The Random House College Dictionary defines culture as "the sum total of ways of living by a group of human beings and transmitted from generation to generation".
Culture may also be defined as history, traditions and rules concerning appropriate and inappropriate behaviour of a group.
Organisation culture is a system of shared values and beliefs (how things work) that shape a company's people; organisational structures and control systems to produce behavioural norms (the way we do things around here)
Values – beliefs that legitimise the existence and importance of specific social structures and the kind of behaviours that transpires in social structures. Values therefore are dos and don'ts in any given society.
Norm – an informal standard for behaviour within a culture. It refers to a specific aspect of the broader culture. When a norm becomes formalised in a culture, it is referred to as a rule of law.
The term "norm" is derived from the word normal. Behaviour is normal if it seems to fall within the guidelines that a particular group accepts as appropriate – guidelines that the group validates by consensus. A norm evolves from collective support.
Development and Process
A culture develops from the values or ideals of the group; as agreed upon over time and
from the customs or ways that the members have traditionally followed.
The values and customs may be helpful or beneficial to a culture. In "Built to Last", the authors, Collins and Porras, argued that the key factor in sustained exceptional performance is a cult like culture. You can't touch it – you can't write it down – but it's there in every organisation, and its influence is pervasive. Culture can therefore make or mar organisations. Culture can have a positive or negative effect on the performance of organisation.
Culture provides the language – verbal and non-verbal and the meaning for the language that makes communication possible.
Non verbal communication may include:
The thumbs-up posture would suggest that everything is ready. The V shaped sign with the first and second fingers pointing upwards imply victory and shaking the head from side to side suggests no, whiles nodding the head up and down suggests yes. Gestures do not have universal application.
CULTURAL FACTORS THAT INFLUENCE MANAGEMENT BEHAVIOUR
Ghanaian culture has a lot of influence on ways that management behave. Some of these factors may be considered under:
Women in Management
Ghana has ratified many conventions to empower women. These include:
Affirmative Action Policy, 1998
Specific measures under the policy include:
Commitment to provide 40% women representation in decision-making and executive positions at all levels of government;
Allocation of 30% quota of female government appointees to the District Assemblies;
Establishment of a women's desk in all Ministries, Departments and Agencies.
Implementation has been very disappointing and women employees have remained at the lower level of appointments.
Ratification of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW)
Adoption of the African Charter on Human and People's Rights
Lack of political will and cultural constraints make it difficult to eradicate gender inequities.
From cultural perspective the macho man is seen as the head who should always lead. Accepting a woman into a top executive position is difficult for many men to embrace. Having a woman as a boss appears to be an "abomination". The macho man will therefore resist the rise of a woman to a top position.
The Ghanaian society likes giving and receiving gifts. On many occasions, gifts are exchanged. This practice has found its own expression at the corporate level. Regrettably, employees who perform service for others expect to be given gifts or "thanked" after doing their normal duties. Failure by an individual to "give gift" may result in frustration the next time. Corruption within the society has its roots from the traditional method of giving gifts.
Officials from the private sector therefore give gifts to public sector officials in order to influence them or win their favour. Gifts are now being used to corrupt officials.
Appraising personnel periodically poses a challenge for many supervisors and managers. Supervisors and managers do not want to be seen as having deprived their fellow employees of their daily bread and therefore both hardworking and lazy staff are assessed as having performed well during the year and given bonuses or salary rewards.
There is the general belief that he who deprives his fellow human being of his daily bread will be cursed by the gods. Hypocritically, supervisors and managers want to be seen as "good" people. Eventually, the same people complain when the lazy employees are not up to the task given to them.
In a similar fashion most reference letters are written with a favourable tone. Referees do not want to be seen as "wicked" by society. Some referees who do not want to retain lazy employees may give them favourable reports to enable them join other organisations. The notion of a referee not being the cause of the "downfall" of an employee is common in many organisations.
The concept of insurance is well known and understood by many people and yet without enforcement many people will not take up insurance policies. There is the general notion that once you insure against something, you are only inviting trouble. Taking up life insurance means inviting death. The same meaning is given to writing of wills.
The general concept is that calamities will move far away from an individual, if he pretends they do not exist.
Motor insurance premiums form up to about eighty percent of the revenue of many insurance companies. This is because it has legal backing. Can you imagine what the situation would have been like if there were no law to enforce motor insurance?
The tendency to retaliate for supposed wrong committed is common. When there is a change in government, many people desire to see officials of the out gone government punished for supposed "evils" committed while in office.
At the corporate level, employees wish to see their boss removed so that they rejoice. Some report their employers claiming that they have evaded taxes whereas they may not have the facts. The aim is to ensure that the companies are investigated so that if any wrongdoing is detected, appropriate punishment may be meted out to the culprits. There is the general notion that if nothing good is seen in virtue then nothing bad should be seen in committing evil.
The extended family system puts onerous responsibilities on those who are working. The proprietor of a small scale enterprise must take care of his relatives by giving them preference in respect of recruiting employees. The competencies of such relations are usually not of primary importance.
The top executive in a large company is expected to influence recruitment policies so that more of his relatives can be employed. Failure or inability to use one's position to find jobs for relative is frowned upon. The manager or proprietor is seen as a "wicked" person. Societal pressure compels many managers to compromise on corporate and personal values.
Religious beliefs play an important role in managerial behaviour. Religion is a way of life for the Ghanaian. There is the general belief of protection from God for all who trust in Him. As a result of strong faith in the Supreme Being, many people are unable to plan or make provision for an unpleasant situation if their expectations are not met. Once they have faith like the mustard seed, when they say that the mountain be removed, it must happen without any resistance.
Unfortunately, in the corporate world things do not work that way and many businesses have lost their properties through fire outbreak and other cataclysms. Many of such unfortunate incidents happen daily despite the fact that the entrepreneurs and employees pray every morning before they start business for the day. Victims then call on the government to come to their aid. Politicians visit such victims and make promises which are never fulfilled.
Time Management and Technology
In the primitive days people used the rising and setting of the sun and length of shadows to depict time. Time was wasted and not respected. In modern times, people have wrist watches. Cell phones indicate times of the day. Vehicle owners have clocks in their vehicles. Regrettably, attitude to time has not changed much from the primitive era.
The concept of "African time" is the bane to our time management and development. In some societies, "time is money". Time is planned and used profitably.
In Ghana and many other African countries, 'any time is good time". Time is not planned and therefore wasted. Employees attribute their lateness to "traffic" Politicians are always late to attend functions and put the blame on exigencies of work. African time should not be different from other time if we are eager to develop our economies.
Respect for the aged
Traditional beliefs are such that the younger ones must always respect the aged, take instructions from them and not argue with them. In the traditional set up, the aged is never wrong. In any conflict between an adult and a young person, the latter will be required to ask for forgiveness of his "sins" irrespective of the weight of evidence available.
At the corporate level, subordinate officers are required to take instructions from superior officers without complain. Regrettably, this culture has led to a situation where some leaders have become autocratic and are unable to accept constructive criticisms.
Under the perception of taking instructions "from above" some subordinate officers have had problems because they were manipulated by such superior officers who denied ever giving any instructions.
Akin to respect for the aged is the tendency to accept situations and circumstances in whatever form they come. To placate the pain of victims, they are always told to "leave it with the Lord". Thus root causes of problems are never investigated and the cycle continues.
Funerals and other social events
A lot of productive time is spent by Ghanaians to mourn their dead. Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays are all days spent on funeral activities. The whole day is wasted and much money is spent, sometimes leading to debts by families. People who are bereaved also apply and are granted casual leave to prepare for the funerals of deceased relatives. Productivity is always compromised.
Should Ghanaian culture be seen as always impacting negatively on managerial behaviour?
The answer is No. There are many aspects of our culture which have positive impact on managerial behaviour.
The extended family system and communal living serve as a form of social security for the aged and unemployed. Those employed therefore take care of the unemployed and the unemployables.
Parents should allow their sons to perform household chores just like their daughters. The boy-child must be taught how to sweep, wash clothes and cook. The upbringing of the boy should include showing respect for girls.
Parents should not discriminate against girls in terms of education. Girls should be offered equal opportunities like boys.
School curricula should be designed to allow boys to participate in vocational skills previously reserved for girls, such as home economics. It is a known fact that males in home economics industry perform better than their female counterparts. Women should not be discouraged but must continue to work hard in order to reach the top.
Guidelines should be established at the national and corporate levels in order to establish what gift can be received and given. Giving of money or other instruments convertible to cash easily must be discouraged. Sanctions (including termination of appointment) must be applied.
Positive attitudinal change including: respect for time, being courageous to say the truth without fear and constructive criticism in a civilized manner are attributes which we should exhibit.
We should tap into the positive aspects of other people's culture: diligence, avoiding complacency and avoiding retaliation.
BUILDING A STRONG AND EFFECTIVE CULTURE
Powerful organisational culture does not happen overnight and will not remain without a strong commitment. Every organisation has a culture. A strong and healthy culture must be reinforced and passed on to others if it is to remain viable.
Oral tradition is one way of maintaining an effective culture. The positive sides must be told to latter generations of employees. Innovation in action, moderate risks experimented, initial setbacks to project implementation and final success will be of interest to new employees. Staff durbars and "pep talks" by executives serve to reinforce a company's values. Top executives must serve as role models to employees. They must be consistent in word and deed.
Culture wears many different hats; each woven from the fabric of those values that sustain organisation's primary source of competitive advantage. Culture sets the boundaries in dress, ethical matters, and the way an organisation conducts its business.
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McGraw-Hill Irwinhere ...