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INTRODUCTION

We are what we repeatedly do.

–Aristotle

This chapter takes a closer look at communication in the context of organizational culture and behavior. More specifically, it discusses how your role as an effective communicator contributes to the organizational culture and climate on a micro and macro level. As you read this chapter, reflect on your work environments—past and present—and consider how both you and your colleagues have contributed to the organizational culture and climate through direct intentional acts or through acts of omission as they relate to communication.

IN THE DRIVER’S SEAT: DEFINING ORGANIZATIONAL CULTURE AND BEHAVIOR

By itself, culture refers to characteristics historically shared by a group of people. Culture can be self-determined or defined by outsiders looking in. Everyone belongs to numerous cultures and subcultures. Because people are so complex and culturally integrated, attempts to neatly place individuals into distinct categories when working toward organizational progress are both impractical and ineffective. In contrast, organizational culture can be defined by all the life experiences, strengths, weaknesses, education, upbringing, and so forth of an organization’s executives and employees. As for cultural behavior, it describes one aspect of social traditions used to shape environmental and group values. It pertains to how people and groups in organizations behave. It also considers the role of organizational systems, structures, and processes in shaping behavior to understand how organizations really work.

Although executive leaders play a significant role in defining organizational culture through their actions and leadership, all employees contribute to the organizational culture.

Organizational culture and behavior have a direct effect on efficiency, patient outcomes, patient experience, and the financial bottom line. A positive culture begets positive outcomes, including staff engagement, fair-mindedness, energy, team spirit, and inventiveness.

Every organizational culture has both visible and invisible values. Examples of visible values may include symbols, customs, formalities, language, structures, clothing, technology, and history. Invisible values include beliefs, decision-making trends, administrative support (or lack thereof), rules, procedures, and responses to change.

I have worked in small and large organizations among racially and ethnically homogenous and heterogeneous groups. What I have gleaned from these experiences is that organizational culture and behavior have less to do with race and ethnicity than they do with the distribution of power and control. This in turn influences communication within the organization.

Most nurses seek a clear-cut methodology for making decisions and taking action. However, a fear of failure can stifle our potentially courageous attempts at doing what we consider correct, especially as it relates to organizational culture. Often, an organization’s culture can lure us into doing things the way they’ve always been done to stay within the organization’s norms—even though we know it’s not the best choice. That was the case for a small rural hospital that had a labor and delivery unit, a postpartum unit, ...

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