Utilizing Levers to Maintain Organizational Culture

Over time people have philosophized about various aspects of humans and their place in nature; After religion started to have a big part of the picture divinity began to have an influence on this thinking. While there were a lot of attempts to push conformity over many years another viewpoint of self and individuality began to emerge.

People like to feel like they are in control of something, whether it is themselves, things or events around them, or other people. This leads to people’s biased perception that they are more ethical than they truly are. In other words, people think they act a specific way when they truly act another; This is known as the espoused theory.

Chris Argyris defines and explains what the espoused theory is and what theory-in-use is. Argyris states, “One of the paradoxes of human behavior is that the actions they think they use are not generally the ones they think they use. For example, ask people to explain the standards they use to oversee their activities, and they will give an “espoused” theory of action. However, if you watch these same people, you will quickly realize that the espoused theory of their efforts has very little to do with how they honestly behave. This theory of action is called theory-in-use. A contradiction between the way people think they are acting and the way they genuinely act.” (Argyris, 2002).

Therefore, people will compare what they should do with what they want to do, and often their wants will dominate the things they should do. They will then begin to rationalize their choices and espouse what they believe they really did when it really is not as they say it is.

Managers have levers when they hire, fire, praise, and promote their employees. Managers also have an influence by their own examples and leadership actions.

While it may be difficult to determine if a potential hire or employee is going to be ethical and fit into your culture, paying attention can help you to determine over time whether they are a fit for what you want your ethical culture to be.

If the person isn’t an ethical fit for the culture you are trying to have then a manager can fire them in order to preserve the vision, culture, goals, and ethical values.

If employees are doing well in the culture and demonstrating the things that are desired, then a manager has the leverage to offer praise to show that this trait is desirable and rewarded by acknowledgment.

Those who are chosen to be promoted should be those who embody the desired culture as they will lead by example and truly showcase what ethics are to be embraced and influenced.

By utilizing these levers, the manager can use this to filter through the ethical behaviors desired and issues that are undesired.


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