A concise introduction

by Richard Pettinger

Chapter 6

The key issues here are:
  • recognising the need for people to have a clear set of standards to follow and to work to
  • recognising that people have the need to identify with their place of work, and to feel that they belong to that place of work
  • recognising that if you do net set standards of conduct, behaviour and performance, then people will set their own
  • recognising that even if you do get a strong positive and inclusive culture that this comes with its own responsibilities – people will behave in the interests of the organisation if this happens, and so those interests have got to be managed and discharged very effectively (remember that the Nazi SS had a very strong, positive and inclusive culture and so those who ran it were able to get the staff to carry out all of the repulsive crimes for which they were responsible).
You should know the Handy and Harrison and Deal and Kennedy models of culture and you need to know the basis on which any organisation culture is formed and developed.

Finally you need to recognise that culture change and development is a managerial responsibility. It is your ability to set and develop the standards that you want – otherwise these standards will ‘emerge’ anyway, and be set by the staff.

Additional Readings

A Williams P Dobson and M Walters (1989; 2008) Changing Corporate Culture – CIPD argues that delivering lasting change to company attitudes, values and beliefs, and therefore to the culture, is extremely difficult unless it is accompanied by cataclysmic events and actions, or unless the organisation is faced with a crisis of survival. Using cases and examples from all sectors of industry, commerce and public service, it examines the efforts that were made to change collective attitudes, values and behaviour, coming to the overall conclusion that if you do get lasting change in any organisation without having crises, then it is dependent upon strong, active and involved leadership sustained over very long periods of time.

Case studies and examples

Nissan UK

A member of the sales staff at Nissan UK took the company to employment tribunal alleging that she had been unfairly dismissed. She stated that her career had been first damaged and then destroyed because she did not wish to go out for Thursday evening drinks with her colleagues; she rather preferred to go home to her husband and children. This had first of all not been taken seriously by Nissan at all; only later had it become an issue. In the end she was dismissed for what would otherwise have been considered a minor (and certainly not disciplinary) matter: failing to complete her expenses claim on time.

Responding, Nissan eventually agreed that the reason for her dismissal would not have arisen had she agreed to go along to the evening drinks sessions. The company went on to state that this was an implied contractual matter. These sessions were deemed to be of great value in building a strong, cohesive and positive corporate culture; staff members would get to know those with whom they worked as human beings rather than just as colleagues.This case had everything to do with definition and management of a strong and distinctive and inclusive culture. However (and on the basis of what you are told here), beyond a certain point, clearly this culture was coercive. If you wanted to survive (or indeed stay) at the company, you had to do things their way. You had to be prepared and willing to give up what was overtly a part of your free time to spend time with your colleagues. This raises clear questions for organisation design and its management, and the creation of a culture to which everyone can subscribe and belong.

Discussion questions

What does it take to truly change people’s attitudes and values? If you get people to change their behaviour, will their attitudes and values follow also?

Under what circumstances should you seek to change people’s values and attack their beliefs?

Where does the balance lie between legitimately establishing a strong and cohesive culture, and coercing people to behave in ways that they do not wish?