Organizational culture is a broad concept which encompasses a wide range of aspects of organizational functioning. Due to its intangibility, it is not characterized by a single concrete definition, although many attempts to categorize it display common trends. It can generally be defined as “the set of shared, taken-for-granted, implicit assumptions that a group holds and that determine how it perceives, thinks about, and reacts to its various environments” (Zhou, Bundorf, Chang, Huang, & Xue, 2011, p. 2141). According to this definition, culture includes behavioral patterns of employees, their ethical motivations, the standards and policies which regulate them, and the connection between them.
In other words, the culture is a long-term construct which defines the core principles behind organization’s operations. One of the initial assumptions behind the promotion of organizational culture was that its presence and characteristics influence important metrics such as productivity. Since productivity is largely determined by the motivation and dedication of the stakeholders, it is expected that appropriate culture enhances the output of the organization and creates a self-sustainable effect in the long run (Zhou et al., 2011).
The effect which is cited most often is the direct relation between healthy culture and financial gain of the organization, which results from stronger commitment and satisfaction of employees which, in turn, allows them to develop their potential to the fullest (Janićijević, 2010). Nevertheless, the productivity is also increased indirectly in several ways. Specifically, it improves hiring practices by creating a clearer picture for the applicants while simultaneously making positions more lucrative. Besides, it improves communication between staff members and therefore helps to create a unified vision of organization’s goals. Finally, it is associated strongly with improved customer care, which is especially relevant for the healthcare segment (Larson, 2014).
Disrupting Factors of Organizational Culture
Several factors are known to undermine a healthy organizational culture. Some of them are the results of deliberate actions by employees while others are unintentional and are caused by complex psychological, emotional, or organizational flaws. For instance, dishonesty is strongly associated with poorer patient outcomes and a general decline of trust within the organization. While it is tempting to ascribe it to individual motives of employees, a closer look often reveals that it is caused by the presence of unfair punishment and lack of accountability within the organization. Similarly, choosing favorites, which is known to create a sense of unfairness and discourage motivation is not necessarily a deliberate strategy and can be a result of close cooperation with certain employees.
Another example is a sense of false success caused by the readiness by employees to give positive feedback coupled with reluctance to report shortcomings. Such setting usually results in distorted view of organization’s success and failure to address the undetected issues (Larson, 2014). Even more often, the productivity declines as a result of evident organizational stressors, such as inappropriate working schedules, lack of safety policies aimed at preventing errors, and workplace climate which restricts the employees’ decision-making capacity. The former usually result in physiological exhaustion and, by extension, declined productivity, while the latter inhibits the employees’ potential and discourages initiative (Bissell & Keim, 2008). All of the mentioned stressors also undermine the healthy interpersonal relations in the workplace and lead to horizontal and vertical tensions, further contributing to the disruption of organizational culture (Bissell & Keim, 2008).
Stressors in Capital Veterinarian Clinic
The first stressor which can be identified is the lack of sound leadership in the clinic. Since no details are given on actions of the senior leadership team in response to the rising tensions resulting from faulty leadership practices of Dr. Silverstein, we can assume that no successful attempt was made to mitigate her shortcomings. The inability of the leader to address the complaints of the staff members can result in eventual disappointment and a decline in productivity. Even more importantly, Dr. Silverstein was likely unable to settle the conflicts between the employees, the results of which can already be observed in the form of division of the department into two warring states. Under such conditions, the effective collaboration between co-workers is extremely unlikely. This is especially relevant for the complex and multifaceted entity such as today’s Capital Veterinarian Clinic which requires synchronicity and integrity of its operations. It is also important to acknowledge that Dr. Silverstein was in this position for two years and her inability to stand up to the task was well known among the staff members, which allows us to conclude that the distribution of personnel is also not executed properly resulting in inadequate skill application.
Another issue is the lack of understanding of accountability demonstrated by Dr. Silverstein. The uncovered practice of borrowing medical supplies and using them for personal purposes is a violation of policies in many establishments. It is unclear whether the CVC policy explicitly prohibits such actions, but regardless of the fact it has an obvious negative effect on organization’s productivity. The uncontrolled depletion of supplies creates a risk of a situation where the required medication is unavailable unknowingly to supply department. In other words, these actions introduce unpredictability to the clinic’s operations. Furthermore, it introduces monetary losses which, depending on the magnitude of the phenomenon, can seriously damage the financial state of the establishment. Therefore, regardless of the presence of punitive measures, it is expected from the staff to refrain from it as a part of a healthy culture.
Next, the fact that Dr. Silverstein apparently knew of other employees engaging in similar activity but did not report until an attempt to justify her actions points to the fact that CVC does not incorporate the concept of just culture in its practices. Reporting shortcomings of others may be psychologically challenging but is necessary to improve productivity and spot inadequacies of the system. Currently, the situation suggests that the effect is large enough to create inventory shortages and is not expected to terminate without intervention.
Another issue is the apparent presence of racial and cultural prejudice. This issue can also be tracked to the faulty leadership practices. Since it is implied that diversity is considered an asset in CVC, it is reasonable to expect from the senior leadership team to deliver the idea to the staff members and ensure that it yields results rather than stays on paper. Therefore, the tensions and lack of acceptance of others’ beliefs can be attributed to a failure of the senior leadership team to communicate the value of diversity to the staff. The tensions, aggravated by the recent conflict, are expected to have the effect on productivity similar to that of Dr. Silverstein’s shortcomings, i.e. the reluctance to cooperate and the decline of teamwork.
Finally, the strategy chosen by Florence Meyers visibly contributes to unhealthy culture by increasing workplace stress. Despite pursuing the ultimately just cause, she chooses wrong means of achieving it by reprimanding staff members in public. Her selective judgment is also likely to aggravate rather than solve racial tensions.
Approaches to Reduce Stress
To decrease the current tensions, Dr. Chung needs to seek permission for organizing a series of workshops and meetings aimed at conflict resolution. The preferred format of these events is in the form of small teams assembled in such a way to include people from different camps. Discussed in such small groups, the conflicts are expected to decrease to a degree which would allow further working process (Larson, 2014). Simultaneously, the extended leadership team should revise their ways of communicating organization’s vision, mission, and values to the employees. These messages are to be incorporated into the conflict-resolving events and extend to other CVC practices. The emphasis on teamwork will increase the chances of success and ensure improved efficiency in the future. The revised values should emphasize benefits of diversity.
Similarly, the meetings can target the issue by introducing activities encouraging staff to share their differences and learn to find value in them. Next, CVC management needs to implement principles of just culture which would foster trust and improve accountability. It is important to understand that the changes in organizational culture take time to implement and require close monitoring and evaluation to ensure their success. Therefore, a process of diagnosis is needed to ensure the continuous improvement and timely locate and address shortcomings (Beer & Spector, 1993). With the suggested set of changes, the short-term results of conflict-resolving interventions are expected to be sustained by the shared vision and cooperation skills and eventually improve health of CVC’s organizational culture.
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Larson, E. (2014). Using transformational leadership to improve job satisfaction and empowerment. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, 245(10), 1088-1091.
Zhou, P., Bundorf, K., Chang, J., Huang, J. X., & Xue, D. (2011). Organizational culture and its relationship with hospital performance in public hospitals in China. Health Services Research, 46(6), 2139-2160.