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What Are the Characteristics of Organizational Culture?

Communication, behavior, and how an organization rewards individuals and teams are part of its organizational culture.
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  • Written By: Esther Ejim
  • Edited By: Kaci Lane Hindman
  • Last Modified Date: 14 April 2014
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The characteristics of organizational culture are the components or factors that constitute the very fabric of that particular organizational culture. Generally, the culture of an organization may be described as the way an organization structures itself. It may also be described as the methods an organization employs to carry out its affairs. The characteristics may therefore include aspects like the relationship between employees and employers, whether the organization encourages team players or individual performances, whether the organization encourages its employees to be aggressive or more laid back, and whether the organization is innovative or stable.

Employees and employers, or top management, within every organization have a certain type of relationship. This relationship may be strictly formal, semi-formal or informal. The relationship between workers is one of the characteristics of organizational culture. In organizations with strictly formal relationships between employees and management, there is a separation in the employees' contact with the management. For instance, in a big law firm, summer associates or interns may not have access to the senior partners of the company. The organizational culture in such a place might be one that expects strict formality in the relationship of junior lawyers and senior lawyers and managing partners. On the other hand, an ice cream store might have the opposite organizational culture. The employees, ranging from the cashiers to the delivery people might have open and free access to the manager of the ice cream store.

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Another aspect that is a part of the characteristics of organizational culture is the degree of inventiveness or innovativeness of an organization. A company that is known for taking risks and being a leader in pioneering efforts in its related field might establish something to this effect as part of the characteristics of organizational culture. For example, a high tech company that is known for making the very best phones with the very latest technology has formed innovativeness and pioneering efforts as part of its organizational culture. This characteristic has been associated with the company to the degree that anytime it is about to launch a new product, people start camping outside the selected stores that will sell the product up to three days before the sale begins. Customers trust their products and believe that it will be worth the long wait.

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