Organizational Behavior in Business.

Introduction

Culture, organizational and national, has a great impact on every organization and its effective performance. In the pursuit of our everyday tasks and objectives, it is all too easy to forget the less rational and instrumental, the more symbolic social tissue around people that gives a meaning to everyday life. In order for people to function within any given setting, they must have a continuing sense of what that reality is all about in order to be acted upon. As previously mentioned culture could be characterized as a system of intersubjectively accepted meanings operating for a given group at a given time. This system of terms, forms, categories and images interprets people’s own situation to themselves. Symbols may consist of objects which point at something beyond themselves.

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So, for instance, a red light means that a person should stop his or her car, and it is possible to make people risk their lives under the banner of their national flag. However, symbols are more than that. In fact, every system, every seating arrangement, every visit can be seen as symbolic behavior. Each day can be looked at as a new scenario; each meeting a new setting for dramatic action. No events and no players are then too trivial to ignore in the great symbolic drama of a successful corporation. Following Jones (2006: 113) “A multicultural society might be interesting environment in which to live, but when it comes to work, homogenous cultures are more likely to generate optimal profitability”. This statement is true because organizations are based on unique but similar and homogeneous values, traditions and strategic goals, and multicultural or multidimensional environments bring disagreement and conflicting situations which hare difficult to manage.

Following Hofstede there are similarities between culture and personality as well as differences. Culture and personality are occasionally hard to separate. They interact and cultural traits can sometimes be measured by personality tests (Hofstede, 1980, p. 26). Some authors claim that organizations can be talked about as warm, aggressive, friendly, open, innovative, or conservative, as well as about individuals. This comes very close to what has been previously referred to as culture. However there are important distinctions between personality and culture. At the level of an individual, personality is a more integrated part of a person than is his or her culture (Olson & Torrance 1996). The former is more difficult to divert from, as it is a more intimate part of his or her identity. Somebody, for instance, who is calm and thoughtful may have problems in behaving in a lively and excitable way. It is, on the other hand, relatively easier for him or her to break a cultural rule (Feely & Harzing 2008). Whether this can be done easily or not is partly a matter of what characterizes a specific personality and a specific culture, of course. However, more importantly, it does not mean that culture is something that. can be shaken off whenever you want to, particularly if culture is considered to be mainly nonconscious. Nor is personality easy to change in practice. Suppose a person throughout his or her life has believed that humankind is basically good. Such a person cannot simply change his or her opinion for a more cynical one claiming that good or evil depend on circumstances (Bhaskaran & Sukumaran 2007).

Jones is right that homogeneous culture is better for organizational success because cultures are not individuals: they are integrated wholes, and their logic cannot be understood in terms used for the dynamics of individual personalities. Intersubjective logic differs from subjective logic (Feely & Harzing 2007). A sociological context can, for instance, be separated from a psychological context in organizations. Based on the idea that a culture is reflected in its language, a person would not have to spend more than a few hours in each company to feel the difference (Fish, 2008).

Language is closely related to culture. It may even be referred to as a ‘mirror of culture’. Language consists of arbitrary symbols with meanings that, like other cultural manifestations, must be learned and that, when following certain rules, can convey complex messages (Sorrentino & Higgins 1986). Language does not only mean words that can be spoken; there are also nonverbal aspects of language. Messages are conveyed by words used, by how the words are spoken (for example, tone of voice), and through nonverbal means such as gestures, body position and eye contact. In fact, it has been suggested that only about 30 per cent of communication between people in the same speech community is verbal in nature. Nonverbal aspects of language also display a certain arbitrariness. It is, therefore, not surprising that the same nonverbal cue may carry with it very different meanings in different cultures and that different nonverbal cues may carry the same meaning in different cultures (Senior, 2002).

A fundamental tenet of anthropology is that there is a close relationship between language and culture. It is generally held that it is impossible to understand a culture and its manifestations fully without taking into account its language (which is also a cultural manifestation); and it is equally impossible to understand a language well outside its cultural context. Language is a patterned unity greater than any of the individuals who participate in it. At the same time, language is one of the most intimate and significant constitutive features of human beings. People not only speak in that language, but think in it as well. Its categories are what each individual has available for conceptualizing and understanding the world; its framework: is the basis for all but the most basic and inarticulate of people’s thoughts (Vygotsky 1978). What can be said and thought is very largely determined by the language: available. If there is no language to describe matters and events, they may not even be noticed in the first place.

People become the particular persons they are as they grow up because of the language community in which they grow up. The same is, of course, true of most cultural patterns: people become a certain person, with certain language, table manners, carriage, style of humor, taste in food and so on infinitely, all by being shaped by one culture and its manifestations rather than another. The culture, like the language that carries it, is first imposed on the individual from the outside, but eventually it becomes a part of his or her very self (Hofstede & Bond 1988). The categories of a language are not formally experienced as a constraint on an individual’s ability to think or to express themselves; on the contrary, they are the very means that enable an individual to think articulately and to express themselves. One insight that this model or interpretation of language membership suggests, then, is that customary distinctions between individual and society, between the self and some larger whole to which it belongs, are not fixed, mutually exclusive dichotomies. Rather, they concern different aspects of, different perspectives on, a single reality. Society is not just ‘outside’ the individual, confronting him or her, but inside him or her as well, part of who he or she is. All individuals in their relationships, including relationships with the past, constitute society. Who an individual is both distinguishes him or her from all others and relates him or her to them. And language both exemplifies that duality and is its instrument (Bhaskaran & Sukumaran 2007).

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These contradictions can be taken care of in a culture. Because of people’s basic need for order and consistency, assumptions (in an interaction with other people) become patterned into cultural wholes, which tie together the basic assumptions about humankind, nature and our activities. “A culture is a set of interrelated assumptions that form a coherent pattern” (Schein, 1984, p. 4) and it may even contain assumptions which are mutually incompatible or inconsistent. For example, a group may believe that all good ideas ultimately come from individuals, but at the same time assume that groups can be held responsible for the results obtained, or that individuals should prioritize group loyalty. Culture gives an individual an anchoring point, an identity, a world view, but also codes of conduct. Culture powerfully influences everything from the materialistic to the spiritual. Even such a basic biological need as food has been cast into culturally defined recipes and menus and has acquired definite psychological dimensions that differ across countries. However, similar manifest cultural contrasts exist in all basic aspects of life, such as clothing, furniture and games. What people consider important or unimportant becomes dictated by culture (Jackson 1999).

It is important to take into account the fact that a corporation’s culture is reflected in the attitudes and values, the management style, and the problem-solving behavior of its people. It gives employees a sense of how to behave, what they should do and where to place priorities in getting the job done — how to fill in the gaps between what is formally decreed and what actually takes place. In addition it embodies what it takes to succeed in the broader social and business environment in which the company operates. One of the most interesting aspects of culture (maybe the most interesting one for those who research and practice business) is that it cannot be avoided, and that it paramount determines our behavior — normatively. In the centre, systems of societal norms, values and assumptions (here at the level of a nation) can be found, shared by major groups of the population (Reithel, 2007). These originate from various ecological factors. In turn, these societal norms lead to the development and pattern maintenance of various societal institutions. Those institutions will have a strong normative bearing by reinforcing the existing systems of norms, values and assumptions, and vice versa. Systems of norms, values and assumptions of major groups of population have a strong normative bearing on how the societal institutions will operate. Change comes mainly from outside. However, nothing will happen unless interpretation and creation of meaning takes place by some members of the nation in interaction with each other (Gundling 2007).

Note that the arrow of outside influences is directed at the origins, not at the societal norms themselves. Norms, values and assumptions rarely change by directly adopting them from outside, but rather through a shift in ecological conditions — they may be technological, economical, hygienic, or a combination. At the organizational (business) level, the dominant model or interpretation of culture is also to see behavioral patterns being underpinned by strong social sanctions (norms, rules and values in some kind of constitutive mechanisms) which provide the normative glue of corporate culture. At any rate, now that the concept of ‘culture’ is popular, most attempts to define organizational culture have left managers in practice, who have tried it, at a loss. The usual outcome of such attempts is a list of eight to ten phrases describing the informal rules that govern the interaction of members on a management team (Zhang et al 2007). This may appear useful until an attempt is made to live the message of the pervasiveness of culture in everyday business life.

The specific nature of culture is understood differently among theorists as well. They have one thing in common, though. They may call themselves cognitive, symbolic, structuralist, or psychodynamic theorists, but by using culture as a metaphor, they all consider organizations as a particular form of human expression. This is different from the views derived from the machine and organism metaphors often being used in management, which encourage theorists to see organizations as purposeful instruments and adaptive mechanisms. Culture consists of basic human norms, values and assumptions. These norms, values and assumptions have been developed (and are developing) intersubjectively. Even if they must provide meaning for carriers to be of any significance, they are still mainly nonconscious. They have an impact on behavior, organizational (or equivalent) climate, and other cultural manifestations, but they are nonmaterial and nonbehavioural in themselves (Zhang et al 2007).

The main problem with cultural diversity is that national cultures can be discussed on their own but they are also part of corporate cultures; the former are introduced into the latter by people, being members of both. It is still a valid question to discuss how national cultures influence business leadership. The result is that culture belongs to a whole group, not to its individuals, and we cannot avoid it. It paramount determines our behavior, at the same time as it gives us an anchoring point, an identity, a social place and a world view. Because of the human need for order and consistency, our basic assumptions about humankind, nature and social activities become patterned into what may be called cultural ‘paradigms’ (Schein, 1984); these assumptions form a coherent pattern. This pattern or framework is used to structure. experience — to give meaning to thoughts and actions. It is transmitted in many ways, including long-standing and often unwritten rules, shared standards and even prejudices.

Within this general understanding of what culture means, it can be defined as being slightly different from one situation to another. Every such definition becomes, at least partly, a theory, a model or an interpretation (depending oil your basic attitude to what research is for), and it suits a purpose. This is also consistent with a common understanding that, whether culture is broadly or narrowly defined, it includes basic norms, values and assumptions of a human group, organization or nation (Kitsantas, 2004). Language is a mirror of culture, not part of culture itself. Another dimension of culture is to clarify how deep-seated its shared qualities are. Values, for instance, can appear or be hidden at various levels of depth (Brown & Collins 1989). It the conscious level, or close to it, they may appear as behavioral norms. At a somewhat deeper level lie the hidden assumptions — the fundamental beliefs behind all decisions and actions — that might be nonconscious cornerstones of culture. This does not prevent this philosophy from reflecting those values, of course. Values come from experience, from testing what does and does not work in the economic environment. This experience may once have been openly expressed, but forgotten (McCarthy, 1998).

Shared values act as a kind of informal control system that tells people what is expected of them. In doing so, values can be more or less pervasive in the sense of being shared by many or a few, and strong in the sense of being felt more or less intensively. Pervasive and strong values may affect performance positively by increasing dedication and pointing at what should be given extraordinary attention. However, pervasive and strong values can also have a negative effect: they may be inconsistent, may become obsolescent and/or may lead to a massive resistance to change, even if change is needed. Values are important in day-to-day business. What brings values to life, however, is the awareness of everyone in the organization of them and why they are important. Values alone are not enough, it is the extensive sharing of them that makes a difference (Courtney, 2002).

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Believing that people are a company’s greatest resource and acting accordingly means, among other things, to keep in mind the implicit, but powerful, force of values shared by the members of the organization of a company (which in turn shape the behaviour of its individuals and groups) and to realize that managing people is not through (or at least not directly through) memos from budget meetings or computer reports, but through the subtle cues of a culture. All too often, the tools of management are seen and acted upon in technical rather than symbolic terms. Great firms tend to do an artful job of blending explicit procedures and formal controls with implicit social controls. Managing corporate cultures is possible, especially as we continue to improve our understanding of this important concept (DiMaggio, 1997).

Summary

In sum, homogeneous culture is better for organization and its performance because there is a social web, which includes shared meanings, in every organization, and changing meanings is a communication process. The participants of this process seek to convey their message in a variety of mutually reinforcing ways. Some are continually more sensitive to the constructions that are placed on words and actions than others. They are also more convincing in their language play. They may be called ‘change agents’. Organizations can be seen as full of symbols. In fact, structure and strategy may be more symbolic than substantive. The primary means of communication within an organization is its informal network; it ties together all parts of, for instance, a corporation without respect to position or titles. This network is important because it not only transmits information but also interprets the significance of this information for employees. Corporations are different from each other.

With an open mind and with some observational skill it is easy to get a feel for how different cultures are manifest in various organizations by spending a day in each. There are trivial patterns such as variations in dress, jargon and style, but something else is going on as well. There are characteristic ways of, for instance, making decisions, relating to bosses and choosing people to fill key jobs. The prevailing beliefs of defenders are essentially conservative, where low-risk strategies, secure markets and well-tried potential solutions are valued. In contrast, prospectors’ dominant beliefs are more related to innovation and to breaking new ground. Here management tends to go for higher-risk strategies and new opportunities. organization are also manifest more widely. For example, stories in defenders are typically about historical stability and consensus whereas in prospectors they are about growth and change, with tales of dissension rather than consensus.

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