Organizational Culture Theory and Critical Theory Move from systemic and structural issues to . . . Culture Theory Understanding organizations through a cultural lens with a focus on values, attitudes and beliefs of members Critical Theory Revealing how social and technological structures within organizations serve to oppress workers.
“Organizational Culture” FOCUS • Changes in Global Marketplace • Intense Competition • Reconsider Traditional Management Practices • Shift from traditional, highly rationale theories to more fluid and irrational • Societal consciousness-raising regarding oppressive atmosphere in organizations for workers, women, and minorities • Inequities and Oppressive Circumstances
Organizational Culture Theory • State University vs. Southern University Case Study • Attempts to explain behavior within organizations • Attempts to account for differences among organizations • Description of how members of a group live and make sense of their world together • Culture provides a lens through which its members interpret, interact with, and make sense of reality • Culture helps to explain patterns of behavior and thought that characterize individuals and the groups with which they are associated • Focus on VALUES, ATTITUDES, and BELIEFS of members
Organizational Culture Theory • Organizational culture provides meanings for routine organizational events, thereby reducing the amount of cognitive processing and energy members need to expend throughout the day.
Misunderstandings and Organizational Culture • Cultural variations are often the cause of major and minor misunderstandings as groups come into contact with one another • Value of cultural perspective is in illustrating the misunderstandings that occur within an organization • Culture may hinder organizations from progress in the future • Organizations consist of “subcultures” • Mergers and International Mergers are also a source of misunderstandings
Two Competing Perspectives on Organizational Culture • Culture as Variable • Something an organization “has” • By-product of organizational activities • Stories, rites, rituals, and heroes • Culture is changeable by management • Organizational “tool” for enhancing organizational effectiveness • In Search of Excellence (Peters and Waterman) • Corporate Cultures: The Rites and Rituals of Corporate Life (Deal & Kennedy) • Strong cultures have four key components • Values - basic beliefs and concepts (concrete guidelines for success) • Heroes - personify cultural values • Rites and rituals - public performances that display and enact values • Cultural network - primary carrier of cultural information (stories, myths, legends, jokes, and gossip) • Criticisms: shortsighted, more than strategy, not just a skill; culture is a complex, communicative phenomenon rooted in the history of the organizations events.
Two Competing Perspectives on Organizational Culture • Culture as Root Metaphor • Something an organization “is” as opposed to something it “has” • Organizations as expressive forms, manifestations of human consciousness • Culture is the process of sense-making created and sustained through communication and interactions • Rituals and stories are ‘generative processes’ the yield and shape meanings • Provides deep understanding of the way members of a particular organization make sense of the world around them • The essence of an organization is culture • Three Primary Elements • Complex (multi-level construction of values, beliefs and attitudes) • Communicative Construction (constructed and reconstructed through interaction) • Subcultures and Countercultures • Differential interaction • Shared experiences • Similar personal characteristics • Comparisons on page 90.
VARIABLE Something the organization “has”; a tool, skill, or lever Inform workplace of values Change occurs through management directive and intervention ROOT METAPHOR Something the organization “is”; expressive form Create sustain and influence culture Change occurs through natural evolution; all members influence culture Comparison of Two Competing Perspectives on Organizational Culture
Definitions of Organizational Culture • Three common characteristics • Culture is SHARED • Frameworks of understanding and interpreting organizational phenomena • Culture is INTANGIBLE • Consists of values, assumptions, norms, and frameworks • Culture AFFECTS HUMAN BEHAVIOR • Construction of human interaction that affects and is affected by the behavior of all members of the organization • Other characteristics • Communicative creations • Cultures are created, sustained and and influenced by and through human interaction • Historical • Cultures emerge and develop over time
Organizational Culture Defined Organizational culture is a communicatively constructed, historically based system of assumptions, values, and interpretive frameworks that guide and constrain organizational members as they perform their organizational roles and confront the challenges of their environment.
Multi-level Perspective on Culture • Schein’s Model of Organizational Culture • Three Interrelated Levels of Culture • Artifacts and Creations • tangible, physical, or hearable things in the environment of the organization • Important to connect artifacts to values • Values • Sense of what “ought” to be, as distinct from what is • Common basis for operating together • Cognitive constructions • Basic Assumptions - represent the essence of culture FIVE BASIC ASSUMPTIONS • Humanity’s relationship to nature • The nature of reality and truth - is truth real or discovered? • The nature of human nature • The nature of human activity • The nature of human relationships
Critical Perspectives on Culture • Critical Perspectives . . . • Reject the notion that organizations are value-free sites • Organizations are sites of struggle between management and workers resulting in domination and oppression of the powerless by the powerful. • Critical Theory • Karl Marx • Roots in the Institute for Social Research in Frankfurt (Frankfurt School) • Knowledge is not objective; tainted by personal interests and the power structure • Involvement in the inner workings of society to reveal contradictions associated with the imbalance of power • Provide critique that allows for the reversal of oppressive conditions in the future • Research goal: reveal how social and technological structures within the organization serve to oppress workers • Researchers must engage in consciousness-raising among organizational members
Critical Theory • Organization as a Site of Domination • Power, Hegemony, and Concertive Control • Power - the possibility of imposing one’s will upon the behavior of other persons • Hegemony - the predominant influence over others • Concertive Control - based on adherence to socially constructed norms and values developed by organizational members as they attempt to structure the environment • Communication and Critical Theory • Habermas - goal to develop a theory of society that aims at the self-emancipation of people from domination (the ideal speech situation) • The utterances are truthful • There is a legitimate relationship established between the participants • The utterances are sincere • The utterances are comprehensible
Goal of Critical Theorists Attempt to uncover the communication practices, whether they be interpersonal, team-based, or organization-wide, that serve to promote an unhealthy imbalance in organizations.
Critical Theory: Issues and Challenges • Creating a more ‘human(e)’ workplace • Oppressive reality of organizational life does not have to continue • Oppression is not an inherent part of organizational life • Workplace democracy • Encourage SELF-REFLECTION • Encourage COLLECTIVE DEVELOPMENT • Encourage INDIVIDUAL OPPORTUNITY • Critical theory offers a means of identifying elements of constraint and oppression and prescriptions for improving the situation • The plight of women: Feminist organizational communication • Examine the oppressive circumstances experienced by women in the workplace • Raise our collective consciousness regarding unequal treatment and oppression • Attempts to uncover the assumptions upon which those circumstances are based • Offers a variety of means by which the oppression can be alleviated
Critical Theory: Feminist Perspectives • Liberal Feminists - advocate working within the existing structure • Radical Feminists - argue for a separation of men and women • Materialist Feminists - gender differences are socially constructed • Goal: Seek to show the centrality of language and interaction to the circumstances women face in the gendered workplace • Organizational members are able to understand how their communicative actions and interactions contribute to either the perpetuation or the reversal of the current oppressive situation (change behavior, affect the behavior of others, help promote a more equitable and equal workplace for the sexes)
Summary • Similarities of Organizational Theory and Critical Theory • Both theories call into question the theories and practices of the past and view organizations as more than the sum of management practices and task allocation • Communication is central to both theories • Most critical approaches to organizations realize that it is through communication that oppressive structures come into being and, in turn, restrict the communication of certain groups • Communication is the way to freedom from those oppressive structures • Intention of both theories do not serve to increase profits -- they excavate the underlying values and assumptions that guide organizational life and may serve to oppress certain members • Critical theory is not as popular as organizational culture theory • Most organizations are unwilling to make themselves vulnerable to disapproval (think about how this applies to your major research project!)