What defines corporate culture?

By Angela Stringfellow, special to Workplace Tribes. Angela is a social media strategist, and a public relations and marketing communications consultant.

The age-old question of nature versus nurture is just as pertinent in the business world. Is the culture of a company defined by the very nature of that company, or is it bred and cultivated by those who manage? 

Most successful businesses develop strategies that include their mission, vision, and values, with the hope that their employees with adhere to the organization’s ideals. These guidelines should define the culture the corporation would like to establish, but do they?

Ideally, yes. In the real world, not often. Generally, non-profit organizations are the most successful at sticking to their values. In businesses, culture is dictated by management. 

In the corporate world, the founding fathers and authors of the mission, vision and values tend to be far removed from the field. They’re not able to cultivate their employees to follow their philosophies. That task is often delegated to the administrators, managers and executives who oversee the day-to-day happenings in the company—for better or worse. 

corporate culture honesty

No matter what your corporate culture is,
it’s important to be honest about it.

In companies with a less-than perfect culture, this is often where the breakdown occurs. When management is responsible for creating the environment, employee morale, and overall atmosphere of the office, it’s essential that the managers believe in and adhere to those ideals. When they don’t it can be disastrous.  

In an office where a manager controls through domination and intimidation, the culture created is often one of fear. Instead of employees working to do the best job they can, they work simply to appease management. They perform their duties, walking on egg shells, awaiting their next reprimand.

Management may find a modicum of success, but it’s only temporary as employee morale is quick to diminish and quality employees begin seeking alternative employment. These are the same types of managers who don’t recognize successes or hurdles. They don’t engage their employees on a personal level.

That’s not to say there’s never a time or a place for strict styles of management, but creating a culture of fear is not productive.  

On the flip side, a manager who is too lax creates a very similar outcome, but a much more positive climate. Employees will initially rally around someone who provides freedom and friendship, but in many instances production is compromised by that very freedom. Most employees need some sort of direction and need a boss, not a friend.  

The answer to defining the culture of a company is finding middle managers who understand and innately exude the needed characteristics. It cannot a forced trait one way or  the other. These people truly want the company to be the best, the biggest, number one, or whatever other designation the company seeks.

The best managers know how to foster an environment of success, and lead by example; commanding respect, not demanding it. They are able to find a common ground of control and friendship, interweaving personal relationships with successful business interactions. They find a way to keep employee morale at its highest level much more often than at its lowest.  They make work a place that is not only bearable, but is enjoyed.

So the question should probably be who defines corporate culture, not what defines it. Take a look at your organizational structure. Do you see the atmosphere you’re hoping for? If not, take a closer look at those who are managing, creating or perhaps even dictating that day-to-day environment.


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