Culture and Climate Defined

Culture is the system of permissions and taboos of an organization, often seen through behavior and values.  While there are usually attempts to shape culture, it most often is simply an adoption by employees of the values of the founder(s) and the current executive leaders.  It will always exist in matters of degree along these dimensions:

  • Hierarchical / Authoritarian vs. Egalitarian / Democratic
  • Tightly Structured vs. Loosely Structured
  • Rigid (bureaucratic) vs. Flexible (ad hoc)
  • Formal vs. Informal
  • Tolerance for Ambiguity vs. Need for Controlled Certainty
  • Passiveness – Aggressiveness
  • Task-focus vs. People-focus
  • Standards for Quality (some industries require more precision than others)
  • Standards for Performance [perfectionism] (some organizations just have higher standards than others)
  • Honesty / Integrity vs. Opportunistic Misrepresentation
  • Manipulative & Covert vs. Open & Transparent
  • Individualism vs. Collectivism
  • Solution-Focused vs. Problem-focused vs. Blame-Focused
  • Earning vs. Entitlement

Climate follows the values and behaviors of individual leaders.  Because most managerial leaders possess some if not most of the values of the headquarters, climate can can be thought of as sub-culture, or “culture on a smaller scale,” such as in a functional department or on a project team.

While a functional department may have many of the same ideals and goals of the corporate culture, it can sometimes be substantially different due to the influence of the local managers-in-charge, as well as the demands of the function.  A marketing department will have different sub-culture from the logistics department.

The further distance a unit of an organization is from the main decision-makers, the more likely it will be to have its own sub-culture.  This is merely due to the lessened interaction with top management which reinforce the values/culture of the organization.

Climate can be assessed as matters of degree of these factors:

  • Tightly Structured vs. Loosely Structured
  • Tempo or Pace of Work
  • Hierarchical / Authoritarian vs. Egalitarian / Democratic
  • Rule-Abiding vs. Rule-Bending
  • Standards for Quality
  • Standards for Performance
  • Task-focus vs. People-focus
  • Obligations of Managers to Employees
  • Norms about the “balance” of work-life
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