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Effects of Cultural Values on the Internal Culture of an Organization


In the current era of globalization, many organizations are multicultural. That is, organizational members possess different cultural backgrounds. Nowadays, people are able to travel and work in any region of the world. As people travel and work in different regions of the world, they carry with them their cultural values, and, in many cases, they tend to incorporate some aspects of their cultural values in the organizations where they work. The cultural values of the societies also tend to affect the internal culture of the organizations located within the society. For this reason, it is important to understand the effects of cultural values on the internal culture of an organization (organizational culture).

Effects of Cultural Values on the Internal Culture of an Organization

Cultural values are ideas which various cultural groups hold concerning what is right/just/fair and what is wrong/unfair/unjust. According to Sagiv and Schwartz (2007), cultural values are “the broad goals that members of a collectivity are encouraged to pursue; they serve to justify actions taken in pursuit of these goals” (p.117). Sagiv and Schwartz state that cultural values include the widely shared norms by members of a collectivity, their practices, and symbols (2007). On the other hand, organizational culture is the collection of shared norms, behaviors, beliefs, values, attitudes, and perceptions held by members of one organization. As organizational members interact with each other in the workplace, certain practices, values, behaviors, attitudes, and perceptions emerge more dominantly than others, thus forming a part of organizational culture in that organization. Cultural values, both societal and individual influence the internal culture of an organization in a positive manner.

According to Sagiv and Schwartz (2007), one of the ways in which cultural values influence the internal culture of an organization is through the relationship that exists when organizational members interact in groups. People working in an organization located in high societies usually enrich their lives through interactions. According to Hofstede (2001), high societies are the societies that embrace embedded culture: close interaction of all members. In many cases, organizational members identify themselves within the organization’s group (by working in the same organization, all organizational members become members of one group). Organizational members practice embedded culture in this group through sharing its way of life and directing their efforts towards achievement of common goals (the group’s goals). Hofstede’s model of cultural dimensions stipulates that embedded cultures accentuate on maintenance of status quo and control of actions that can disrupt cohesion in a group (Hofstede, 2001).

Based on this, members of organizations located in high-embedded societies tend to function like extended families. Members of different organizations embrace the spirit of togetherness in their workplace. Here, every organizational member is expected to be responsible of other organizational members as well as focus his/her efforts on the achievement of common organizational goals. This, actually, transforms into organizational culture of such organizations. With such culture in existence, the members of such organizations practice togetherness, unity, and sharing when performing their duties that include serving the organizational customers.

Similarly, in autonomous cultures, organizations embrace autonomous kind of a culture. In autonomous culture, people are allowed to pursue their interests and goals independently (Hofstede, 2001). Members of organizations located in high autonomous societies work independently towards achievement of certain individual goals. Here, every individual is at liberty to utilize his/her own abilities and skills to achieve certain goals. In many cases, members of such organizations generate their own goals, and then work independently to achieve them. This results into creation of an internal culture whereby organizational members are at liberty to pursue positive experiences for themselves through generating their own goals and acting independently to achieve them. They display the same culture in all aspects of their work. While serving customers, individual member takes initiative to satisfy the needs of the customer in the best possible manner he/she can think of. This is a positive influence of the organizational culture by the society’s cultural values.

According to Schwartz (2006), cultural values of individual employees in an organization influence the internal culture of an organization. People usually have different personal values which they associate with their culture. Personal values are the things that guide an individual’s behavior. Studies reveal that personal values affect individual’s attention, behaviors, decision-making process, interpretation of information as well as attitude in the workplace (Schwartz, 2006). Nonetheless, there are those personal values that happen to be similar across different cultures, and people tend to prioritize. This is because of the shared socialization process brought about by family, education, the media, and government systems. The members of organizations embrace those personal values that are similar across different cultures regarding their daily activities. When undertaking any workplace or related activities, organizational members always observe these values. Eventually, these values become part of organizational culture.

In fact, cultural values of organizational members influence the objectives and goals that an organization adopts (Sagiv, 2007). An organization must always consider the effect of its objectives and/or goals to the cultural values of its individual members. Where the organizational objectives and/or goals conflict with the cultural values of its members, the performance of the individual members is affected, thus affecting the performance of the entire organization. In order to avoid such situations, organizations always match their goals and objectives with the shared cultural values of their members. For example, if the majority of organizational members has respect of humanity as a shared cultural value, then an organization must ensure that none of its goals and objectives conflict with this cultural value. Here, it is evident that such an organization has already incorporated dignity of humanity in its culture, which is a positive influence.

Boxx and colleagues (1991) state that employees’ cultural values influence the internal culture of their organization both intentionally and unintentionally. Employees/organizational members tend to promote cultural values, which they feel are desirable for the organization. They do this through formal and informal communication about the ideal nature of their organization. For instance, existing employees of a given organization may discuss the traits to look for in new recruits. If they emphasize on meeting the minimum qualification and, eventually, this is followed during the subsequent recruitment processes, then this becomes a part of the organization culture. Employees may have influenced incorporation of this into the organization culture either intentionally or unintentionally.

Moreover, employees tend to build structures that promote certain positive values. For example, assume an organization where there are four departments: sales, finance, administration and support, and production department. Due to the need to promote cohesion in their department (which is a shared value), employees of the administration and support department decide to utilize open style of office as opposed to closed style. They undertake their duties very well while utilizing open style of office space and usually discuss how the style has helped them enrich their interpersonal as well as teamwork skills. After a while, other departments, apart from the production department, follow suit and convert from closed office style to open office style. This is also an example of how structures based on cultural values of certain employees eventually end up becoming a part of the organization’s culture. 

Nevertheless, it is important to note that the ability of cultural values to influence organizational culture depends on the size and age of an organization as well as the seniority, experience, and status of individual employees (Organizational Culture, 2012). Young or newly established organizations are subject to the influence because their values, believes, and/or norms are usually under the state of flux. A small-sized organization is also susceptible to the influence because it is easy to influence a small group of people as opposed to a large group of people. Besides, individuals who hold leadership positions can easily influence the internal culture of their organizations through their cultural value, because they are ultimate holders of power in their organizations (Organizational Culture, 2012).

Apart from using of their power, leaders can influence the internal culture of their organizations through their deeds. For example, if the leader’s cultural values emphasize on decency in terms of dressing, he/she may tend to observe this cultural value by dressing decently all the time. The dressing code practiced by this leader may actually become a part of the organizational culture as all the employees in the organization emulate it. Furthermore, when an individual serves in an organization for a long time, he/she is able to gain better understanding of the cultural values which serve the interests of the organization as well as the factors which constraint them. Such an individual can influence the internal culture of the organization by embracing practice of those cultural values which serve the interests of the organization.

Cultural values, both societal and individual, influence the internal culture of an organization in a positive manner. Organizations located in high-embedded societies tend to embrace the values of togetherness, sharing, and unity as a part of their culture due to the influence by the society, while organizations located in high autonomous societies tend to practice autonomy because the society embraces autonomy as well. Employees’ cultural values can also influence the internal culture of an organization through intentional or unintentional deeds of the employees. These include formal and informal communication and establishment of structures, which promote shared cultural values. The age and size of an organization as well as the seniority, experience, and status of an individual determine the level of cultural influence on the internal culture of an organization.

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