Unveiling the hidden power of organizational culture: A journey through the Paradoxes

Mattias Seger

12 nov 2023 13:01:51

Have you ever walked into a workplace and felt an indescribable vibe, an intangible energy that seems to permeate the air? That is the magic of organizational culture at work. Organizational culture is the invisible force that shapes our work lives, driving our behaviors, attitudes, and even our productivity. In the organization, culture is what comes natural for us. Organizational culture is often considered the "way things are done" within an organization, and it influences every aspect of an organization's operations.

Let us explore the fascinating topic of organizational culture, delving deep into its paradoxes, cases, and the impact it has on our daily lives.

Let's start with a paradox, shall we? One might think that a hyper-focused, serious, and strictly disciplined culture would yield the highest productivity, right? Surprisingly, that's not always the case. In fact, some of the most productive organizations have a culture that balances work with play.

Take Google, for instance

Google is renowned for its unique organizational culture that promotes creativity and innovation. Employees are encouraged to spend 20% of their time working on projects that interest them personally. This freedom to explore their passions has led to the creation of groundbreaking products like Gmail and Google Maps. It's a culture that fosters autonomy and encourages employees to think outside the box.

Employee engagement is a hot topic in organizational psychology, and for good reason. Engaged employees are more likely to be productive, committed, and loyal. But how does organizational culture play into this?

Consider the case of Zappos

n online shoe retailer known for its zany, customer-centric culture. Zappos employees are encouraged to express their individuality, and the company offers unconventional perks like a dedicated life coach for employees. This unique culture has led to a highly engaged workforce. In fact, Zappos has one of the lowest turnover rates in the retail industry.

Organizational culture can also have a profound impact on ethical behavior. While we'd like to think that every company promotes ethical conduct, that's not always the case. The Enron scandal of the early 2000s serves as a chilling reminder of how a toxic culture that prioritizes profit above all else can lead to catastrophic consequences.

Patagonia and responsebility

On the flip side, companies like Patagonia have built a culture around environmental and social responsibility. Patagonia's mission is to "build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, and use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis." This approach has not only attracted socially conscious consumers but has also helped the company thrive financially.

Diversity and inclusion are at the forefront of discussions in today's workplace. While it's clear that diversity is important, the culture of an organization can either promote or hinder diversity efforts.

Diversity and Inclusion at Airbnb

Consider the case of Airbnb. In 2016, the company faced accusations of discrimination from users who claimed they were denied lodging based on their race. Airbnb took swift action, implementing changes in its culture and policies to combat discrimination. The company introduced mandatory anti-bias training for hosts and guests, demonstrating a commitment to fostering a more inclusive culture.

Remote work at Buffer

The COVID-19 pandemic transformed the way we work, accelerating the adoption of remote work. Now, more than ever, organizational culture plays a pivotal role in maintaining a sense of belonging and cohesion among remote teams.

Companies like Buffer have embraced remote work as part of their culture for years. They have built a culture of trust, where employees have the flexibility to work from anywhere, as long as they meet their goals. This approach has not only attracted top talent from around the world but has also contributed to Buffer's strong team culture.

So, why is organizational culture so important? Here are a few key reasons


Employee Engagement

A positive and supportive culture can lead to higher levels of employee engagement. When employees feel connected to the organization's values and mission, they are more motivated and committed to their work.

Productivity and Performance

Organizational culture can impact employee productivity and overall organizational performance. A culture that values efficiency, innovation, and excellence can drive higher levels of performance.

Retention and Recruitment

A strong and attractive culture can help retain top talent and attract new employees who align with the organization's values. It can serve as a competitive advantage in the talent market.

Ethical Behavior

Culture influences ethical decision-making within an organization. A culture that prioritizes ethical conduct can help prevent unethical behavior and promote integrity.

Innovation and Adaptability

Culture plays a role in fostering innovation and adaptability. An open and innovative culture encourages employees to experiment, take risks, and generate new ideas.

Customer Relations

The way employees interact with customers and external stakeholders is often influenced by the organizational culture. A positive culture can lead to better customer service and stronger relationships.

Long-Term Success: 

A strong and healthy culture can contribute to an organization's long-term success and sustainability. It can provide a sense of identity and purpose that guides the organization through challenges and changes.

Success in shaping and nurturing a strong organizational culture requires deliberate effort and commitment.

Here are five practical tips or steps to help you be successful in this endeavor:


1. Define and Communicate Core Values and Beliefs:

Start by clearly defining the core values and beliefs that you want your organizational culture to embody. These values should align with your organization's mission and long-term goals.

2. Lead by Example:

Leadership plays a critical role in shaping and reinforcing the culture. Leaders should exemplify the cultural values and behaviors they expect from employees.

3. Foster Open Communication:

Create an environment that encourages open and transparent communication. Encourage employees to share their thoughts, ideas, and concerns without fear of retribution.

4. Invest in Employee Development:

Provide opportunities for employee growth and development that align with your cultural values. Offer training, mentorship programs, and leadership development to help employees embody the desired culture.

5. Regularly Assess and Adapt:

Continuously assess your organizational culture through surveys, feedback sessions, and performance evaluations. Identify areas where the culture is thriving and areas that may need improvement.

So, as you go about your daily work life, take a moment to reflect on the culture that surrounds you.

Is it fostering your growth and well-being, or is it holding you back?


Embrace the lessons from the paradoxes and cases we've explored, and use them to shape a culture that empowers you and those around you.

Growloop is a great tool to support the development of your organizational culture, where your employees, by spending just a couple of hours a month can explore and develop their self-leadership, enhancing your organizational culture.

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