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Is Culture in Organizations Shaped By Managers?

We have often heard that the culture of an organization is shaped by how managers create an environment of trust and respect. Apart from the artifacts, espoused values and assumptions at the workplace the role of communication is often undervalued. I am inviting your to reflect on the following conversation (this is a real episode) and share your perspectives on what can be done to improve or rather save the culture of this organization.

Anil, the internal communicator with Insight Ltd., can’t believe what he is seeing or hearing. His team leader Neha is expecting the team to toe her line or get into her bad books. Her tantrums at the workplace have caught other peoples’ attention but they can’t muster courage to let her know how her behavior is impacting the organization. The reason: her affinity to certain leadership within the organization and clout she has garnered.

Every attempt by Anil to prove his worth by delivering quality work isn’t getting him any recognition or brownie points with Neha. His colleague Akash seems to have however got a good measure of what Neha expects. He has often been spotted carrying her bag to her desk and taking his dog to her house on weekends so that her child can play with it.

Anil decides to have a conversation with Akash and find out what is he is really seeing what he is seeing.

Anil: “Hey, not sure if I am getting this – I was hired to bring in fresh perspectives on how we communicate and engage staff but I am not sure people are seeing the value of my work. Am I doing something wrong?”

Akash: “Look. This is how things work – you know how Neha is. She is the leader in the team and her word counts. She has the right people backing her. I would say that she is on a fast track for growth and akin to a locomotive express. I would catch this moving train and be successful. Why rub her the wrong way?”

Anil: “Akash – is this the culture the organization wants to promote? Everyone knows her true mettle and her character. What baffles me is why no one seems to take cognizance?”

Akash: “Culture varies by company. This is how it is here. They may say many things about values and respect but what matters is what the manager does to you. if you are not in her good books you are toast.”

Anil: “That explains why Anita was asked by Lina to dress more like Neha. They want to ape her style! This is ridiculous. Are they even aware of how to effectively communicate internal communication messages? When do they get time to focus on work when they are playing these petty games?”

Akash: “Take a chill pill. I get my share of angry outbursts too from Neha but I learn to live with it. I need to keep my job.”

Anil knows this place isn’t what it spelt out to be and walks back to his desk thinking of his options. He can toe the line but erode his values. He can be the best at work he does and keep his head held high. What should he do?

Think also about:

–          Do cultures get shaped by how managers communicate with staff?

–          How can organizations ensure some bad apples don’t ruin the culture?

–          What can Anil do considering his situation?


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2 thoughts on “Is Culture in Organizations Shaped By Managers?

  1. Corporate culture in simple terms can be defined as how things get done around a place or the attitude and the atmosphere of the place. More precisely it is the values and beliefs which underpin how a company operates.
    In my opinion, corporate cultures percolate from the top. A lot depends on whether the leaders walk the talk. I’m not trying to defend Neha but I’m not sure if it’s singularly Neha’s fault. That is probably the way her leaders behave with her, though in today’s age and time she should know that her behaviour is not professional.

    Neha seems to exude the attitude – ‘It is my way or the highway’. She seems to have an elevated sense of authority and knowledge. She gets away with this kind of behaviour in the organisation because
    • the leadership in the company isn’t exhibiting the right values
    • The company doesn’t seem to have strong 360 degree feedback for managers, or this would have brought out by her peers
    • The company doesn’t have a clear culture or Neha is clearly misinterpreting the culture

    Coming to Anil I’m not sure having an open conversation is going to help, because Neha’s behaviour is deliberate. May be he should look at doing a dip stick or an audit on what the company’s culture is, present his results to the leadership and put together a plan on how the company’s culture can be defined better or revitalised. If the company already has its values and beliefs and it is only a matter of revitalising, he will need the leadership to walk the talk. He should do this obliquely, without any direct reference to his boss’s behaviour Having said that I’m not sure, how he is going to get buy in from his boss Neha.

    After giving that a try, it he does not get any buy-in he should just look for another opportunity where his skills could be best put to use. He definitely should not erode his values and his vision of IC.He should continue to do the best he can and maybe look for a change but make sure that he does his homework this time around by studying the culture of the prospective new company and the work style of his new boss.

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