Gabazira's blog

The Effectiveness-Lab

Should we work for organisations whose culture orientation is the same as ours?

This week we discuss organisation vs. individual culture dilemma. Should we work for organisations that share the same culture orientation as us? And, what is on offer for organisation culture? Mono or poly culture?

Traditionally, culture at organisations tends to go one way or the other. It’s perceived as a black or white affair. It’s a mono culture affair.

For purposes of this blog, we take a broad-brush approach to categorising organisation culture. It’s either conservative or liberal.

Conservative culture promotes traditional and social ethos at the work place and establish work processes, that directly or indirectly defend such isms. Tradition, hierarchy, authority, deliberate effort to own and defend property rights define a conservative culture at organisations.

On the other hand, is the liberal organisation culture. It’s a rights and freedom oriented culture. In a liberal organisation culture environment, you find a surprising level of looseness about what you can do or not. Such entities espouse the ethos of freedom, equality of the human race in both gender and race, internationalism as well as secularism. It’s not far fetched to write on this blog that it manifests as a laissez-faire framework that puts human freedoms and tolerance at the center of ideology.

In between the two is the culture hodgepodge – the mix of both conservative and liberal values. We actually believe at the Effectiveness lab that there are less and less pure conservative or liberal cultures. There is an obvious shift to the middle ground. Organisations are borrowing what they consider ‘good’ from both the conservative right and liberal left. We are seeing more and more ‘middle ground’ culture at organisations. Some people consider the latter organisation ‘indentityless’ from a culture perspective. They are accused of lacking culture purity. But we differ from the latter school of thought. These organisations are ‘poly cultured’, that is the choice they have made and it’s okay. They actually bring better fit in an equally patchworked global market place

As a matter of fact – globalisation has forced companies, some completely unawares, to embrace cultures foreign to their ‘home’ beliefs. It’s no longer enough to stay on home turf and survive. When firms venture out into the global environment, they don’t control the culture/s that confront them. The truth is that the latter is the new normal and companies are gradually shifting towards a new global culture orientation – poly culturalism. We need elements of both liberal and conservative culture to ensure fit in a ‘spaghetted’ global environment.

So, what culture is best to spend 66% of your total time in a day with?

Which is the best organisation to work for if you were choosing one of the three culture orientations? And our answer is: it’s really up to your individual beliefs, the knack for learning – read: embracing new things, and globalisation realities

Conservatives, as the name alludes, are usually near fanatical, with a single minded zeal towards their beliefs. It’s usually their way or the highway. They fiercely defend culture positions. The conservative organisation is configured to accomplish the latter. Some practical examples: If you are an emancipated woman, a go-getter that will do all it takes to break the glass ceiling, think twice before joining an organisation with a known conservative culture in regards to the place of women in leadership. Some of these culture positions, at so called conservative culture organisations, are decreed by system tsars, and you won’t change that anytime soon – so, choose carefully. Second example of conservatism: conservative entities are very strict about aligning to accepted practice. The freedom to exercise individual thinking and beliefs in management isn’t always granted to those that want it. If you are the independent-thinking, experimental and learn-on-the-go type of manager, you be careful accepting employment at an ultra conservative entity, where work that is done and how it’s done, is defined above you. Think twice if you can stand such intellectual-assassination: implementing without thinking and ownership.

Now, the liberals. They too are fanatic in their own way, but around liberal values. Even at work, it’s them and their neighbours; a human face to life that welcomes, embraces and trusts others; it’s like a Ugandan extended family that accepts members and shares the little it has to the very last; it’s a home away from home and it’s about people feeling warm and good and doing what they like doing best; liberals are respectful of your person, values, the things you do and they don’t practice intellectual-assassination. So, if you are the type that likes to be managed on a leash like a small puppy, this may not be the environment for you. If you are the type that awaits orders from above, have got very conservative views about other human beings and are traditionalist, socialise in locked-up boxes – think twice before coming to this family of organisations.

And finally – we have the culture hodgepodge. Poly culture at the organisation. A mixture of the liberal and conservative cultures. It usually exhibits a slightly more visible tilt towards either culture. In politics, it’s called the center left or right. It’s cherry picking what they want and the result is a culture cocktail. Depending on which side of culture the bias falls, this can be the best of both worlds. If the UAE was an organisation, it would be a good example of this type of culture orientation. Globalisation is forcing this culture orientation on organisations. They have had to cherrypick culture from the two main orientations, to simply survive in a ‘spaghetti’ global market place. The impact of globalisation has been felt beyond organisations – individuals, families, nation states are having to reorient to maintain relevance once on the global turf. Originally conservative or liberal entities, are abandoning the traditional puritanical orientation and are presenting a middle ground that gives them the flexibility required to be relevant in a global village

Do you know your individual culture bias and the type of organisation that gives you latitude to add signature-value? Are you primed for a poly cultured world of work?


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About Me

Apollo B. Gabazira is an Ugandan OD. junkie fascinated by matters that render organisations/individuals effective or not. He blogs on effective leadership and management. He is a devoted green-farmer and breeds the Ayrshire cow at Nakabugu, Luuka district, Uganda. Apollo is quite effective at what he chooses to do.


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