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Impact of Culture on Managers

An organisation’s culture constrains what managers can and cannot do and how they manage. Organisational culture is particularly relevant to managers. Such constraints are rarely explicit. They’re not written down. It’s unlikely they’ll even be spoken. But they’re there, and all managers quickly learn what to do and not do in their organisation. If you want to get to the top here, you have to be a team player.

The link between cultural values and managerial behaviour is fairly straightforward. Let’s take an example, a so-called “ready-aim-fire” culture. In such an organisation, managers will study and analyse proposed projects endlessly before committing to them. However, in a “ready-fire-aim” culture, managers take action and then analyse what has been done. Or, say an organisation’s culture supports the belief that profits can be increased by cost cutting and that the company’s best interests are served by achieving slow but steady increases in quarterly earnings.

Managers are unlikely to pursue programs that are innovative, risky, long term, or expansionary. In an organisation whose culture conveys a basic distrust of employees, managers are more likely to use an authoritarian leadership style than a democratic one. The culture established for managers appropriate and expected behaviour. For example, Banco Santander, whose headquarters are located 20 kilometers from downtown Madrid, has been described as a “risk-control freak.” The company’s managers adhered to banking’s stodgiest virtues conservatism and patience. However, it’s those values that triggered the company’s growth from the sixth largest bank in Spain to the largest bank in the euro zone.

For instance, you won’t find the following values written down, but each comes from a real organisation.

  • We make our product only as good as the competition forces us to.
  • What made us successful in the past will make us successful in the future.
  • Look busy even if you’re not.
  • If you take risks and fail around here, you’ll pay dearly for it.
  • Before you make a decision, run it by your boss so that he or she is never surprised.

A manager’s decisions are influenced by the culture in which he or she operates. An organization’s culture, especially a strong one, influences and constrains the way a manager plans, organises, leads and controls.

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