Culture Clash: The Corporate Socialization Process Meets Non-Congruent Organization Subcultures
Author(s)Fine, Charles H.; Novak, Sharon (Economist)
The literature on organization socialization suggests characteristics associated with strong organization culture. Key among these is a socialization process that emphasizes well-defined roles, rules, routines, and values; reinforcement with intrinsic and extrinsic reward systems; and conditioning experiences. That literature also suggests that an organization exhibiting a strong culture and socialization process will likely elicit participant behavior that is highly congruent with the espoused values and objectives stated by the organization. This paper uses a case study of General Motors' Saturn Corporation to suggest an enrichment of this theory. We argue that Saturn fulfills all the requirements of a strong culture and socialization process yet we find patterns of behavior seemingly at odds with the espoused values and objectives articulated in the environment. Co-existing with and within the strong corporate culture at Saturn, we found work group subcultures whose socialization processes can be just as strong as those at the corporate level but whose values suggest individual behaviors that conflict with those espoused at the corporate level. These observations lead us to suggest a model of culture-influenced behavior that explicitly addresses the existence of distinct subgroup cultures. Interestingly, the workgroup subcultures that generated behaviors at odds with the outcomes desired at the corporate level were encouraged by exactly those reward systems designed by Saturn to reinforce the espoused values of consensus decision-making at the workgroup level. Such observations underscore the complexity and subtlety involved in designing coherent organization-wide cultures and reinforcing mechanisms.
socialization, General Motors' Saturn Corporation, culture, corporate