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Organizational Culture and Business Ethics Case Study

Definition of organizational culture

Organizational culture is defined as the values and beliefs associated with a certain organization, the value attached to the work done by employees in the organization and the beliefs of the staff on what is right or wrong for the organization.

Culture is therefore the workplace norms that influence how workers perform their duties. It influences numerous aspects of work like the relationship between workers and management, work enjoyment, and even processes in the workplace (McNamara, n.d. p. 1). The above listed aspects affect the overall output of the organization that in turn affects the organization’s profitability.

It is important to note that culture cannot be seen, but it manifests itself through reprimands, punishments, rewards, compliments and the like. Culture can be compared to personality because it is “made up of the values, beliefs, underlying assumptions, attitudes, and behaviors shared by a group of people” (McNamara, n.d. p. 1).

In an ideal organization, the culture supports a productive and positive work environment for employees and it leads to the overall welfare of the organization. Organizational culture is therefore the organizational rules that ensure that people working in an organization have relatively common goals, behaviors, standards, and values.

Organizational culture brings together the desirable life experiences of the employees of the organization. The founder of the organization is particularly able to influence the culture of the organization significantly. Other people in managerial positions are also able to influence organizational culture significantly.

This is mainly because both have a significant role to play in the decision-making process as well as in strategic planning. It is important to note that the rules that form part of the organization’s culture are, in some cases, unwritten and unspoken (Heathfield, 2013, p. 1).

Organizational culture therefore exhibits itself in the kind of attire worn by employees at work, the organization’s work practices, symbols, decision making, language, and even in stories and legends. Some additional aspects of organizational culture are as discussed below.

Culture describes norms with which people in an organization operate. “Culture cannot be generally described as bad or good, but certain aspects of organizational culture are likely to support success and progress while other aspects of organizational culture can impede progress” (Heathfield, 2013, p. 1).

For instance, a culture in which workers are accountable is likely to lead to organizational success if it has other positive norms. In the same way, if a workplace culture exceptional customer service the organization will most likely have busy employees and increased sales. An organization that tolerates poor performance and indiscipline is likely to be unsuccessful (Heathfield, 2013, p. 1).

An organization becomes used to its culture with time. Employees in an organization cannot adopt a certain culture overnight. They learn the culture of the organization through rewards for positive behavior and negative consequences that result from irresponsible and negative behavior.

Therefore, when management rewards a certain behavior materially or through complements, the behavior is repeated and it eventually becomes part of the organization’s culture (Heathfield, 2013, p. 1). Interaction in the workplace is another way that employees can learn about culture.

In most cases, employees watch as other employees are punished or reprimanded for negative behavior, and as others are rewarded for their positive contributions. This makes the employee aware of the norms governing the organization.

The interview process is yet another opportunity that job applicants experience the different cultures of organizations. It is also possible for a person to form an opinion of an organization’s culture from a telephone call by the Human Resources Department (Heathfield, 2013, p. 1).

As an organization grows, sub-cultures form through rewards. The reason for the growth of sub-cultures is that the desires of managers are not similar to those of employees. The latter may therefore value rewards that managers consider irrelevant for the organization.

People who have their needs met by project teams and departments and those who get rewards from coworkers make their colleagues desire to get the same leading to formation of sub-cultures. Another factor that determines whether sub-cultures grow in an organization is the strength of the predominant culture.

If an organization has a strong culture, employees will agree on it. On the other hand, a weak culture may be rejected by some subsets of the organization like work cells or departments, which may develop their own norms leading to sub-cultures.

Employee personalities and experiences are the building blocks of an organization’s culture (Heathfield, 2013, p. 2). For instance, organizations with ambitious and sociable employees are regarded as having open cultures.

“If an organization hires people who value their culture and history, then the company is likely to have numerous artifacts that depict its values and history, and thus it will have a conservative culture” (Heathfield, 2013, p. 2). On the other hand, an unguarded culture is characterized by an open working environment, but with a number of closed-door meetings.

If a number of employees spread negativity about supervision, then the organization will operate in a culture of negativity (Heathfield, 2013, p. 2). Some of the experiences of employees outside the workplace may also have an influence on how the employees conduct themselves at work.

An organization can therefore have a common culture but different employees will interpret it differently depending on their life experiences. This calls for sensitization of employees about the most important norms like language, customer care, or even dressing.

A single person cannot create a culture; the employees of an organization have to be involved. They must be actively involved in negotiations that lead to formation of an organization’s culture. For instance, they must negotiate for better working conditions, better monetary rewards, for exceptional performance and for more benefits.

On the other hand, managers will be negotiating for norms that will lead to the general success of the organization such as earlier reporting time, more productivity, and better services to customers.

Members of an organization must therefore compromise at one point in order to come up with a beneficial culture for the organization. “Formalizing strategic direction, systems development and establishing measurements must be owned by the group responsible for them. Otherwise, employees will not own them” (Heathfield, 2013, p. 2).

The most difficult aspect of culture to achieve is perhaps a cultural change. Changing an organization’s culture means that all employees have to change how they behave. It has proved to be difficult for employees to unlearn the norms they follow and get used to new norms.

“Persistence, discipline, employee involvement, kindness and understanding, better organization and training can assist you to change a culture” (Heathfield, 2013, p. 2).

From the discussion above, it is clear that defining culture using one single definition is a rather difficult affair. It is also apparent that a productive and positive organizational culture may prove to be elusive for a company. The main issue in definition of culture is that its definition may be based on either its causes or its effects (Scholl, 2003, p. 1).

This discussion has used the former definition of culture because as culture is developed in an organization, it influences behavior. It is however important to note that behavior can potentially influence culture. The development of sub-cultures within an organization’s culture is a good example of how behavior can influence culture.

In creating an organization’s culture, it is important to integrate all aspects of culture like the behavioral influences of culture and the causative effect of behavior on culture formation. This will ensure that the resultant culture gives desirable results for the good of the organization.

For example, organizational culture should be designed in such a way that employees are both productive and happy. This is because “happy employees are not necessarily productive and productive employees are not necessarily happy” (Heathfield, 2013, p. 2). After developing the culture, an organization should ensure that employees abide as much as they can to the norms in the culture.

This will lead to growth of the culture by bringing in new aspects of culture as productive employees become innovative. In the same way, if an organization’s culture proves to be obsolete with time, the organization should change the culture and ensure that they incorporate the new and desirable norms in the organization’s industry. This will give the organization a competitive edge.

The value of organizational culture

About three decades ago, there was increased focus on the development of organizational culture as an element of organizational success. Experts argued that organizations that have a strong culture are more successful than their counterparts that have weak cultures.

This section investigates the value of developing a strong culture within an organization and gives an opinion on whether developing a strong culture is a guarantee to organizational success.

One of the benefits of developing a strong organizational culture is that it unites employees. The employees of an organization normally have different backgrounds, cultures, and traditions. Having a workplace culture makes them understand each other better and it promotes healthy communication, which minimizes conflict in the workplace.

Additionally, an organization having a strong culture is likely to exercise the values of equity and equality. Therefore, all employees have a sense of belonging, which can potentially increase work performance. A strong culture in the workplace gives employees work motivation and loyalty towards the organization’s management. Workers will be eager to be part of the success of the company.

“They feel a higher sense of accomplishment for being part of an organization they care about and work harder without having to be coerced” (Lowe, 2012, p. 1). An organization with a strong culture has a momentum and energy that permeates every department and unit in the organization.

Given the great importance of organizational culture, and the competitive environment in which most organizations operate, organizations should consider having an “organizational development strategy at various workforce departments” (Devis, 2007, p. 1).

The purpose of such a strategy is to address various issues including the workplace culture. This implies that the culture of the organization will be safeguarded from violation and dilution, which ensures that the organization benefits maximally from its culture.

A well-planned culture in the workplace also results in healthy competition among workers. Employees often strive to be recognized by managers. A culture that encourages healthy competition among workers will result in better employee output, which will contribute to the organization’s success.

A workplace culture normally has guidelines that prove to be invaluable to the organization because they give employees focus. This is because “each employee understands what his roles and responsibilities are and how to accomplish tasks prior to established deadlines” (Lowe, 2012, p. 1).

Organizational culture is one of the factors that determine the effectiveness, capacity, and longevity of an organization. It has significant contribution to the promise and the image of the organization. Therefore, an organization’s identity is defined by its culture. The way an organization conducts its business affects its customers and workers alike.

Culture is the main factor determining the way an organization conducts its business (Lowe, 2012, p. 1). The culture of an organization affects the brand by which the organization is known. The implication of the effect of company culture on branding is that organizational culture will affect the manner in which new employees are hired, and it will affect the type of employees who the organization attracts.

“Job seekers look for companies that fit their lifestyles, whether it is flexible hours, financial assistance with continuing education, casual dress codes, international work opportunities or companies boasting amenities such as on-site gyms” (Brookins, 2013, p. 1).

A company whose culture is understood well by its employees will perform well in terms of achieving its goals, maintaining good relationships among employees and satisfying customer needs. Employees in such a company will most likely be loyal to their employer and therefore, they will be committed in their work.

This will make them more productive leading to overall profitability of the organization (Brookins, 2013, p. 1). The culture in any organization could form the thin line between organizational success and failure. Culture plays a key role in determining whether an organization has a healthy and a happy working environment.

By communication and promotion of the vision of the organization to subordinates, a leader is able to influence the attitude and the work behavior of subordinates. When the interaction between top management and other workers is good, there will be productive collaboration and communication.

Subordinates will therefore be encouraged to accomplish the organization’s objectives. This will lead to enhanced job satisfaction and better employee performance, which will in turn make the organization successful.

Despite the great importance of organizational culture, developing a good workplace culture is not sufficient for success. Some organizations tend to rest assured of good performance once they have developed a good workplace culture. This can be an ingredient for disaster since the developed culture may fail to work, while the management of the organization is putting hopes in it.

The best way to ensure that organizational culture works for an organization is to follow up on workplace mannerisms and interactions with a view of making sure that they conform to the workplace culture. Otherwise, the culture will be very different from what is actually taking place in the organization.

The executive team in Dell Corporations developed an organizational culture strategy known as the ‘Soul of Dell’. One of the values contained in the strategy was that employees should behave ethically while conducting business and while interacting with the stakeholders of the corporation.

Unfortunately, this strategy did not completely change the established culture of the corporation. After some time, some executives manipulated the books of the corporation to earn larger bonuses.

The main issue in the case of Dell Corporation is that the company did not align the developed cultural strategy to its identity. Before the development of cultural strategy in an organization, a corporation normally has an identity under which it has been operating. To effect a cultural change well, the developed image of the organization needs t be aligned with the pre-existing cultural identity.

An organization’s overall strategy must also be closely linked with corporate communications. The corporation’s senior management should ensure that it communicates the organization’s strategy to all constituents of the company.

This will ensure a better understanding of the strategy and vision of the company because the subordinates in the organization will learn the values of the corporation from the top-most management in the organization. Another fact about Dell Corporation that is important to highlight is the fact that Dell Corporation relies heavily on electronic communication.

This mode affects personal relationships leading to isolation of employees from their colleagues and from the identity of the company. If a corporation wants to implement its culture effectively, the mode of communication has to be a convenient mode for building relationships and passing important messages about the organization’s strategy.

From the above discussion, it is apparent that organizational culture has an important role in any organization. Culture affects the motivation, energy, loyalty, commitment, and performance of workers. A good culture discourages conflict in the workplace, promotes healthy relationships between employees, and affects the profitability or success of the organization.

Organizational culture affects the capacity, effectiveness and the longevity of an organization. Without a good organizational culture, a company is bound to have cold relationships between employees that may affect the overall output of the company.

An organization without a good cultural strategy is also likely to experience conflicts between employees and management. The implication of the aforementioned conflicts is that people will not work in harmony within the organization. This will ultimately affect the profitability of the organization.

Developing a good organizational culture is not a sufficient condition for the success of an organization. The organization must ensure that there is proper communication among its workers and that its image is aligned to its identity. The purpose of communication and alignment is that employees will learn the new organizational identity and strive to conform to it.

Absence of proper communication will lead to isolation of some employees, who may operate without being guided by the organizational culture. This will lead to costly mistakes like in the case of Dell Corporation. A company should also evaluate its systems to ensure that they are reliable.

For instance, the mode of communication should be reliable in order to ensure that all workers in the organization understand the organizational identity. An effective mode of communication can also ensure that there is effective monitoring of the conformance of workers to the company’s culture.

Reference List

Brookins, M. (2013). . Web.

Devis, L. (2007). Organizational Culture and Its Importance. Web.

Heathfield, S. (2013). . Web.

Lowe, K. (2012). . Web.

McNamara, C. Organizational Culture and Changing Culture. Web.

Scholl, R. (2003). Organizational Culture. Web.

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"Organizational Culture and Business Ethics." IvyPanda, 7 Oct. 2019, ivypanda.com/essays/organizational-culture-and-business-ethics-case-study/.

1. IvyPanda. "Organizational Culture and Business Ethics." October 7, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/organizational-culture-and-business-ethics-case-study/.


IvyPanda. "Organizational Culture and Business Ethics." October 7, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/organizational-culture-and-business-ethics-case-study/.


IvyPanda. 2019. "Organizational Culture and Business Ethics." October 7, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/organizational-culture-and-business-ethics-case-study/.


IvyPanda. (2019) 'Organizational Culture and Business Ethics'. 7 October.

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