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Societal Culture vs. Organizational Culture Essay Sample

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Introduction of TOPIC

In previous readings of Organizational Behavior (2011), the authors, Stephen P. Robbins and Timothy A. Judge discussed, at length, the many elements of societal culture. Of those elements, the roles of personality, values, and their effect on the group dynamic, dominated the discussion. The following, however, will discuss how societal culture relates to structure of organizations, particularly as it pertains to work design. The relationship between societal culture and organizational culture will also be examined. Lastly, the issue of values will, once again, be addressed as a proponent for organizational change. Robbins and Judge define Organizational Structure as “how job tasks are formally divided, grouped, and coordinated” (Robbins & Judge, p. 488.) There are six basic elements that support the proper design for organizational structure: work specialization, departmentalization, chain of command, span of control, centralization and decentralization, and formalization. Work specialization refers to the degree to which one activity is divided in to multiple jobs. Departmentalization is the strategic gathering of different jobs into groups.

The line of authority to which lower level employees must report is the chain of command. The number of individuals efficiently, and effectively lead under a manager determines the span of control. Centralization and decentralization determine where the authority to make decisions lie. Lastly, formalization refers to the degree to which employees, and managers, and directed by rules and regulations. Cultural aspects such as nationality, and regionalism, greatly determine how organizations are structured. The idea of small business is very popular in the individualist driven U.S. because of the simplicity of its structure. The simple organization s

tructure “has a low degree of departmentalization, wide spans of control, authority centralized in

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a single person, and little formalization” (Robbins & Judge, p. 495.) The idea that there is little power distance between the employee and the boss is very appealing to many workers. On the other hand, the owner/manager likely prides himself on being the sole authority, and superior in the chain of command.

It’s been said that, “bureaucratic structures still dominate in many parts of Europe and Asia,” while U.S. organizations are frequently criticized for placing “too much emphasis on individual leadership” (Robbins & Judge, p. 509.) Often times, multinational organizations have to adjust their structure according to the culture of the nations in which they are operating. For example, “U.S-based company Tyson Foods…decentralized its structure, giving more autonomy to managers overseeing operations in important developing markets like China” (Robbins & Judge, p. 497.) Societal Culture also has vast implications on organizational culture. The word, culture, not only connects the two concepts in language, but in explanation; as both are concerned with perception. While societal culture focuses on how people of different backgrounds perceive the world; “organizational culture is concerned with how employees perceive the characteristics of an organization’s culture” (Robbins & Judge, p. 521.) Such characteristics include, but are not limited to innovation and risk taking, people orientation, team orientation, aggressiveness, and stability.

Societal Culture also plays a role in how these characteristics are perceived, as different cultures place different values on these characteristics, which leads to the variation in organization structures across cultural boundaries. According to Robbins and Judge, the role of culture in an organization is to define boundaries. Its function is to create distinctions between organizations, convey a sense of identity to its members, facilitate “commitment to something higher than individual self-interest,” enhance stability, and shape attitudes and behaviors (Robbins & Judge, pp.523-524.) The same can be said for societal culture, just on a grander scale. The element that ultimately connects the two is values. Societal culture shapes values, and values shape organization culture. Culture and values are two fairly inflexible concepts. “Every organization has a culture that, depending on its strength, can have a significant influence on the attitudes and behaviors of organization members” (Robbins & Judge, 520.) However, when ability of an organization to perform and compete is at stake, the existing values of those members can force managers to rethink its culture, and readjust its structure.


Judge, Timothy A., Robbins, Stephen P. (2011). Organizational Behavior. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education, Inc. publishing as Prentice Hall.

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