Academic journal article Asian Social Science

The Non-Sharing of Organizational Culture: A Case Study Examining the Management Perspective

Academic journal article Asian Social Science

The Non-Sharing of Organizational Culture: A Case Study Examining the Management Perspective

Article excerpt


The degree to which cultural elements are shared by members of an organization is a commonly discussed topic in organizational culture. This research contributes to that discussion by analyzing elements that shape the concrete situations of cultural non-sharing or even conflict, diachronically examining a social and educational organization. A case study of a shelter organization for unprotected children and young female boarders was conducted by examining the organization's archival documents to discern the perspective of its boards of directors over time. The results demonstrate that the sharing of culture in this organization is not absolute: situations include formal rather than real sharing as well as disagreement, which is understandable considering the functional autonomy of employees and the relationships of the organization with the exterior (both with the State and with the surrounding community). Although the boards of directors sought to control these countercultural elements by establishing a dominant culture, their actions were conditioned by internal and external factors, both intentional and contingent. Thus, one implication of this qualitative research is that successful organizational leaders must be aware that they operate in complex and somewhat unpredictable contexts that influence the management of organizational culture.

Keywords: Asilo de Infância Desvalida da Horta, non-sharing of organizational culture, organizational conflicts, organizational culture, organizational management, Portugal

1. Introduction

Assuming that "any social unit that has some kind of shared history will have evolved a culture" (Schein, 2010, p. 17) and that organizational culture is a concept that assumes different meanings according to the author considered (Alvesson, 2007, 2013; Dauber, Fink, & Yolles, 2012; Schein, 2010; Torres, 2004, 2006, 2011), this research considers organizational culture to be a set of collective patterns of the ways of being, thinking and acting of people in coordination, with reciprocal expectations, that is shaped, disseminated, learned and transformed over time, providing certain specificities and some predictability, in its external adaptation and internal integration (Schein, 2004, 2010). It is generally accepted that organizational culture includes the following three levels of elements: level 1, artifacts, consisting of visible manifestations such as the physical space, material objects, written and spoken language, stories, ceremonies, heroes, traditions, habits, rules and regulations, and standards of behavior; level 2, values, composed of a range of elements that seek to attribute sense and justify organizational action; and level 3, basic assumptions, consisting of a set of assumptions that are internalized by individuals and that, at a pre-conscious or even an unconscious level, ground individuals' actions (Costa, 2003). Although authors frequently focus on one or more of these elements, the combination of these three levels shapes the culture of an organization as a whole.

Organizational culture is formed and transformed, gradually emerging through a process involving the interaction between the structure and the action, the inside and the outside of the organization, in a historical space-time that is socially located (Torres, 2004, 2006, 2011). In this sense, the "culture of organizations develops and settles up in time, through daily metamorphoses operated by actors in relation to a set of constraints that are internal and external to their organizational contexts" (Torres & Palhares, 2008, p. 103).

An element in the majority of approaches to organizational culture that is not addressed by all researchers (Alvesson, 2013) is the existence of a greater or lesser sharing of cultural elements (Schein, 2004, 2010). The importance and level of sharing is discussed by various authors, who frequently link the sharing to cultural cohesion. According to Schein (2004, 2010), the degree of cultural cohesion (or strength), a homogeneous adhesion among the members of an organization, is dependent on factors such as the duration of its existence, the degree of stability of group belonging, the degree of emotional intensity of experiences shared over time, and the belonging of each member to several other groups that may enable the consolidation of the basic assumptions considered by this author to be the central element of any organizational culture. …

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