Strong and Weak Organisational Culture and Behavioural Implications


Prof. Dileep Kumar M.

Organisational culture

Man spends major part of his life in the organizations within which he works. When people join an organisation, they bring with them the unique values and behaviours that they have been taught. Any organisation with firmly established organisational culture would be taught the values, beliefs and expected behaviours of that organisation. Just as society moulds human behaviour, an organisation also moulds human behaviour that is in tune with the prevalent set of norms and behaviour. In this process, certain basic attitudes and beliefs about the people and their work situations are slowly but firmly accepted in the organisation, which becomes its 'Organisational Culture.'

Robbins, S. P., (1998) defined 'a strong culture is one that is internally consistent, is widely shared, and makes it clear what it expects and how it wishes people to behave.' Kaufman, (2002) stated that 'a positive organizational culture reinforces the core beliefs and behaviors that a leader desires while weakening the values and actions the leader rejects. Peters and Waterman (1982) indicates that 'a negative culture becomes toxic, poisoning the life of the organization and hindering any future potential for growth. Obviously, there is an inevitable bridge joining organizational culture and the level of success it enjoys. Strong culture is said to exist where staff respond to stimulus because of their alignment to organizational values. Conversely, there is Weak Culture where there is little alignment with organizational values and control must be exercised through extensive procedures and bureaucracy.' Kilmann, Saxton, and Serpa, (1986) defined strong cultures as 'those where organization members place pressure on other members to adhere to norms.' Byrne, (2002) indicates that 'a strong organizational culture will exert more influence on employees than a weak one. If the culture is strong and supports high ethical standards, it should have a very powerful and positive influence on employee behaviour.'

Although all organizations have cultures, some appear to have stronger, more deeply rooted cultures than others. Initially, a strong culture was conceptualized as a coherent set of beliefs, values, assumptions, and practices embraced by most members of the organization. The emphasis was on (1) the degree of consistency of beliefs, values, assumptions, and practice across organizational members; and (2) the pervasiveness (number) of consistent beliefs, values, assumptions, and practices. Many early proponents of organizational culture tended to assume that a strong, pervasive culture was beneficial to all organizations because it fostered motivation, commitment, identity, solidarity, and sameness, which, in turn, facilitated internal integration and coordination. Still others noted potential dysfunctions of a strong culture, to the point of suggesting that a strong culture may not always be desirable. For example, a strong culture and the internalized controls associated with it could result in individuals placing unconstrained demands on themselves, as well as acting as a barrier to adaptation and change. A strong culture could also be a means of manipulation and co-optation (Perrow 1979). It could further contribute to a displacement of goals or sub goal formation, meaning that behavioral norms and ways of doing things become so important that they begin to overshadow the original purpose of the organization (Merton 1957; March and Simon 1958).

Culture was initially seen as a means of enhancing internal integration and coordination, but the open system view of organizations recognized that culture is also important in mediating adaptation to the environment (see Chapter 3: Overview of the Management and the Organizational Effectiveness Literatures). The traditional view of a strong culture could be contrary to the ability of organizations to adapt and change. Seeing culture as important for facilitating organizational innovation, the acceptance of new ideas and perspectives, and needed organizational change may require a different, or more nuanced, view of organizational culture. Schein (1992) notes that, indeed, a strong organizational culture has generally been viewed as a conservative force. However, in contrast to the view that a strong organizational culture may be dysfunctional for contemporary business organizations that need to be change-oriented, he argues that just because a strong organizational culture is fairly stable does not mean that the organization will be resistant to change. It is possible for the content of a strong culture to be change-oriented, even if strong organizational cultures in the past typically were not. He suggests that the culture of modern organizations should be strong but limited, differentiating fundamental assumptions that are pivotal (vital to organizational survival and success) from everything else that is merely relevant (desirable but not mandatory). Today's organizations, characterized by rapidly changing environments and internal workforce diversity, need a strong organizational culture but one that is less pervasive in terms of prescribing particular norms and behavioral patterns than may have existed in the past. This view was supported by Collins and Porras (1994) in their famous study (Built to Last) of companies that had strong and lasting performance.

Implications at Individual Level:

The study relate following implications at individual and organisational level, where the management of the organisation should give prior concern. The implications are detailed as follows.

Aggressive Behavior of members

A value system promotes integration of expectations of management philosophy, preferred behavioral patterns, customs and rituals of the organization through compulsion and coercion hence develops dissatisfaction and stress among members.  It is general human tendency to resist any integration process that go against their will and co-operation.  Members have the very nature to cope up with such value system through aggressive behavior beyond certain level of suppressive behavior.  It may develop into Burn Out Stress Syndrome (BOSS) in later years.  This situation develops far-reaching consequence at Individual and Organizational level. It leads to individual unrest industrial unrest and organisational dysfunction.

Irrationality of thoughts

Each employee has the very probability to expose themselves to weak demands set by the work culture of the organization.  The level of satisfaction and stress related to the environmental exposure depends on how one perceives the new demand and tries to cope up with it.  If the value system and the practices do not support employees to take up the new challenges, these employees experience anxiety and tension.  A decision to take up challenging situations with tension and anxiety further results in mistakes and errors.  In a power-centered culture, there is more chance for irrational way of coping than rational one as there is more coercive approach to make the members adjust with the culture. This often develops more conflicting situations.

Idleness of members

If the work culture is not challenging, innovative and improvement oriented, members have the very tendency to continue the routine practices as it does not develop any situation, which is taxing to their skill and abilities.  It is general human tendency to sit idle and enjoy all the benefits and privileges offered by the organization.  This coping behavior is due to their preference towards an idle value system.  The idle work culture does not call for any improvement of the labour force and of the organization.  If this way of preference becomes more rigid in future, it has the very scope to develop into militant behavior of employees, where the organization cannot introduce any organizational change for improvement.

Rigidity in behavior

The process of socialization helps members to internalize the norms, values, customs and practices that are widely preferred by the organization.  Its purpose is to avoid occurrence and reoccurrence of deviations in future.  If the value system of the organization is rigid and highly taxing to members, members have the very tendency to develop dissatisfaction and stress.  It extends greater opportunity among members to justify their stress and become more rigid in their behavior.  Excessive use of coercion and negative measures will develop more rigidity in their attitude than mould their behavior suitable to the organization.

Suspicious mentality

The members in the organization are very clear about their expectations towards both maintenance needs as well as motivational needs.  If the value system is unable to rectify their genuine doubts pertaining to realization of existence, relatedness and growth needs, members have the very tendency to develop suspicious attitude towards supervisors and top management. In a coercive authoritative value system, there is less probability for transparent way of interaction and inter relationship.  Members here have the very tendency to develop suspicious mentality towards management's decision-makings that affect their personal goals.  The outcome is same, individual-industrial conflict.

Antagonistic attitude

The industrial process is a collective work process where there is equal sharing of responsibilities.  A will of readiness to share the organizational responsibilities come from a value system, which calls for mutual trust, mutual respect, mutual acceptance and mutual understanding. In organisation where, the communication between the management and employees is closed, there is no scope for a cordial and cohesive environment, distrust, suspicious attitude, rigidity, low level cooperation, lack of confidence etc. are the byproduct of such situation.  Each group has the very tendency to use their own coping mechanisms like aggression, agitation, strikes, etc.  Such militant attitude will develop more complex situations in the future.  It leads to more physical and psychological hazards to human beings and developmental hazards to organizations. 

Emotional immaturity

A value system, which helps members to internalize the norms and behaviors through a supportive approach, ensures a high level of adjustment within the organization.  The process of socialization expects organization's standard level of approach in the integration of the expected behavioral pattern.  The process of learning will be complete only when it is able to generate mutual interest and support.  The use of coercion and compulsion in this process is unilateral and will not produce any positive result. Instead of developing emotional maturity to understand and behave appropriately, socialization in a power-distance culture makes members to behave more antagonistically and immaturely. It will affect the maintenance of a harmonious industrial culture.

Low Morale

A work culture which is unable to ensure a cordial and cohesive environment, trust and belief of the members cannot ensure enthusiasm and willingness of the employees to work together and pull the group to meet the organizational goals.  The high morale is the by-product of a feeling of satisfaction and better adjustment.  The weak culture increases frustration, antagonism, indiscipline and results in excessive complaints and grievances. All such situation leads to industrial unrest and sickness.


The management approach and personal philosophy have high influence over the behavior of the members. The treatment members experience from management determines their level of job satisfaction and job stress. Loyalty is a state of mind; it is a composite of feelings, attitude and sentiment that contribute to affiliative behavior of members in return to the organization's care and support, satisfaction offered and towards realization of their personal goals. In an organization where the value system supports excessive control, punitive steps like the management domination, low preference towards human sentiments and relations, there is no probability for employees' involvement, commitment and loyalty. Where there is no feeling of loyalty among members, there is no organisational development at all.

Lack of interest

Several factors affect member's interest to work for the organization. Among which a value system which promotes team work, innovation, freedom, autonomy, risk taking, use of creativity, supervisory support, empowerment, informal communication, opportunity for advancement, objective feedback etc., facilitates employees decision to work with confidence and interest.  The resultant outcome is a weak work cultures is job stress, organizational conflict, job dissatisfaction, absenteeism and labor turnover.  The success cannot be ensured where an industry is having disloyal labor force and weak work culture.

Lack of motivation

Motivation is concerned with the needs prioritization of individual employee.  If the organizational value system provides a better opportunity to fulfill member's psycho social and economic needs, there is increased probability for voluntary co-operation and contribution. However, the work culture of both sectors has found unable to maintain even the satisfaction of lower level needs like safety, security and stability of employment. A culture where, there is no opportunity to realize even the lower level needs, there members are not eligible even to think about their high level needs.  The low level of motivation thus results in increased job dissatisfaction and job stress.  It further leads to absenteeism, labor turnover, industrial unrest, conflict and disharmony. Without a motivated labor force, there is less chance for industrial success.

Lack of commitment

Commitment is basically a value-oriented behaviour of individual and group.  It is the attitude and sentiment of member's attaches with the organization to do their best.  The management approach towards the removal of certainty and unambiguity by making provision for employee's job satisfaction, a supportive climate etc. has high influence on the attitude and behavior of employees.  A coercive, power driven, authoritarian, less considerative and more task-oriented culture induces only lack of motivation, unrest, antagonism and a low level of commitment among members.  The study indicates a low level of adjustment of members in both sectors with commitment and its low impact at organizational level. Non-committed labour forces are the biggest hurdles to organisational development.

Low level of trust and confidence

Success of an organization depends upon the quality of work, co-operation at all hierarchical levels and adherence to a constructive/proactive management policy that translates to a positive value system and strong belief among members.  A culture, which shows labor management conflict, mistrust, suspicion, mutual non-acceptance, rigid rules and regulations, lack of recognition and opportunity for advancement etc. cannot win employee's unconditional trust and co-operation.  The trust and confidence is the resultant outcome of the healthy psychological contract that exists between the employees and organisation. Anything that affects this psychological bond can disrupt this contract.

Unrealistic attitude

The very purpose of the induction and training program is to develop a realistic perception about the norms and policies, expected behavior patterns, do's and don'ts etc. of the organization.  But if the value system of the organization doesn't have anything good to transfer, it affects the attitude of employees.  Socialization agents like trade union, peer groups, management, etc., influence the behavior of members in the formation of perception about organizations entrenched value system. If the value system promotes better work culture, these socializing agents transfer the same image and belief system to the new -comers.  On the contrary, if the organization promotes low work culture, it will develop an unrealistic attitude and leads to unrealistic value expectations and demands.

Superior subordinates Rivalry

A work culture that weak at work place may develop severe problems at individual level.  Such a culture promotes dependency to superiors and submissive attitude from their subordinates that leads to personal rivalry.  Since the management can hold member's timely promotions, incentives and other such benefits, the members are forced to follow the instructions of superiors.  Greater level of dissatisfaction and job stress are major indicators of superior subordinates rivalry.  Here the employee's growth opportunities, creativity, improvement in the skill and knowledge are totally denied. The personal conflict can in turn lead to higher-level conflicts and disagreements and can reach up to high-level organizational conflict as well.

Poor self-concept

Development of better self concept depends upon how far organization extends opportunity for organizational members to understand their skill, knowledge, potential, versatility, meaningness attached to organization, their life, realistic perception etc.  Individuals differ in personal characteristics. In addition such differences create differences in work performance and behavior of individuals at the work place.  A confident, skilled, ambitious member should get opportunity for growth and achievement. A coercive and power driven weak culture destroys the enthusiastic mindset and expectations of employees. All this leads to member maladjusted behavior.

Loss of creativity

Creativity means the individual's potential to think and experiment with new insights ideas and thoughts.  Though members are creative, many a times, they do not get enough opportunity to implement these ideas because of superior's lack of support, non risk-initiative policy, non- challenging work environment, personal conflicts etc.  This indicates that there is no freedom, support and autonomy to individual members in the organization. Absence of creative ideas affect organization's improvement and advancement plans. It demotivates intelligent employees at work.

Intention to quit

The organizational value system affects employee's attitude and behavior. It leads members either to continue or quit their jobs.  A cordial and cohesive value system, a supportive culture, satisfaction of existence, relatedness and growth needs etc. influence the member behavior.  A culture in which member's consider that there is no value for his work, no objective feedback, no cordial-cohesive environment to work with, high rigidity, increased marginalization, victimization, personal rivalries etc., then they have the very tendency to quit the organization.  This leads to high labour turnover, absenteeism, low quality and quality of production, less profit etc.

High resistant behavior

An organization's value system, which promotes member's enthusiasm, spirit and interest to work, has to face only lower level of resistant behavior, from members. While the culture maintains high task-oriented and less relationship oriented practices through norms and regulations, and the policies and decisions go against the expectations of worker, where management have to face high resistant behavior.  A mutual suspicious mentality, non-acceptance of policies, consequent oriented behavior control, work under tension, anxiety, ambiguity etc. develops high resistance on the member's part.  It disrupts the smooth progress and daily functioning of activities by developing work hurdles. It leads to industrial tension and unrest.

Insecurity feeling

Major expectations of working class population are the safety, security and stability of their employment.  These are maintenance factors and their absence develops job dissatisfaction and job stress.  A value system, which maintains the uncertainty about member's existence needs and growth needs, cannot extend work satisfaction and individual satisfaction. A greater alienation members experience from the role they perform and work.  It develops lack of involvement, lack of commitment towards work, disloyalty, commitment to union organizations and poor industrial relations.

Low quality of life

The quality of life is the degree to which members of an organization are able to satisfy their personal needs through their work experience in the organization.  The members have many need and they expect these needs to be fulfilled by their organization, which includes job security, adequate pay, employment benefits, cordial and cohesive work environment, openness, collaboration, experimentation, autonomy etc.  These factors have significant effect in moulding the behavior, personality, member's performance and commitment.  These are indications of quality of life of employees in an organization.  In a weak organisational culture since there is poor labor management relationship, low opportunity for growth, low inter personal relationship and less job security members feel at work, etc, there is low quality of work life.  

Worker's inefficiency

The efficiency of member is directly related to their attitude and commitment to work.  The work culture has a significant role in developing both attitude and interest among employees to contribute more to the organization.  Objective feedback, individual attention, recognition of outstanding performance, open feed back, transparent communication, acceptance, affection and achievement from organization, a supportive leadership, organization's commitment in the improvement of its members etc. have significant impact on the attitude, feelings and interest of employees to work efficiently.  The maintenance of this strong culture improves organizational growth but fate is opposite if there is weak culture. It directly affect the organisational efficiency.

Low expectation

Expectancy is the probability that a particular action will lead to a particular outcome.  The strength and motivation of members to involve work and derive pleasure out of it depends on how the organization meets individual's specific needs and expectations.  These expectations are related to specific needs of the individual's goals.  An objective performance appraisal system based on merit, a better pay, security and safety of employment, feeling of equality, openness, no favoritism, good working conditions, cordial interpersonal relationship etc. are employees' expectations from the organization.  How far the work culture meets these expectations has a significant effect on employees' motivational level. It develops the comfort of life and peace of mind to the members at work. Some thing which go against the their expectancy leads to low level peace of mind and comfort of life at work.  Low-level expectancy leads to low-level affiliation with work and more affiliation to rights and privileges.

Low competency

The work culture has high influence on the members' expectation and competency.  The culture of competency lies in merit based performance ratings and value for skill, qualification, knowledge and effort extend by the members.  Any intervention of organizational factors affects the objectivity of appraisal e.g. superior dependency, submissiveness, loyalty, and favoritism all affect employee's perception towards the value system.  Moreover, the defective and subjective appraisal will affect the employee's motivation to work with competency spirit. Higher the levels of favoritism lower the level of expectancy among members and lower their involvement to work.


The implication part summarizes the far-reaching consequences at the individual level and organisational level that related to the strong and weak culture of the organisation. Important implication of the results is the need for management to recognize far-reaching consequences at the individual level and organisational level. To prevent the far-reaching negative consequences of weak culture's impact on the human behaviour at work, there leadership of the organisation should taken care the policy formulation and its implementation. Weaker the culture organisation have lower the work motivation, work commitment, work relation, loyalty and work ethics. The management of Weak culture should take adequate steps thorough change initiatives for organisational development.

References and Bibliography

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Dean, R. Spitzer. (1996), 'Power Rewards, Rewards That Really Motivate, Management Review, May, P: 45-50.

Dwivedi R S (2001) 'Developing a Culture of High performances, Some Research Experiences', Indian Journal of Industrial Relations, vol.37, No1

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Kilmann, Ralph H., Saxton, Mary J., and Serpa, Roy. 1986. Issues in Understanding and Changing Culture. California Management Review, 28: 87-94.

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Peters, T. J. and Waterman, R. H. (1982), 'In search of Excellence'. Harper & Row, Sydney.

Pettigrew A. M. (1979) Organisational Climate and Culture: Two Construct in Search of  a Role. In Schneider, B. (Ed) Organisation Climate And Culture. San Francisco Jossey- Bass, PP, 413-434.

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Rao Mohan ((1995), 'HRD in Indian Organisations Search for prospective', HRD News Letter April- June 11-14.

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Schein, E. H. (1992). Organizational culture and leadership. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Prof. Dileep Kumar M.

Source: E-mail March 01, 2006


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