7 Organizational Culture

(Martin and Siehl 1983)


  • based on history, members can behave and expected to behave
  • help construct common value for employees.
  • control mechanisms which dictate patterns of behavior

culture can hardly be under control, not monolithic phenomenon

3 levels of culture:

  • basic assumptions
  • values/ideology
  • artifacts (e.g., stories, rituals, dress): express values
  • management practices (e.g., training program).

Types of subcultures:

  • enhancing: same position
  • orthogonal: unrelated position
  • counterculture: opposite position: “most likely to arise in a strongly centralized institution that has permitted significant decentralization of authority to occur” (e.g., GM’s culture: team players, loyalty, “refrigerator story”), balancing act must be taken to manage counter culture and dominant culture

(Dixon and Dougherty 2009) multiple meanings of organizational culture

Consulting method: in-depth and focus group interviews with student staff, artifact analysis, and observation of organization staff meetings and retreats

Common terms did not mean the same thing. 2 different fields: organizational communication, and higher education.

  • Organization culture: “German approach, based in phenomenological/Interpretive epistemology.” culture is the product of symbolic interaction. Scholars tries to understand the role of human interaction. organizational culture is not easily manipulated by managers. " organization is a culture". purposes:
    + increasing productivity
    + understanding organizational processes
    + critiquing oppressive organizational practices.
  • organizational culture: American approach to study organizational variable that affect organizational effectiveness. “organization has a culture.” can be quantified, and manipulated.
    + Institution can be measured: dynamism vs. stability and internal vs. external focus.

two subculture: First-born (tradition, consensus) and Youngest (debate, and new ideas)

The problem stems from different discipline understanding of “culture,” there was a rejection of the definition by organizational communication scholars.

" Rather than positing that there is one “right” concept, we would encourage other consultants to proactively discuss with clients, what key terms mean to them in the particularity of their context, as a means of creating a “shared discursive” reality."

(Leonardi and Jackson 2008) mergers between two technology companies

cultural studies of postmerger integration

A core technology is “the primary technology produced, serviced, or sold by an organization.”

technological grounding suggests that “an organization’s core technologies are, along with the work and communication practices enacted daily by members, a constitutive feature of its culture”

two dominant perspectives for understanding culture that exist in organizational literature:

  • as a variable that can be changed.
    + technology is a variable . The two variables are distinct and can be either internal or external based on researchers’ perspective.
  • culture is organization.
    + in postmerger, organizations face cultural convergence. + technology is not a variable but a practice. + “When technologies are sufficiently important to an organization to become key elements in the constitution of a culture, we refer to that organization as technologically grounded.” (a continuum not dichotomy).
    + “technological incompatibility implies the incompatibility of organizational cultures and practices”

Method: a single case design, embedded design:

levels of analysis
(1) public discourse from company officials about the merger, (2) organizational practices and policies before and after the merger (3) worker responses during postmerger integration

US West built its culture on the West culture use analog data
Qwest built its culture on speed use digital data (all internet protocol - IP)

Qwest consumed US West’s culture (e.g., bureaucracy) due to its technological superiority and cultural superiority in postmerger integration

Qwest shut down US West’s Research Labs.

7.1 4

Chapter 4: Communicating Organizational Culture: A Problem-Solving Model.

Communication: is about creating message, production and reproduction of meaning.

Organizations are communication.

Gestalt Theory (figure and ground): sometimes the important part is thought of as the background

Organizational culture is an active process that shape organizations.

organizational culture is defined “as the shared communicative process through which meanings are constantly employed, negotiated, and contested to create a stable communication environment within which organizational life becomes patterned and persistent over time.”

organizational cultures does not mean shared meaning but shared process of meaning making.

Forms of communication:

  • info sharing
  • message production
  • meaning making

organizational values as “those things, standards, and ideals through which we evaluate our organizational wellbeing.”

Types of values:

  • Personal values
  • Moral values
  • Aesthetic values
  • Status values: power allocation.

Organizational meanings

  • Cognitive meanings
  • Emotional meanings: people might mistakenly consider irrationality as emotionality.
  • Social meanings sensemaking theory
  • Identity meanings cultural contract theory of identity. 3 types of cultural contracts:
    + ready-to-sign contracts: assimilation (physical, behavioral,a nd mental assumption of dominant culture).
    + Quasi-completed contracts: allows adaption
    + Cocreated contracts: mutual valuation.
  • Power meanings
    + can derived from formal hierarchy
    + or from relationships (as opposed to isolation).