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Culture used by itself refers to the collective institutions, art, beliefs, attitudes, behaviors, values, and products of human beings. Subcategories of the overarching culture of humanity are generally connected with places, ethnicities, and periods. Company culture, also referred to as work culture, corporate culture, and organizational culture — though the latter is a somewhat broader term — names the beliefs, attitudes, behaviors, and values that develop specific to a company, as a subset of the culture of the national or ethnic culture in which it exists. Company culture serves both to define and to separate a company from other companies.
All companies have a culture, whether it is recognized and consciously shaped or not. A company culture can benefit a company or be detrimental, depending on what it is. A company culture is responsible for how things are done at the company, including what decisions are made and how they’re made. Although the company culture is initially established through the company’s mission and the founders’ implementation, as the company grows, everyone in the company comes to have an influence of some degree on the company culture.
A company may be more or less conscious of its own culture and strive with greater or less intent to create a certain type of culture. One company that is very invested in its own culture is Google. On the “Corporate Culture” page of its website, it announces that some of the reflections of its culture include localization of the décor in each office rather than identical offices worldwide; well-stocked break rooms; a variety of healthy dining areas within the building; exercise areas and classes, as well as pianos and foosball tables; plenty of laptops and hardly any solo offices; relaxing accoutrements, including massage chairs, inflatable balls, and dogs. A look at Google’s corporate philosophy — which includes statements like “You can be serious without a suit” shows a coherence between Google’s mission and its culture.
Whether the company is structured in a strict hierarchy, how departments inter-relate, and how work teams are formed are all part of the company culture. The accessibility of the top executives and whether they stay in their offices or are seen throughout the building is another aspect of the culture. Company culture determines the appropriate attire at the job, as well as at the job interview. It also determines things like the hours one is expected to work, whether flextime or telecommuting is possible, and what happens to unused vacation at the end of the year. For all these reasons, assessing a company’s culture is an important step for a potential employee to take as he or she considers applying for or accepting a position at an organization.