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Cultural Management

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In this essay I will argue that although managing the culture of an organisation can be highly beneficial to the success of the organisation, the attempt is still one that is very difficult and morally questionable to oversee. In the first section, I will outline the concept of corporate culture (Peters and Waterman 1982) (Parker 2000) as well as the reasons why managers view corporate culture as so beneficial to the success of the organisation (Ackroyd and Crowdy 1990).

Secondly, I will argue the extreme difficulty of managing employee values and emotions, as it is so demanding to find willing and compliant labour that will work towards the goals of the organisation. I will be drawing on examples from Jaffee (2001), Mintzberg (1971) and Ackroyd and Crowdy (1990) to show just how profound employees values and emotions can be and for this reason are so difficult to manage. In the third section I will argue the efficacy and ethics of manipulating employees (Brewis 2006) (Willmott 1993) as well as the questionable decisions regarding diversity (Dipboye and Halverson 2004) (Strachan, French and Burgess 2010). Furthermore, I will conclude my essay by re-stating my argument, and summarise on key points.

Corporate culture: The real key to success?

Corporate Culture can be defined as the attempt to exploit the individual’s anxious striving for selfhood, through the expert psychological dissection and reconstitution of modern subjects, for the organisation’s purposes (management lecture 3). The way pay systems are set, the attitude of management to customers through a high level of service or even the way employees are asked to dress, are just a few examples of what an organisations culture could be like, specified so that employees are aligned towards the goals of the organisation. As Parker (2000) states ‘Every member of an organisations products and services and the unique patterns with which they carry out their responsibilities’ (Parker 2000 p.9) he recognises that this unique lifestyles of businesses is what makes organisations have a culture, and is what distinguishes them from the culture of another.

Managing the culture of an organisation successfully, is about managing the employees prosperously (Peters and Waterman 1982). We see that the ‘excellent companies’ (Peters and Waterman 1982 p. 55) that have a ‘strong culture’ are those that recognise that the employees are the key to corporate success (Peters and Waterman 1982). These companies give employees control over their destiny’s, reinforce that people are made to feel like winners and celebrate small wins, providing a sense of self achievement to these employees (Peters and Waterman 1982). It is this type of culture that allows for employees to feel optimistic and to excel in their degree, performing with confidence, and these types of organisations that perform successfully in working towards their goals and objectives as a result of managing employee values and emotions effectively.

Parker (2000) uses a quote from Business week to be on the same views as Peters and Waterman (1982) ‘as an employer, control the culture successfully and you will have higher productivity with more employee involvement’ (Business Week 1980 p.48 – Parker 2000 p.10), similarly recognising that employees are the key to success and that if employees values and emotions can be managed towards the goals of the organisation it will be beneficial towards the success of the organisation.

As explained by Ackroyd and Crowdy (1990), if managers can begin to more adequately understand workplace cultures, they are more likely to oversee and control a beneficial environment. We see that despite the fact that the slaughterman of the Casterton plant, were doing highly routinized and monotonous jobs that involved working in a blood stricken environment, dealing with bodily fluids and animal excreta, these employees still had great self esteem (Ackroyd and Crowdy 1990) due to the culture of the organisation where every man wanted to work harder then the next, ‘When there was work to do the slaughterman at the Casterton plant worked hard and fast’ (Ackroyd and Crowdy 1990 p. 5). Not all people would enjoy and take pride working in this type of environment, and as such we can conclude that as different cultures react differently to diverse environments, cultures must be understood before they are managed, so that willing and compliant labour can be found.

If this has occurred, it will be much easier to manage the values and emotions of employees, who will begin to enjoy working towards the goals of the organisation, and hence a strong culture can be formed, ‘A strong culture will ensure that employees comply because they want to, rather than because they are told to’, (Parker 2000 p. 22). We also see that a strong culture like the Casterton slaughterhouse, (Ackroyd and Crowdy 1990) provides a feeling of security and institutional purpose for the employee (Peters and Waterman 1982), encouraging employees to improve productivity and motivation levels, working towards the goals of the organisation, potentially increasing the success of an organisation. As such it is so important for managers to get the culture of an organisation right quickly, however finding willing and compliant labour to work with the culture is more difficult than it sounds.

Why is it so difficult to manage the culture of an organisation? It is in fact a very difficult process of managing the culture of an organisation. A number of contributing factors have added to this difficulty, such as the radical change in technology. This change has resulted in managers wasting valuable time managing the culture of an organisation, due to needing to read large volumes of information especially on e-mail, (Mintzberg 1971), as a result of its speed and complexity. Another example includes managers knowing little about the value of ‘positive reinforcement’, (Peters and Waterman 1982 p. 58) as by not reinforcing that workers are made to ‘feel like winners’ (Peters and Waterman 1982), can result in negative attitudes such as being lethargic, creating a weak culture as employees values and emotions have not been managed properly. Attitudes like this will increase the difficulty for the organisation to achieve its goals and objectives.

Furthermore, often the style a manager may choose to direct the culture of an organisation may increase the difficulty of managing the culture of an organisation (Jaffee 2001). These styles can depend on a number of external forces and contexts and ‘influence management in their deployment of various attempts to secure the subordination of employees’ (management lecture 3). However it is clear that different styles will result in employees reacting in a way that can affect the ability to manage employees. For example if the economy is on the decline, then management may choose to redesign pay systems or even decide to watch very closely on the employees. Decisions such as this may reduce employee emotions, and can become increasingly difficult to manage as a result.

We see with the use of ‘scientific management’ Jaffee (2001), where there could be no bargaining by the worker over pay or how work is done, (Jaffee 2001) that people became concerned over its implementation and was considered to be undemocratic, ‘labour didn’t reject science, but rather they were concerned/rejecting the scientific musings of the managerial class (Jaffee 2001, p. 59), and as a result many employees lost the desire to work towards the goals of the organisation. As is the case with every organisation, employees will react differently to different situations, and it is up to the manager to use the right strategies to suit the employees, although often managers do not get this right quickly. However the real difficulty evolves when changing an already existent culture.

As stated by Ackroyd and Crowdy (1990) ‘case studies
 suggested that work cultures are highly distinctive, resilient and resistant to change’ (Ackroyd and Crowdy 1990 p.9), they recognise that as people become complacent within the culture, it can be very difficult to change up. Evidence of attempts to change culture are constantly occurring, however there is little evidence of successful changes as a result of ‘traditionalism’ (Jaffee 2001 p.47). We see with the formal subordination of labour, where owners began to sell off their labour power to a capitalist for a wage, that it is only the beginning of a long and hard struggle between the organisational managers and the workers, where managers found it difficult to overcome labourer’s traditions (Jaffee 2001).

As explicated by Jaffee (2001) ‘human resource required by the emerging factory system could not simply be purchased, collected, and controlled like other factors of production. Humans develop traditions, identities, bonds of solidarity, and routines that cannot be easily abandoned and replaced’ (Jaffee 2001 p.44) he recognises that as a result of labourers wanting to follow the rituals of the organisations, and becoming so resistant to change, managers cannot just control labour to become satisfied with new practices. Whilst extremely difficult to manage, another concern over the ethics of the manipulation of employees arises whilst managing employee’s values and emotions.

Questions over manipulation and managing diversity:

Although strong cultures can be seen as desirable, there is still the question of whether it is ethical for managers to be seeking to change and manipulate employee’s values and emotions. Whilst a strong culture is one that can provide a sense of security and connection to the individual, it is generally at the price of giving up their freedom (Willmott 1993), ‘Employees willingness to subjugate themselves to corporate cultures is procured by the sense of identity, security and self determination that devotion to corporate values promises to deliver’ (Willmott 1993 p. 540). Such manipulation also increases the possibility of abuse as well, as employees become more tolerant towards managers who can exert more power when manipulating under the clause of providing security (Peters and Waterman 1982) ‘Corporate culture programmes celebrate, exploit, distort and drain the dwindling cultural resource of caring, democratic values’ (Willmott 1993 p. 540).

This manipulation can also result in serious repercussions towards employees who start to live their external, daily lives under the influence of the organisation, losing their self identity due to so deeply believing in the culture that they act this way, ‘the ability to establish a life and a self independent of the corporation’s influence is diminished’ (Kunda 1992: 225) (from Management lecture 3). Whether this controlling is right can be seen as a major question towards the attempt to manage employees, just so that the culture can function properly in the organisation.

However, most people would see this approach as wrong, and clearly this can affect the attempt to manage employee’s values and emotions. This manipulation may also be questionable in terms of a business perspective as it can affect an individual’s ability to think outside the box. As Brewis (2006) argues, strong cultures ‘may encourage complacency, inflexibility and groupthink’ (Brewis 2006 p.18) preventing individuals to prosper and their ability to overcome small problems, and such can be seen as a questionable approach to manipulate when managing the culture of the organisation. However, this is not the only aspect that is questionable for managers.

The issue of diversity and discrimination in an organisation also has its questions in attempting to manage employees, as even today a number of societal groups have suffered from unfair treatment in the workplace. As Dipboye and Halverson (2004) shows with the survey that 37% of the people that were surveyed had been discriminated in the workplace, he recognises that the issue is still one that is occurring in todays society, despite many managers not recognising this. Further, when selecting an employee, it would not be fair to choose one employee over another disadvantaged groups such as the Indigenous, with the view that these types of ‘disadvantaged groups bring less human capital to the work situation in the from of skills, education and experience’ (Dipboye and Halverson 2004 p.135).

It is these types of views that are not ethical, and illegal (but easy to get away with), and can be severely questioned in managing employees. Situations such as this could lead to employees becoming concerned over the ethics of the organisation, potentially increasing the difficulty to manage their values and emotions in aligning them with the goals of the organisation. Strachan, French and Burgess (2010) further recognises that for organisations to become more ethically viewed they need to develop programs such as ‘skills shortages’ to prevent disadvantaged groups from being left out, however most organisations do not provide this.


In this essay, I have argued that that the attempt to manage employee’s views and values is both practically difficult and morally questionable, although beneficial when the culture can be seen as ‘strong’. In order to portray this, I put this argument into three sections. In section one I outlined the concept of corporate culture and explained some of the benefits of having a strong culture. In section two I argued that the job of managing the culture of an organisation is an extremely difficult position to take, especially as it is very challenging to find willing and compliant labour to work and fit in with the culture of the organisation.

In the last section I then argued whether it was right for managers to be seeking to change employees views and values as well questioned the issue of diversity in the workplace. The organisations that do well are those that understand what the culture is about, and recognises that ‘Labour is not a raw material’ (Jaffee 2001 p.), but rather a sophisticated and sensitive human being, that will do anything to work in a positive environment, eliminating the need for manipulation. However, it is still this unknowing of how employees will react to the situation due to their values and cultures, which makes them so difficult to manage, but so easy to manipulate in order to align them with the goals of the organisation.

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