In the field of Organisational studies and management, the term ‘corporate culture’ often refers to the set of values, assumptions, beliefs, attitudes, experiences, and the relationships between the individuals and functions that define the way the organisation conducts its business. It is the combined beliefs, ethics, values, procedures and atmosphere of an organisation that create the organisational culture. Put in simple terms, it is a ‘perception’ of how things are done in the organisation. This corporate culture influences the behaviours of employees and becomes the natural way of doing things. As such, the organisational culture is more apparent to an external observer than to an internal employee. Very often the organizational culture matches the style and comfort zone of top management. Hiring of people is generally done on the basis of compatibility to and fitness in the existing culture. Such practices reinforce the established organisational culture. If new hires do not espouse the existing organisational culture, they may be misfits. Culture is powerful and invisible and its effects are far reaching.
Every organisation has a culture and different organisations have different corporate cultures and their ‘ways of doing things’. In your library environment where you work, try to figure out all the elements that combine together to form your corporate culture. These refer to the shared values, attitudes, standards, and beliefs that characterize members of your library and define its nature. You will surely note that most of the factors affecting the various elements are caused by management behaviour. Good management understands the fundamentals of human nature and how management actions influence employees’ behaviour. Poor management always affect the corporate culture negatively. Lack of understanding of the fundamentals of human nature and ignorance of the psychological origins of poor management behaviour perpetuate a bad corporate culture. Since corporate culture is built from the combined experiences of the employees, their interactions with each other and outsiders, and the psychological tone set by management, it is possible to work to correct and improve the culture of the organisation. It is in the interest of all, employees and management to develop a healthy corporate culture. However, this is easier said that done. Employees need to work together in team to achieve corporate objectives. Good management practices that foster participation of employees in the management of the organisation (as opposed to authoritarian or autocratic management) allow such healthy corporate culture to grow. Employees are committed, motivated in executing projects and their productivity are boosted in an organisation where a healthy corporate culture exists. Employees view themselves as part of a winning team in the attainment of corporate objectives. Their empowerment in decision-making and in crafting strategies gives them the feeling that their contributions are valued. They are associated in the success of their corporate business. Ultimately such an environment provide them satisfaction in their work.
In many organisations and libraries, staff may be experiencing unhealthy work environment. Bad corporate culture happens but it is not an irreversible phenomenon. It can be corrected and improved. Culture originates in the behaviour of the members of the culture and a “savvy” management should be sensitive to the following key elements:
- Prevailing corporate culture begins at the top level of the organisation. Existing corporate culture reflects the style of management which is enshrined in the vision of top management and which becomes the vision for the organisation.
- The principle of equity in the treatment of all employees should be the guiding principle in human resource management. Perceptions of injustice, nepotism or undue favours to “blue-eyed boys” create frustration which in turn impact negatively on corporate culture.
- Communications upward and downward should never be neglected. Communicating well throughout the organisation with all employees is essential. Discussing problems openly and realistically with employees enlist their help in solving them. This is very likely to create a healthy internal environment as well as ensuring the participation and commitment of employees.
Employees evolving in libraries where a negative corporate culture dominates are subject to stress, frustration, low productivity and frequent absenteeism. They are sick with the work environment and would prefer not to turn up to work for petty reasons. Demotivated staff will just do the minimum. No force can make them give the maximum out of them. “Over-bossing”, “bullying” staff and adopting attitudes like “Do it because I decided it” just worsen the situation. In the worst scenario, staffs are conditioned to accept / expect abuse and poor quality management. Such behaviours are interiorised as normal and they replicate same style in their dealings with colleagues and customers. Those having the possibility to quit the organisation will unfailingly do so on the first available opportunity while others are always on the look-out for greener pastures elsewhere.
Those Managers who are aware of the bad corporate culture prevailing in the library and having at heart the interest of the institution will make sincere efforts to redress the situation. A good understanding of human nature and psychology will help but in the first instance the real causes of the negative corporate culture should be known. Good managers will take the time and exercise the introspection to think through their beliefs about management and their management styles, trace them back to past experiences and learning, and establish better ways of thinking. In other words, they would undergo a reconditioning of themselves to be better managers. Are our bad library managers capable of such exercise and remould themselves into better ones…for the benefit of the organisations they are managing and for the library profession in general?