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The Cultural Theories Lens in Organizations

Victoria is a stay-at-home mom, author, educator, and blogger at Healthy at Home. She currently lives in Colorado with her family.

“Culture, whether Japanese, Arabian, British, Canadian, Chinese, French, or American, shapes the character of an organization” (Morgan, 2006, p. 122).

Culture determines the norms within an institution, definitions and expectations for behavior, and defined boundaries for communication, collaboration and innovation.

Determining one’s role within a culture helps to shape how he acts, speaks, and interacts with others. This also outlines how to get one’s needs met, who to ask for help, and who to go to when in need of an authority figure.

Some of the advantages to viewing organizations from the cultural theory lens are the ability to see alternative meanings behind certain words and actions, the overarching goals that drive an organization and its employees to succeed, and even the way the community see an organization and decides whether to support it or thwart it.

“It recognizes the truly human nature of organizations and the need to build organizations around people rather than techniques” (Morgan, 2006, p. 145).

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“Of course, management [within the cultural theory] has always been to some extent an ideological practice, promoting appropriate attitudes, values, and norms as means of motivating and controlling employees” (Morgan, 2006, p. 145).

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Leadership within an organization usually drives the culture that creates the norms and culture that become “the way we do things around here.”

If leadership creates a culture of distrust and fear, the employees within will either succumb to the control and become hardened and uncaring in their efforts, or they will resist and react strongly against being manipulated, both creating chaos and pain within the organization.

This is not healthy for anyone. “There is often more to culture than meets the eye, and our understandings are usually much more fragmented and superficial than the reality itself” (p. 146).

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Morgan, G. (2006). Images of organization. Thousand Oaks, California: Sage Publications.

© 2013 Victoria Van Ness

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