Conceptualization of terms
The term has its origin from the Latin word cultura which is related to cultus, which can be translated as cult or worship. Members of a cult believe in specific ways of doing things and develop a culture that enshrines those beliefs. Generally the term is very hard to define, however different scholars have been defining the term differently. It is a learned beliefs, values, rules, norms, symbols and traditions that are common to a group of people. Kluckhohn & Strodtbeck, (1961) define culture as a shared, commonly held body of general beliefs and values that define what is right for one group. Both the two definitions agree that culture should a shared beliefs and values which are common to a group of people. Therefore, it is impossible to have culture outside the group of people with a shared goal.
“Organizational culture is a system of shared meaning and beliefs held by organizational members that determines, in large degree, how they act toward each other and outsiders” (Robbins & Coulter, 2007, p. 52). Tosi et al. (1994) considers culture as a pattern way of thinking, feeling and reacting that exists in an organization or its sub-sectors. It refers to the attitudes, values, beliefs, norms and customs which distinguish an organization from others (Carnall, 1995). According to Jacques (1952) organizational culture refers to customary and traditional ways of thinking and doing things noting that new employees must learn to adopt them sufficiently to gain acceptance in the organization.
Therefore, it represents a common perception held by organization’s members that influences how they behave. In every organization there are values, symbols, rituals, myth and practices that have evolved over time. These shared values and experiences determine in a large degree what employees perceive and how they respond to their world. The definitions of culture imply tree things; first culture is a perception which means, individuals perceive the organization culture on the basis of what they see, hear or experience within the organization; two, despite the fact that individuals may have different backgrounds or work at different organizational levels, they tend to describe the organization’s culture in similar terms (that is the shared aspect of culture); and finally, organizational culture is descriptive term. It is concerned with how members perceive the organization, not with whether they like it. It describes rather than evaluates (Robbins & Coulter, 2007).
Characteristics of organizational culture
Kreitner & Kinicki (2007) identified three main characteristics of organizational culture which include the following:
- Organizational culture is passed onto new employees through the process of socialization
- Organizational culture influences our behavior at work
- Organizational culture operates at different levels
How cultures are implanted in organizations
Cultures are promoted in an organization through various ways such as the following:
- Formal statements of organizational philosophy, mission, vision, values and material used for recruiting, selection and socialization.
- The design of physical space, work environments and buildings.
- Deliberate role modeling, training programs teaching and coaching by managers and supervisors.
- Slogans, language, acronyms and sayings.
- Explicit rewards, status symbols (for example, titles) and promotion criteria.
- Stories, legends or myths about key people and events.
- The organizational activities, processes or outcomes that leaders pay attention to measure and control (Kreitner & Kinicki, 2007).
Foundation of Organizational Culture
The founders of an organization traditionally have a major impact on that organization’s early culture (Robbins & Langton, 2000; and Robbins & Coulter, 2007). Therefore, the ultimate source of an organization’s culture is its founders. The founders have a vision or mission of what the organization should be. They are unconstrained by previous customs or ideologies.
The process of organization culture creation occurs in three ways;
- Founders only hire and keep employees who think and feel the way they do.
- The founders indoctrinate and socialize these employees to their way of thinking and feeling.
- The founders own behavior acts as a role model that encourages employees to identify with them and thereby internalize their beliefs, values and assumptions (Robbins & Langton, 2000).
When the organization succeeds, the founders’ vision becomes seen as a primary determinant of that success. At that point the founders’ entire personality becomes embedded in the culture of organization (ibid).