types of organization cultureWork culture is a topic that many of us are familiar with, mostly because we work and we more often than not do this with other people. The type of organization, the staff, the principles, policies and values of the work place all make organizational culture what it is. So what type of work culture do you work in? What type works better than others? There is a large variety of organizational cultures that materialize in different environments; some occur au natural and some are implemented by the higher-ups in the company. Workplace ethos silently (and sometimes not-so-silently) guide employees on how to behave amongst each other, with customers and with management.

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Importance of Organizational Culture

The culture of a workplace makes the organization what it is. Culture is the sum of attitudes, customs and beliefs that distinguish one group of people from another. Organizational culture is no different from ethnic culture except it usually includes people from all different backgrounds and histories. These cross-cultural connections can blossom into ingenuity and understanding that promote a better workplace and arguably a better world community. An office culture creates a unique brand for a company which helps them stand out amongst the rest of their competitors. It also defines standards and set procedures that give the company and furthermore the employees direction as they conduct their daily business. Culture unifies people and allows them to learn from one another and strive to be the best they can be. No company exists without a culture, but every company operates under a different type of one. Don’t worry if you are struggling a little bit to control and motivate your team – it happens. Uncover skills you didn’t know you had in the Ultimate Management System online guide.

Types of Organizational Culture

Before we get into the specific details of the different types of cultures, there are two overarching models that companies will fall into, strong culture and weak culture. In a strong culture, employees have a sense of empowerment and understanding of the company goals, regulations and philosophy. This kind of culture allows employees to be driven and feel respected which benefits the overall health of a company. In a weak organizational culture, employees are lost, unmotivated and operate under a regime of fear. Fear may motivate individuals but not for long and for all of the wrong reasons. Employees should never feel like they will be wrongly reprimanded for making mistakes or needing a little extra guidance. Having trouble disciplining your employees? Don’t get crazy on them for minor oversights, in Employee Discipline you can learn all the right tricks for dealing with confrontation. Alright, now let’s explore some organizational culture archetypes.

The name says it all. Academy culture depends on employees who are highly skilled, studious and welcome further training and advancement. This type of work place environment thrives off of intense training for employees being brought on board and ongoing training for the employees already there. Organizations that choose to follow this culture are very particular about who they hire, their existing skill sets and their willingness to learn and grow. This format of management keeps turn-over rates low and the employees eager to do their job to the best of their ability. Many hospitals, universities and other educational institutions rely on academy culture to stay up to date on the newest information and technology.

This is your everyday corporate workplace. Normative culture is very cut and dry, following strict regulations and guidelines that uphold the policies of the organization. Employees rarely deviate from their specific job role, break rules or do anything other than what is asked of them. These type of organizations run a tight ship and are not suited for every type of employee. Know anything about The Carrot, The Whip or The Plant? These are object-oriented approaches to motivating your employees. Learn more about these techniques and others in Motivating Employees.

You know that saying the customer is always right? Well, that is the first and only rule of a pragmatic culture workplace. The customer or client comes before anything or anyone else. Because every customer is different, these type of work places are very opposite of the normative culture environment as employees don’t adhere to strict rules. Whatever the customer wants, the customer gets (within reason, of course).

Nothing but the best. This type of culture requires employees to be very skilled and competent in their niche of work. Educational qualifications, prior work experience and even personal interests are taken into consideration before an employee is hired. (Learn effective hiring methods if your organization follows club culture.) Club culture can be seen in organizations like the FBI, commercial pilots and specialty branches of the military. The hiring process can be pretty intense for these work environments, requiring multiple interviews, a stellar resume (and references to back it up), background checks and so on. The upside of being a part of a club culture is your hard work will pay off. These types of employers often reward hard work with promotions but with that are frequent appraisals of your work and role within the company.

This could be the best type of organizational culture from an employee’s stand point. Remember how pragmatic culture focuses on the customers? Well, baseball team environments say it’s all about the employees. As long as the workers are happy, comfortable and feel respected, the work will get done and the employees will want to stick with the company for the long haul. Google is a good example of a baseball team culture, the employees get to pretty much do what they want, soup up their offices with whatever makes them feel creative – and it’s on the company dime. Company outings are a regular thing, social events within the office and incentives are a big component of this type of culture. Sounds good, right?

Contrary to baseball culture, fortress culture could be the worst (or the best if you’re really good at what you do) for employees. This type environment is all about the numbers. If the organization is doing well as a result of the employee’s productivity then the employees continue to have a job. If the organization begins to see a downfall in success then the individuals that aren’t pulling their weight are terminated. An example of a company that follows this structure is WorldStrides and more specifically their sales department. Salespeople have a very important job to do, they seek out business, secure business and retain business. If a salesperson is not fulfilling their quota or cannot meet the demands of the department then the company will replace them in hopes of a better outcome with someone else. Another downside to this type of work culture is the time and money invested in training these employees. With such a high termination rate these companies will hire a new set of people and be forced to train them only to find out they cannot stay up to speed. However, if you are good at what you do you will often be praised and will not have to worry about job security.

Tough guy culture is basically another way of saying micro-management. Employees are monitored every step of the way and when something does not meet the standards or expectations of the company the employee is given guidance and monitored further. It can be a tough (hence the name) environment for some to work in especially if you are independent and have a creative mind. An example of this would be in a customer service role. Most companies have scripts that customer service representatives must follow when answering calls in a call center. If you stray from the script at all, even just a word, it can mean the difference between being in good standing with management – or bad. Calls are often recorded for quality assurance and the employees will be reviewed consistently to ensure that they are following the protocol. Sometimes these cultures follow the three-strikes-you’re-out practice in which you can be terminated if you do not act on any corrections provided to you during your review. It’s hard to be watched all the time but these type of companies just want to ensure consistency and commitment to their customers and they need employees that can be shaped to do just that. Performance reviews can be tricky, try not to intimidate your employees, instead find tactful ways to say what you need to say in Performance Evaluation Comments.

This type of office culture provides a set of regulations and procedures that the employees follow. It’s different than the normative culture as the regulations are not a bullet-pointed list of do’s and don’ts so much as it is an ideology that the employees adhere to. Employees know what they are getting into when they sign-up and are often self-starters. Unlike tough guy culture, these employees are not micro-managed and they rarely are given performance reviews. If they are given reviews it’s annually and it’s to assess their work on a large scale, their aspirations within the company and potentially a discussion about salary. More often than not, government agencies run operate under the process culture.

This culture is for the patient risk-takers. Organizations that follow this culture are known to literally bet the success or failure of their company on single decisions of which the outcome is completely unknown. It can be a wild ride working for this type of company as you don’t know what each day is going to bring. The consequences of the decisions made by the individuals working in the bet-your-company culture can be so dire that the company goes under; contrarily, they can be so excellent that the company thrives more than ever before.

Now you see that there are many different types of culture that develop within a company. Some companies practice more than one of these and some are strictly one of the above. Overall, rooting your employees on while ensuring the customers are happy is the best balanced culture there is. Try talking to your employees about what they like and dislike about the work place and you can begin understanding what changes need to be made for the health of your organization. Want to build a team of all-star employees? (Who doesn’t!) The course Develop Superstars will show you how.

Page Last Updated: February 2020

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