5 Common Myths and Facts About Organizational Culture

5 min read
Dec 20, 2016

organizational culture fact vs fiction

Unless you never read about business, you’ve undoubtedly come across a number of articles talking about the merits — or lack thereof — of organizational culture. Here’s a primer: according to TechTarget, work culture is defined as “the pervasive values, beliefs, and attitudes that characterize a company and guide its practices.”

Proponents of strong company cultures believe that organizations simply can’t afford to overlook culture if they wish to be around for the foreseeable future. On the other hand, those who feel culture isn’t that important say that cultures are intangible and there’s no sense in spending a lot of time investing in something that can’t be measured.

A lot of those who don’t think culture is that important may have read too many myths they now believe. Let’s take a look at five of the more prominent ones before debunking them once and for all.

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Myth #1: Culture doesn’t matter

There are many organizations that feel that culture doesn’t matter at all. These companies believe that since culture can’t be measured, there’s not much of a point in attempting to build one in the first place. They think that employees will either like their jobs or they won’t. They also believe that not everyone can enjoy showing up to work every day — some jobs are just jobs. They’re wrong.


Fact #1: Culture matters a great deal

Culture plays a huge role in both attracting qualified candidates to your company as well as convincing them to stay around. Everyone’s had a job they’ve hated before. When you’re in a toxic culture, it can be a struggle to get to work every day. Once you’re there, it can be a struggle to tackle your workload too. On the other hand, when cultures are strong, folks actually look forward to heading to work. They can’t wait to see their colleagues and they can’t wait to pour themselves into their responsibilities.

What’s more, culture also plays a huge role in productivity. In fact, according to our Engagement Report, culture is one of the highest correlated factors to employee happiness. The happier your employees are, the more productive they’ll be. When culture is strong, staffers will also be more likely to give their peers a helping hand whenever it’s requested.


Myth #2: Culture must be managed from the top down

Some companies believe that management is responsible for building a culture. These are the people who envisioned and built the company, so surely they know what’s best for everyone else.

In some instances, that may very well be true. But if they’re not down in the trenches with the workers every day, management may not be in the best position to determine whether the organization is actually abiding by the culture it has established.


Fact #2: All relevant stakeholders can help shape culture

Imagine a specific company’s culture is characterized by always helping everyone else out with a smile. Unfortunately, a vast majority of employees there feel overworked. They notice that their bosses come in late and leave early, and they’re not exactly sure what management is up to these days.

That’s not exactly the ideal situation. Instead of having managers dictate culture from the top, strong cultures take all stakeholders’ opinions into consideration. You can’t expect the lower-tiered employees to abide by a culture that upper management ignores.


Myth #3: Culture is the sum of pay and benefits

Many companies believe that building a strong culture requires employees to be paid handsomely while having some of the best benefits around. This couldn’t be further from the truth. After all, there’s a reason why workers still leave high-paying jobs to take gigs that offer less compensation. For some folks, work is about much more than just making money.

organizational culture


Fact #3: Pay and benefits might be a small part of culture — but there’s much more to it

While salaries and benefits certainly play a role in culture — it’s not exactly exciting to show up to work every day when you’re working for peanuts — they are cogs in a greater machine.

Great cultures are built on a clearly defined vision and a set of values. Cultures also include the people that make up a company — which is why hiring for culture fit is so important. The processes and practices an organization puts into motion, as well as the physical space you occupy, also play a role in your culture. If your office resembles a jailhouse, for example, your employees probably won’t be too excited to show up every morning.


Myth #4: It takes years to build a strong culture

Building a culture might seem like a huge undertaking. After all, cultures are supposed to guide your organization over the long term, influencing everything from the way you work to the way you serve your customers and the way you treat your employees.

If you’re just starting a company, you can bake your culture into the cake, so to speak, from the ground up. If your company has been around for quite a while, it can be difficult to switch things up — but it’s certainly not impossible.


Fact #4: Culture can change quickly if you’re willing to roll with the punches

Let’s say your company is 10 years old. There’s been a lot of turnover recently, and after a little investigating, you’re finally convinced that people are leaving because, quite frankly, it’s really not that enjoyable to work for your organization.

You can change culture quickly if you want to. There might be some growing pains, but if you bite the bullet and don’t give up, it can most definitely be accomplished.


Myth #5: All you need is a foosball table and a nap room

Unlimited vacation time. Nap pods. A fully stocked fridge. Happy hours in the office. Ping-Pong tables. The list goes on.

Many believe that you can throw money at culture and everything will be OK. Give your employees the right gizmos and food options, and they’ll stick around indefinitely. But while perks are certainly nice, they’re not everything.


Fact #5: You can’t buy a solid culture — you need to build it and believe in it

When it comes to culture, material items are only part of the equation.

Recognize your employees’ hard work. Invest in professional development to prove you care about your workers’ futures. Schedule regular team-building activities to develop even tighter bonds amongst your staff.

Prove to your employees that you will do everything you can to help them reach their full potential. In return, they’ll help make sure your company does the same.



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