my manager every single day. I would even pick up lunch for him sometimes.

It's unbelievable how two similar organizations can be run so differently. Needless to say, I hated working in one and loved working in the other.

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