written by: nataliajones•edited by: Ronda Bowen•updated: 8/5/2010
There is always a relationship between the unique culture developed by an organization and the prevalent attitudes to work. This article looks at just how culture and work place affects performance so these issues are properly dealt with.
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What is Work Place Culture and How is it Determined?
Workplace culture basically refers to "the way things are done around here". Culture is a set of shared ideas, attitudes and beliefs and an organization's culture is forged by a variety of factors including its established policies on anything from an attitude to time-off to the dress code, management styles and practices. Work place culture can sometimes go unnoticed because it is so much ingrained into the system that it simply becomes the system and therefore is difficult to distinguish as a separate entity. To actively evaluate an organization's culture it is sometimes necessary to take surveys and ask questions that can provide the answers to why things are done in the way that they are done, and what would happen if someone decided to veer off-course. One of the important aspects of this analysis is how culture at the work place affects performance.
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How Culture at the Work Place Affects Performance
There are two basic ways how culture at the work place can affect performance; positively and negatively. Each will be examined in turn.
Work Place Culture Can Negatively Affect Performance
If there is a closed style of communication and those at the top layers of management simply send orders down the chain of command there may be a sense of resentment and even a lack of purpose. Employees may not feel like they have the power to influence decisions because they are not a part of the communication process. This may result in decisions being carried out carelessly or not at all because along the way the employee designated to perform the task may not see the importance of it or be able to link his actions as part of a bigger picture. In this instance, the organizational culture does not work in the company's favor because it actually results in a decrease in productivity and performance.
Similarly, overly competitive cultures foster a "performance at any cost" kind of mentality that can also be to the company's overall disadvantage. While some competition is good because it pushes staff to aim for better, too much focus on competitive elements can breed attitudes that result in information hoarding, poor team work and in the end key decisions may be made for the wrong reasons because employees are taught to think too much in terms of what they can accomplish individually, rather than working for the good of the company.
Work Place Culture Can Positively Affect Performance
On the other hand, where employees are encouraged to have pride in their work, to value the contributions of others to the discussion and to constantly work as a team the result can be very different. Work environments that are also more fluid and able to adapt to changes in markets, in technology or to changes in access to information are generally better able to react to these variables and come out on top. These cultures are seen as more desirable because they can improve a company's performance.
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Good and Bad Work Place Culture
Although there are a few basic assumptions that can be made about the desirable aspects of any work place culture, this is by no means a cut and dry issue. Some closed cultures work well in certain industries or companies while information sharing is better in others. While this is so, the discussion above can still provide a framework for how work place culture affects performance in a very general way.