Culture goes beyond being from any one place; rather it is a set of values and norms that exist as a code of conduct within a place, both overt and subtle. Depending on how the culture treats its members, it can either be positive or toxic. Within the workplace, some examples of how corporate culture can be seen are how rigid a hierarchy may be, expectations of work etiquette and hours to be put in, and how employees are allowed to express themselves. With multi-national corporations expanding their reach and offices around the globe and skillsets being sourced from afar, workplaces today can be an incredibly diverse cultural setting. While that can be an amazing asset to a team, it can also be a challenge to ensure that various cultural viewpoints co-exist harmoniously. In this two part blog series, we take a look at a few ways in which corporate culture plays out and affects employees socially.  

Company Goals and Structure

The way a company frames its culture often relates to its goals, market and most importantly, leadership. Research around corporate culture has produced a foundation of 4 culture types that most organizations around the world fit into.  

Are you working in a close-knit family style business that centres togetherness and communal efforts? You may be part of a Clan culture.  

Maybe you’re a part of an innovative start-up creating a new product in a high-growth market; you’re encouraged to take risks and plow a brave path forward. This is an Adhocracy culture, and companies like Google and Apple fall into this category.  

Perhaps you’re in a very competitive market space where your company is expected to deliver results relentlessly, and this constant sense of growth, success and performance is key in the culture. This fits into Market culture.  

Lastly, if you feel like your organization has a very defined hierarchical chain, and processes are done by the book to deliver reliable results and stability you could be part of a hierarchy culture.  

There is no ‘correct’ or better structure; it is entirely dependent on the company’s sector for what might work better for them.  However everything in moderation; often times leaning to extremes can cause cultural conflicts that leave employees feeling undervalued, burnt out or unstimulated.  For example, in an Adhocracy culture, although the quality of innovation can make employees feel empowered and excited at being able to take on such creative endeavours and enable further creativity, it can be quite taxing emotionally and physically at the constant instability if the company is focused solely on taking risks on new ideas. In a market culture company, employees may enjoy the idea that they can make their own success by improving their own performance, however this constant pressure to grow can also lead to burn out. Understanding how your workplace operates within these structures can be incredibly insightful; the culture of a company is defined in large part by how conflict is handled. 

Conflict Management and Communication

How conflict is managed in the workplace is in direct correlation with corporate culture; the environment that is fostered can impact how employees feel about voicing their concerns. Social scientists have determined three overarching styles of conflict management; Cooperation, competition and avoidance.  

Cooperators will acknowledge issues as they come up and take a proactive stance in resolving the issue by willingly engaging in collaborative problem solving.

Competitors will attempt to dominate and ‘win’ the conflict, taking the mindset of conflict being a battleground with a decisive ‘eat or be eaten’ stance.  

Avoiders will do the utmost to avoid confrontation in conflict and prefer to suppress notions of conflict.  

Depending on your corporate culture, your workplace is more likely to use a specific conflict management style. For example, in a market culture company it may be the case that a competitive conflict management style is more likely to arise because of the pressure to deliver results – this could extend to feeling the need to be the one to identify solutions to demonstrate competence.  Likewise, in a clan culture where the emphasis is on togetherness, a cooperative conflict management style may be more likely to be adopted. This is of course not conclusive; it is worth also delving deeper into further points like leadership and communication styles to really see how these conflict management styles arise.  

Overall, identifying the culture at your workplace is a good starting point to creating teams and systems that run more efficiently; this can help retain existing talent whilst attracting suitable new hires. It can also be a defining factor that helps customers decide whether you are fit to do business with. Having a healthy corporate culture means having values that can be used as reference points to ensure that the workplace is maintaining a healthy balance towards its goals, whilst also ensuring employees have a benchmark of what they can expect.  

In our next blog, we will be discussing communication issues at the workplace in more depth through the concept of Transactional Analysis.