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What Are the Different Theories of Organizational Culture?

An organizational chart.
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  • Written By: Osmand Vitez
  • Edited By: PJP Schroeder
  • Last Modified Date: 22 March 2014
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Organizational culture is the atmosphere that pervades the interior of a company or association. Theories of organizational culture attempt to explain the phenomena that occur in and around individuals. The conceptual study regarding organizational culture is often called the phenomenon of interest. Rather than a mathematical formula, the study of organizational culture includes shared understanding, intangible values and assumptions, and the effects culture has on human behavior. Understanding the phenomenon of organizational culture allows companies to strengthen their working environments.

The study of theories of organizational culture is often difficult due to the lack of concrete evidence on various cultures. Analysts often use historical clues to determine how organizational culture evolved. For example, the industrial age had many companies that were manufacturing or production-style businesses. The organizational culture present in those companies was certainly different than the companies present in the information age. Studies on organizational culture can also discover flaws present in the current culture phenomena.

A shared understanding of organizational culture is one of the different theories among private and public sector organizations. Individuals in a company often hire like-minded individuals in order to promote a specific, well-defined purpose. This allows the business or organization to have a singular focus in terms of culture. Theories on organizational culture typically have different overall corporate mind-sets, such as ethics, profits, or philanthropy. The shared characteristics only change through time when hiring managers replace older workers.

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Intangible characteristics in organizational culture include values, assumptions, and norms. Theories of organizational culture define these characteristics differently depending on the mission of each organization. For example, each country often has a societal norm in terms of culture. These norms affect the internal culture of many organizations and the individuals who work for the businesses. Attempting to change an organizational culture contrary to the societal norms can often be difficult or impossible.

The effects on human behavior are another aspect of understanding theories of organizational culture. Most individuals still retain specific internal values or beliefs; how these work in an organization with a contrary culture is often an interesting study. When few options exist for these individuals to find a similar corporate belief system, the effect on their behavior helps define the changes in individuals and organizations. Human interaction between employees and customers with different beliefs outside the organizational culture is also a study in this theoretical method.

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