Edgar Schein believed that organisations take time to develop a culture as the employees go through various changes and adapt to the external environment and solve organisational problems. They learn from their past experiences and start implementing practices, and collectively the employees attitudes form the culture within the organisation.
Schein believed that there are three levels in an organization culture.
The first level is the characteristics of the organization which can be easily viewed, heard and felt by individuals collectively known as artifacts. The dress code of the employees, office furniture, facilities, behavior of the employees, mission and vision of the organization all come under artifacts and go a long way in deciding the culture of the workplace.
- No one in organization A is allowed to dress up casually.
- Employees respect their superiors and avoid unnecessary disputes.
- The individuals are very particular about the deadlines and ensure the tasks are accomplished within the stipulated time frame.
- The employees can wear whatever they feel like.
- Individuals in organization B are least bothered about work and spend their maximum time loitering and gossiping around.
- The employees use derogatory remarks at the work place and pull each other into controversies.
In the above case, employees in organization A wear dresses that exude professionalism and strictly follow the policies of the organization. On the other hand, employees in organization B have a laid back attitude and do not take their work seriously. Organization A follows a strict professional culture whereas Organization B follows a weak culture where the employees do not accept things willingly. (This is not to suggest that organisation B is to be modelled, but to exemplify the impact of artefacts)
A deeper level to the superficial artefacts that contribute to the organisational culture are the values of the company and the individuals that work there, and the coherent alignment of those values. How employees react to situations and problems will shape the culture. What people actually think matters a lot for the organization. The mindset of the individual associated with any particular organization influences the culture of the workplace.
The third level is the assumed values of the employees which can’t be measured but do make a difference to the culture of the organization. There are certain beliefs and facts which stay hidden but do affect the culture of the organization. The inner aspects of human nature come under the third level of organization culture. Organizations where female workers dominate their male counterparts do not believe in late sittings as females are not very comfortable with such kind of culture. Male employees on the other hand may be more aggressive and would not have any problems with late sittings. The organizations follow certain practices which are not discussed often but understood on their own. Such rules form the third level of the organization culture.