Have you ever wondered why everyone shows up 5 minutes late to meetings in your office, while your friend insists meetings start right on the dot at her company? Or perhaps why some people seem to get all their friends from work, while others never see their coworkers outside the office? It could be the type of company culture.
Company culture holds many of the answers to these and countless other differences between organizations. In order to better understand the types of culture and the optimal approach to dealing with each, four organizational development experts conducted a literature review to create eight distinct culture buckets (Harvard Business Review).
To save you the reading, we’ll discuss the two dimensions that led to classification of the eight types of culture, as well as elaborate on each bucket.
In their literature review, the authors of this research found two concepts that underlie a company’s culture, allowing them to plot the different cultural types on a two-dimensional axis.
The first dimension is “people interactions”, which can range from highly independent to highly interdependent—so as you might imagine, independent cultures foster competition and value individuals who can thrive on their own, whereas interdependent cultures judge success through group effectiveness.
The second dimension deals with response to change, ranging from stability to flexibility—the former favoring rules and hierarchy, and the latter innovation and diversity.
Using these two dimensions, the authors created the below two-dimensional axis and resulting eight cultural types which drive what unites employees, the type of person that typically does well in that type of organization, and what company leaders tend to focus on.
Interestingly, the cultural type a company falls into often reflects the industry and geographic location; For example, the authors categorize China-based Huawei as having a culture of “authority”, which could perhaps be reflective of the broader culture in China.
To be certain, companies don’t necessarily have to fit in just one type of culture, but categorizing them as such can help company leaders and employees alike to be more effective in their work.
Employees united by: Driving sustainability and global communities
Employees are generally: Compassionate and open-minded
Leaders emphasize: Shared ideals, greater cause
Good for: People looking for an organization that values making a impact on the world over individual achievement
Example: Whole Foods
Employees united by: Loyalty
Employees are generally: Collaborative, welcoming
Leaders emphasize: Sincerity, teamwork, good relationships
Good for: Those motivated to perform well as a result of positive working relationships
Employees united by: Cooperation
Employees are generally: Methodical, rule-following
Leaders emphasize: Shared procedures, customs
Good for: People who are most comfortable in unambiguous, structured environments
Employees united by: The need to feel protected and the ability to anticipate organizational changes
Employees are generally: Risk-conscious, conscientious
Leaders emphasize: Advance planning, pragmatic
Good for: Employees who like to feel included in organizational changes and who prefer careful planning
Example: Lloyd’s of London
Employees united by: Strong control
Employees are generally: Competitive, looking to get ahead
Leaders emphasize: Confidence, dominance
Good for: People who are motivated by gaining personal advantage more than organizational success
Employees united by: Success
Employees are generally: Outcome-oriented, merit-based
Leaders emphasize: Goal accomplishment
Good for: Employees who perform their best when executing against set goals and driving towards a winning result
Employees united by: Playfulness and stimulation
Employees are generally: Lighthearted, in search of work that makes them happy
Leaders emphasize: Spontaneity, a sense of humor
Good for: Fun-loving people who look for a sense of excitement in their day-to-day
Employees united by: Curiosity
Employees are generally: Inventive, creative, always looking to explore alternatives
Leaders emphasize: Innovation, knowledge, adventure
Good for: Those who value learning over other things that might be attained through work, such as stability or personal achievement
At the end of the day, no one type of company culture is right or wrong--nor do most companies fall perfectly into a single culture. Rather than trying to box a company into a single cultural type, use these eight classifications as tools to better understand how different companies function--and, perhaps more importantly, where you’ll be the happiest and most productive.
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Revised Oct. 28, 2021