An Overview of Organization Culture & National Culture

There is a significant difference in the way people, groups and nations perceive and act, think and express their feelings and these are highly influenced by their culture (Hofstede and Hofstede 2005). Trice and Beyer (1993) define culture as a set of values, assumptions, beliefs, and artifacts instilled in the behavior of the people of an organization or of a country and are shared. Pothukuchi et al. (2002: 244-245) point out that

… although organizational and national cultures have been regarded as separate constructs, it is also widely accepted that organizational culture is nested in national culture.

Thomas (2008) shows a comparison between national culture and organizational culture. According to him (p. 41),

national culture is shared meanings, unconditional relationship, born into it, and totally immersed whereas organizational culture is shared behaviors, conditional relationship, socialized into it and partly involved and the extent to which national culture will influence organizational culture lies in their compatibility.

Organizational Culture – An organizational culture is defined as a system where members hold, share and transmit the organizational values among them (Robbins, 2003; Schein, 2005). Pheysey (1993: xiii) defines organizational culture as it … includes commonly held values, but also common values and attitudes. It prescribes the way we do things here. Schein (1985 cited in Huczynski and Buchanan 2004) illustrates that organizational culture incorporates three levels:

Surface manifestation: This involves behavior patterns, which are easily perceptible by the members of the organizations and its customers.

Values: These are the things that are instilled in people in their childhood through socialization that guide their behavior and they are adjusted or altered through experience.

Basic assumptions: These provide a picture of the organization and its operations, that is, what the organization stands for and how it is operated and this level provides a true meaning of organizational culture.

An organizational culture is the outcome of the thinking of the organizational founders, which is reflected in the selection process of the organizational members who are then socialized according to the assumptions, values and beliefs of the founders, which in turn helps them absorb the ideology of the founders, that is, how the founders think and feel and what kind of behavior patterns organizational members should hold in them (Robbins, 2003).

Organizational culture has been discussed by Trompenaars (1993) in terms of four distinct categories, which are basically done taking the work perspectives of Harrison (1972) and Handy (1978). These four categories are:

1) The Family (Power oriented culture): This type of organizational culture is person oriented, which emphasize the features of hierarchical organizational culture.

2) The Eifel Tower (Role oriented culture): This is a task or work oriented organizational culture with a strong emphasis on hierarchy.

3) The Guided Missile (Task oriented culture): Equality is emphasized in this category of organizational culture that is orientated to task.

4) The Incubator (Fulfillment oriented culture ): An organizational culture which is characterized in terms of equality where the orientation is toward the task.

National Culture – Clark (1990) defines national culture in terms of the behavioral pattern of the people of a country. Hofstede (n.d.) illustrates national culture in terms of five dimensions: Power distance, Individualism, Masculinity, Uncertainty avoidance, and Long-term orientation.

1) Power distance: It is a measure of uneven distribution of power perceived and accepted by the members of a society and provides an indication to what extent the inequality subsists in a society that varies from society to society, one culture to another. A high power distance means members with less power have high tolerance compared to those of more power. The same thing applies in case of seeking guidance by less powerful members from members with more power.

2) Individualism: This measures the way members of a society shows their inclination – inclination to themselves and to their family mean the society is individualistic whereas an interest in groups provides a picture of a collectivist society.

3) Masculinity: It provides a view of the roles that different genders play in a societal context. A high masculine society, men are basically acquisitive in nature and focus on fulfilling their materialistic demands while women are less assertive and inclined to non materialistic needs. In feminine society, both men and women carry the same value.

4) Uncertainty avoidance: A state that demonstrates how uncomfortable or easy the members of a society in a vague, ambiguous and unstructured situations. In a high uncertain society, members of the society are basically nervous and drive emotionally and such society creates rules, beliefs, and laws in order to reduce the impact of uncertainty among society members.

5) Long-term orientation: This indicates the persistence of the members of a society to move ahead towards future with their prudence and willingness whereas short-term orientation focuses on traditions, fulfillment of social obligations, which are rigid and difficult to change.

Organizational cultures are the values and assumptions of the founders which are instilled in the behavior of the organizational members and national cultural values are the basis of the values and assumption of the organizational culture. The formation of an organizational culture stems from the ideologies of the founders of the organizations, the basis of which are the values, beliefs and assumptions of the founders (Robbins, 2003) . Huczynski and Buchanan (2004) point out that the behavior of the employees is shaped by its organizational culture is somehow influenced by the respective national culture.Scholarly articls have been written by various academics and professionals in this field showing the impact of national culture on organizational culture. Businesses, expecially, international, multinational, golbal, or international joint ventures, need to take the national culture of a country into account while setting up a business in that country to properly address cultural issues.


• Clark, T. (1990), “International Marketing and National Character: A Review and Proposal for an Integrative Theory”, Journal of Marketing, Vol. 54, No. 4, pp. 66–79.
• Harrison, R. (1972), “How to describe your organization”, Harvard Business Review, May/June, pp. 119-128.
• Handy, C. B. (1978), The Gods of Management, Penguin, London.
• Hofstede, G. and Hofstede, G. J. (2005), Cultures and Organizations: Software of the Mind, McGraw-Hill, New York, London.
• Hofstede, G. (n.d.), Available:, Accessed: 10 December, 2008.
• Huczynski, A. and Buchanan, D. (2004), Organizational Behaviour. 5th Edition, FT Prentice, London.
• Pheysey, D. C. (1993), Organizational Cultures: Types and Transformations, Routledge, London, NY.
• Pothukuchi, V., Damanpour, F., Choi, J., Chen, C. C. and Park, S. H. (2002), “National and Organizational Culture Differences and International Joint Venture Performance”, Journal Of International Business Studies, Vol. 33, No. 2, pp. 243–265.
• Robbins, S. P. (2003), Organizational Behavior, Prentice-Hall, Upper Saddle River, NJ.
• Schein, E.H. (2005), Organizational Culture and Leadership, Jossey-Bass, San Francisco, CA.
• Thomas D. C. (2008), Cross-Cultural Management: Essential Concepts, SAGE, Thousand Oaks, CA.
• Trice, H. M. and Janice, M. B. (1993), The Cultures of Work Organizations, Prentice-Hall, Englewood Cliffs, NJ.
• Trompenaars, F. (1993), Riding the Waves of Culture, Irwin, Chicago, IL.

Posted by: Farid Ahmed

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