Home » CEO Mentorship with Babatunde Fajimi » Organizational Culture and Employee Tolerance Quotient

Organizational Culture and Employee Tolerance Quotient

The ability of employees to understand, accept and adjust to the predominant organizational culture in their work environment is dependent on their tolerance quotient. A lot of employees are stressed out and their work quality below expected standards because they are not properly adjusted to the culture in their organizations. They are ignorant of the correlation between organizational culture and their tolerance quotient. This results in personal and performance problems. Some employees even jeopardize their health because of their inability to tolerate their organizational culture.

Organizations have cultures that are unique to them. Coca-Cola and Pepsi remain competitors and had been at it for over a century. Their competition once resulted in the 100 Years Cola War that saw Coca-cola emerging as a dominant player in the industry. These two operate in the same industry, but have different organizational cultures which explain why their employees perceive things differently, do things differently, and produce drinks that are unique brands to their organizations and consumers. Organizational cultures in these two organizations provide the motivation for enterprise and product strategy they both protect jealously. Any employee of either of the organizations who crosses the line and attempts to indulge in industrial espionage is severely punished by the Laws of the country where such crime is committed.

We can make similar inference in the areas of customer service between Guaranty Trust Bank Plc and Zenith Bank Plc; branch network and online banking platform facilities between United Bank for Africa Plc and Diamond Bank Plc. Beyond corporate strategy and drive for business sustainability; it is the organizational culture that is driving these differences. Put the employees of these organizations side-by-side, they will behave differently because the cultures of the organizations they represent are different.

Organizational culture is the sum total of the values, beliefs and attitudes employees evolve and exhibit in their interactions with one another and all stakeholders. Organizational culture is the determinant of what employees do, how they behave, how they perform, how they respond to the market, how they communicate, how they perceive leadership, how they are rewarded and how they manage conflicts. Culture emerges over time. It becomes prevalent such that it is difficult to change unless the employees themselves commit to change in order to evolve new cultures.

Organizational culture is the soul of the organization. It is the unwritten rules of engagement that gives life and assures the continued existence of the organization. It reflects the direction the organization goes in relations to human capital management. It guides the quality of recruitment, propels strategy for manpower development and predicates employee engagement. It drives communication and leadership. Influence and power relations are derivable from the culture of the organization.

People should understand the organizational culture of the organizations intending to hire them and take time to understudy this culture on assumption of duty in order to determine if the organization suits their personality to enable them adjust their tolerance quotient to this culture. Otherwise, such individuals are in for a bumpy employment ride on a journey in circle to the land of nowhere.

There are six components of organizational culture that employees should know as they seek to understand their organizational cultures.

Organizational culture determines the ways people communicate in the workplace. Every organization has its communications strategy. The way they interact, the language they use, the way the complimentary card is designed, the way the staff identity card is designed and how internal memorandum and letters are written. Organizations have symbols and signs in communications that are peculiar to them. It is their cultures that are responsible for this phenomenon.

Organizational culture is responsible for shared values and norms. In some organizations, facilities are shared by all members of the organization. Some organizations, open office space is used: there are no partitions between officers and executives. Some used cubicles to house their employees. In any university, for example, you cannot park your car in the parking lot of the Vice Chancellor because it is reserved. In some organizations, senior executives have their own canteen that is different from staff canteen. Some organizations address themselves by first names only whilst in more traditional organizations, surnames are used. It is their cultures that determine all these practices.

Commitment to product quality or price leadership in the market is a factor of the organizational culture that is practised by the employees. Some organizations are sloppy and do not take quality assurance serious. They cut corners and push products without checks for quality into the market. Others frown at such reckless practice and ensure that processes are checked for quality all the way to ensure that their customers get the best service the industry can offer. That is organizational culture.

It is the organizational culture of the organization that serves as the guiding philosophy of policies’ design and implementation. The processes of management’s decision making, resource allocation and reward system are all determined by the culture of the organization. The organization that allows flexi-hours and telecommuting in our traditional Nigerian environment. The organization that promotes merits, encourages employees’ involvements and allows them to make inputs into management decision making processes. All these are influenced by organizational culture.

Organizational culture determines induction programme that HR evolves. It determines how new employees are welcomed into the company and the type of information existing staff pass on to them to prepare them for work, learning and performance. It determines whether the organization values its employees as stakeholders or people that are just hired to work for pay.

Organizational culture determines relationships, interactions, and the climate of trust and conviviality or otherwise in the workplace. All levels of relationships (vertical, horizontal and lateral) that take place in the workplace among employees, management and employees, customers and the general public are shaped by organizational culture.

It is the totality of these components of communications, norms, values, philosophy, rules and climate that make up the organizational culture of the organization and defines its brand equity to its stakeholders, particularly the public. In the late 90s and early 2000s in Nigeria, some of the new generation banks and their executives are derisively called ‘cowboy banks’ or ‘cowboy bankers’. Whilst some perceived this as a ‘de-marketing’ tool as was the vogue when Darwinian competition dominated the banking landscape, the nomenclature aptly fitted the type of organizational cultures that were prevalent in these ‘cowboy’ banks. These banks came to the scene and divorced bureaucracy of the old generation banks. They were clannish, entrepreneurial, and obsessively market driven. Young graduates trooped to them for employment. Older and traditional bankers shun them for order, predictability and stability.

If you find yourself in a particular work environment, and realize that you are responding in anger to the system, it is not healthy. If you are always falling sick, you should watch out. If your work life balance is difficult to maintain, you should watch out. You need to do a health check of your employee tolerance quotient to determine if you are adjusting well with the predominant organizational culture in your organizational. You need to know the type of organizational culture that is predominant in your organization to enable you adjust your tolerance to shape in or choose a totally different course of action that suits your temperament.

There are different types of cultures in the organization, and your knowledge of these will enable you to ascertain the appropriate culture that suits your person in the workplace. Otherwise you may be burnt. Recurrent headache. Heartaches. Conflicts. Ill health. Your life will be spiraling downward. You career may hit a rock.

There are four types of organizational cultures. There may be subcultures or multiple cultures in an organization but these four cultures are usually dominantly practised by organizations namely bureaucratic, clan, entrepreneurial and market cultures.

The bureaucratic culture is characterized by the practice of formality, rules, standard operating procedures and hierarchical coordination. In a bureaucratic culture, business operations are predictable, efficiency is a given and stability, a priority. Employees are expected to conduct themselves in a very formal setting that does not allow for banality. Jobs are designed, job descriptions are clearly spelt out and key performance indicators are quantitative and taken seriously.

Employees who cannot tolerate formality and bureaucracy cannot thrive in this type of organization. Employees who cannot respect rules and work within the framework of standard operating procedures cannot thrive in this type of organization. Employees who cannot tolerate command-and-control climate cannot thrive in this type of organization. Employees who are spontaneous and averse to following rules and directions to the letter will be like a fish out of water in this type of organization.

The clan culture is traditional. Employees in the organizations that practise clan culture are driven by loyalty, personal commitment, extensive socialization, teamwork, self management and social influence. They work beyond the dictates of their contracts of engagement for the sake of their organizations and personal satisfaction. In return, management recognizes and rewards their employees’ loyalty with equitable remuneration and job security. The work climate is such that employees have a sense of belonging.

Their CEO has father figure and everybody looks up to him or her as the big boss or madam CEO. It is an atmosphere of informality. The organization operates an Open Book organization. Employees take ownership and have a sense of responsibility. Commitment and teamwork are taken for granted.

Employees who cannot tolerate the informality in clan culture cannot thrive in this type of organization. Employees who have been wired to follow hierarchy and command-and-control structure cannot thrive in this type of organization. Employees who cannot tolerate conviviality and want everything done by the letters of the laws (and not the spirit of the laws) cannot thrive in this type of organization.

Entrepreneurial culture involves organizations with high level of risks taking and creativity. These organizations are given to research and development. They are always experimenting, innovating and creating new things. They allow employees to make mistakes. The word ‘sanction’ is alien to their practices. They encourage individual’s initiatives, flexibility and freedom to explore, create, and grow on the job. They are paced. They are aggressive. They are results oriented. They are driven by passion, statistics, profits and competition. They always have their eyes on the future.

Employees who love structured work environment cannot thrive in this type of organization. Employees who cannot tolerate speed, pace and change cannot thrive in this type of organization. Employees who like predictability and stability cannot thrive in this type of organization. Employees who do not have passions for change and risk taking cannot thrive in this type of organization.

Market culture is driven by achievement of measurable and demanding goals that are quantitative and market based. Characteristics such as financial analysis, market share, sales volume, return on investment, sales projection, growth, profitability are regular features. Management demands results in this culture. They are impatient for stories, efforts or excuses. Just get cracking. Just deliver results. The only language management understands in this type of culture is “results”: deliver results and nothing else matters. In this culture, you can negotiate anything from your organization once you are a performer. You can get anything out of management if you are delivering results.

On the other hand, employees who cannot tolerate demand for results will not thrive in this type of work environment. Employees who want team efforts and strongly emphasize team cannot thrive in this type of work environment. Employees who are transactional and want back-office roles cannot thrive in this type of work culture.

Do you really know yourself as an employee?  You should study and be able to identify the different cultures that exist in different organizations. The challenge before you is to look at your organization carefully and establish the culture that is predominant there. You should match your personality against this culture to measure your tolerance level.

If you are properly adjusted to your organization’s predominant culture, your tolerance quotient will be balanced to enable you thrive in your organization. Otherwise, your organizational culture will become a stressor that will make you intolerant of your culture, and become maladjusted to your work environment. It is best to devise a plan of action to find another job that your personality and temperament can tolerate before you become distressed and fall sick. A sound evaluation of an employee’s organizational culture is the key to tolerance and unfettered delivery of service delivery in the workplace.

Author: Babatunde Fajimi 

This article was first published in The Union Newspaper under Management Tips with Babatunde Fajimi on Sunday, November 23, 2014.


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