Why Organisational Culture Matters
Organizational culture, regardless of institution types, denotes group norms of behaviour and shared values. This culture is what keeps those norms in place within an organizational entity. Organizational culture is directly linked to ethics where the culture is meant to guide employees when facing ethical dilemmas at the workplace. Ethics concerns an individual´s perception of what is right and wrong. Organizational culture forms internal processes, such as management of human resources, finance and decision making procedures in which its leadership bear a particular responsibility to ensure ethical organizational behaviour internally and externally. As an employee, addressing unethical organizational behaviour can be unpleasant or worst case cost ones job, career and reputation. With this in mind – do we see what we want to see or are we strong enough to address obvious unethical practises?
Naturally, any organization will to the extent possible publicly profile social responsibility, transparent management and ethics – all of which are considered ´adequate´ qualities by modern organizations. An organization may have formal mechanisms in place forming important parts of organizational culture – giving the impression of ethical organizational behaviour and action. Yet, actual practise and internal processes might deviate substantially from the public image the organization is marketing itself with. “Business as usual” can mean maintaining an unethical status quo environment, especially for those sitting comfortable in positions. Realizing this, an organization can act ethically only if its leaders enforce ethical values into the organization.
There are cases where organizational culture and ethics differs across the different levels, in particular where management operate to different ethics as apposed to the average employee. While there might be several reasons for unethical practise amongst managers, most commonly this relates to managers being unwilling or unable to behave ethically. Influenced by this, others might follow – unconsciously or as a coping strategy. Over time, past unethical practise might become so embedded in organizational leadership practise that it is difficult to change status quo. If addressing unethical behaviour involves massive organizational changes one can expect resistance and cover-ups.
Why is organizational culture so important? In our opinion it has as much to do with the impact organizations exert on the society, as it has to do with internal work relations and how leaders influence their employees. Whether we talk about state leaders or business leaders, ethics guiding their actions will leave a heritage impacting the society and ultimately whole populations. Most people need guidance, but not just of any kind. Intervening to combat or end unethical behaviour is more about the person you are than about anything else, and while this might have a substantial impact on your comfort zone – you would still know you made the right choice. Surely this would be preferred to a situation where one is no longer capable of recognizing when an ethical decision is needed and what an ethical decision would be?