The culture that takes root in an organization can be the result of a deliberate decision by an owner or management to create a specific culture, or it can arise naturally and incrementally as a result of an owner’s or management’s personality and temperament and the methods employed for operating...
The culture that takes root in an organization can be the result of a deliberate decision by an owner or management to create a specific culture, or it can arise naturally and incrementally as a result of an owner’s or management’s personality and temperament and the methods employed for operating the organization. Either way, almost all organizations have a culture that directly affects communications and morale. An organizational culture permeated by personality differences and rivalries will invariably be reflected in the manner in which intraoffice communications take place. Decisions on whom to include in email chains, for example, may be influenced for worse by an individual or group of individuals’s feelings about another member of the organization. The member may be socially and organizationally isolated due to those negative sentiments. There is very often a direct link between culture and communications.
In addition to the adverse effects of personality conflicts on intraoffice communications—effects that could result in reduced productivity and serious morale problems—some owners or managers deliberately establish a competitive environment among employees that impairs processes through restrictive communications and draconian policies regarding the sharing of information.
Managers who do this may play individuals against each other through isolated or targeted conversations or by encouraging such limited communication chains by incentivizing individuals to discuss matters secretly with management or ownership. Information assumes a value out of proportion to its underlying worth. “Information is power” is an old adage that, in many organizations, holds true. Those privy to information feel empowered and superior relative to those on the other side of the invisible wall dividing the informational “haves” from the “have-nots.”
While the above focuses on the more pernicious effects of organizational culture on communications, the converse can also be true. A culture that emphasizes cordiality, professionalism and openness fosters more productive working relationships that involve broader communications strategies. No employee is left feeling isolated or marginalized, and everyone has a shared sense of commitment to a specified outcome. The more benign the operating environment, the more open the lines of communication and the more productive the process. As noted in the above paragraph, denial of information to segments of an organization or specific individuals can have a deleterious effect on productivity.
In a small number of instances, the sharing of information is limited or compartmentalized by necessity. In organizations working with sensitive information, such as businesses building information networks or weapons systems for the military, denial of information to all but those with a legitimate “need to know” is common and required practice. Organizational culture both within government agencies and businesses or research institutes in private hands that exist to support those agencies is by necessity one of opacity. To the extent possible, practicable information is closely guarded. Members of those organizations understand at the outset that they are entering such a situation. The fewer individuals or departments with access to sensitive information, the lower the chances that classified information will leak out of the building.
In general, organizational culture is closely connected to the way in which information is shared. Management that employs methods to foster divisions or rivalries are presumably doing so for a reason, and are not restricting the flow of information unnecessarily and unfairly. Management characterized by ineptitude or psychosis creates an organizational culture that fosters the wielding of information as a weapon to be used against coworkers. It does not limit the flow of information by necessity, and will invariably suffer from excessive worker turnover and reduced productivity.