Proceedings of the 55th Annual Meeting of the ISSS - 2011, Hull, UK, Proceedings of the 55th Annual Meeting of the ISSS

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Communication as a mechanism for culture integration

Tomas Backström, Tom Hagström, Susanna Göransson

Abstract


Autonomy of employees is one way to ensure the flexibility, adaptability and innovation competence needed in organisations working on a global market. This has to be dynamically balanced on a system level by integration of the employees into the organisation. Formulation and communication of an organisational culture is one way to integrate employees to an understanding of the work that increases the chances of co-ordinated behaviour towards the goal of the organisation.
The aim of this article is to increase the knowledge about processes leading to integration of employees into the organizational culture. The hypothesis is that culture emerges in the interaction between members of a social group. Thus, the article is studying the importance of communication, the research questions are: What makes the culture of a work group similar to the organizational culture?, How is a work group culture constructed? and How is it possible that some members of the workgroup are integrated in the organizational culture while others are not?
Theories used are about culture as an organizing structure emerging in interaction between actors, about organizational culture as a way for management to exert control, and about social networks as a way to describe the interaction processes is.
The empirical data comes from a merchant bank in Sweden famous for: long term competitiveness, a decentralized organisation and the use of organizational culture. 105 respondents from ten work groups of this bank have answered questions about their communication and their integration into the organisational culture.
The results show that communication between members of a group is a mechanism behind the development of the sub-culture of the group and the integration of each individual member into this subculture. There seems to be a self-reinforcing spiral between collegial talk, especially about goals, plans and changes at the work place, and culture integration. To build a strong subculture it is important to have all members of a group included in this communication, since persons in the periphery of the talk pattern tends to be less integrated. The value system of the group’s supervisor is strongly influencing the sub-culture of the work group. Thus, to hire supervisors with the correct values and giving resources to employees for communication is central for an organisation using organisational culture as a tool for control.

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