Alvin left his job at Hewlett-Packard to join a small company as its marketing manager. It seemed like the perfect position for him, as it offered the pay and the duties he wanted. A month into the job, Alvin began having difficulty getting the reports he needed for his own forecasting and trends reporting. In six months, he had failed miserably in achieving his targets. He also had problems with his staff and other employees. He had never encountered interpersonal problems with anyone in HP, he was wondering why he found it difficult to motivate his staff, and communicate with colleagues. In less than a year, Alvin quit his new job. He failed to fit into the corporate culture, undermining his abilities and efforts.
Corporate culture is the shared beliefs, assumptions and values of a company that impacts its decisions, communications and behaviors, making the company unique and distinguishable from other companies (Keup, et. al., 2001, Readiness and Responsiveness section, para. 1). By this definition, one can surmise that corporate culture is everything that is commonplace within the organization, from what the employees believe in, to what the management emphasizes, and the organization’s dynamics and how it changes over time. It could explain why team members gather around the water dispenser, in a familial culture; or why some negative workplace behavior exists like bullying and back-biting for some.
Corporate culture is an abstract thing, and most organizations have a hard time pinning it down. There are, however, some existing classifications of corporate culture. Keup and her fellow researchers cites some studies’ classification of institutional culture as collegial, leadership, meritocratic or elite (2001, Readiness and Responsiveness section, para. 2).
Tony DiRomualdo writes that when corporate culture produces and encourage positive behavior, it can put the company apart from its competition (DiRomualdo, 2005, para. 2). For example, having a corporate culture has given Southwest Airlines a clear direction for hiring its people. The company only hires people who have positive attitudes and are cause-oriented, as they are the only ones who are open and ready to create a company culture that the management desires. Southwest also puts a premium on communicating the desired set of values they want to promote. As a result, Southwest is the only airline to turn in a profit at a time when competitors were floundering or going bankrupt (Auxillium West, undated, paras. 4-6).
In turn, a malformed corporate culture could have a reverse effect on the organization. Corporate culture can create conflicting values, and dysfunctional behaviors (DiRomualdo, 2005, para. 2). A strong negative corporate culture can undermine even the most well-meant changes. When established cultures are being questioned or challenged, the people who hold these cultures and values will see it is as a threat, and will only resist the changes (Keup, et. al, 2001, Resistance section, para. 2). As in the above example shows, Alvin’s initiatives and efforts were undermined by the existing corporate culture that underscored the organization’s inefficiencies and resulted in missed targets, and loss of top talent.
Another disadvantage of having a set and strong corporate culture is seen more clearly between two companies. At a time when mergers, acquisitions, collaborations and globalization are setting the pace and standards in any successful business, having a strong corporate culture could get in the way of working together. A New York Times article illustrates this point. With a bitter history of failures and differences in cultures, tech firms in Silicon Valley and entertainment companies in Hollywood are now looking for a collaboration to bring movies and films to mobile phones, homes, and other platforms. While Hollywood has its eyes set for the short-term, Silicon Valley is looking at the long-term. Hollywood talents are so used to the idea that they will have fat paychecks after filming concludes, programmers, on the other hand, accept equity in lieu of a paycheck. Failures in Movieland almost always means a death sentence, in Silicon Valley, it is an opportunity to learn. The article cites a lot of examples of Hollywood and Silicon Valley relations that turned sour, including Lloyd Braun’s relationship with Yahoo, Will Ferrell and the venture capitalist who backed funnyordie.org, among other anecdotal examples.
Understanding corporate culture is the key to success, be it for employees, managers, consultants, even the organization itself. As in Alvin’s case, he did not lack the skills and the expertise to succeed, but he did not take into consideration the company’s culture. Susan Bryant, writing for Internet job portal, Monster.Com, advises that since corporate cultures are largely unwritten, it helps for one to ask about a prospective employer’s culture before jumping in. This may include the company’s mission, vision, and goal statements, as well the informal culture such as the traits and personality that would fit right in, working environments, the way management recognizes achievements and values transparency (Bryant, undated, paras. 3-16).
Corporate culture is also closely tied to organizational change: it’d be almost impossible to institute sweeping changes that affect the entire company without looking at its culture first, taking it into consideration, and perhaps using it as a tool for implementing change (Keup, et. al., 2001, Conclusion).
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Paying special attention to corporate cultures could very well be the difference between a successful company and a floundering one. We have seen that it might be difficult to pinpoint, and therefore manage, corporate culture. However, ignoring it would mean that the organization would not be able to use it for its own advantage. What’s more, understanding corporate culture is also a key ingredient in instituting successful organizational changes. Corporate culture is, or should be, the first on the list of things to consider, both from the organization’s and its members’ view points.
Bryant, Susan. “The Corporate-Culture Conundrum” Retrieved on June 9, 2008 from Monster.Com. Web site: http://career-advice.monster.com/job-search-essentials/The-Corporate-Culture-Conundrum_2/home.aspx
“Corporate Culture” Retrieved on June 9, 2008 from Auxillium West. Web site: http://www.auxillium.com/culture.shtml
DiRomualdo, Tony. (2005). “Why corporate culture counts” Retrieved on June 9, 2008 from Wisconsin Technology News. Web site: http://wistechnology.com/articles/1973/
Keup, Jennifer R., Walker, Arianne A., Astin, Helen S., Lindholm, Jennifer A. (2001). “Organizational Culture and Institutional Transformation.” ERIC Clearinghouse on Higher Education. Retrieved June 9, 2008 from ERIC Digest. Web site: http://www.ericdigests.org/2003-1/culture.htm
Holson, Laura. (2008). Bridging the Gap, the Sequel. Retrieved on on June 9, 2008 from New York Times. Web site: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/04/15/technology/15hollywood.html?_r=1&oref=slogin