The difference between organizational and national culture


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The term “culture” is a very broad concept, and trying to propose a rigorous and precise
definition is a very difficult thing. Many philosophers, sociologists, anthropologists,
historians and linguists have been trying to define the concept of culture from the perspective of their respective disciplines. American Heritage defines culture as the following: “The sum of attitudes, customs, and beliefs that distinguishes one group of people from another, adding that culture is transmitted, through language, material objects, ritual, institutions, and art, from one generation to the next.”

In 1871, Tylor in his book, “Primitive Culture”, mentioned culture as “that complex whole
which includes knowledge, belief, art, law, morals, custom, and any other capabilities and habits acquired by man as a member of society”.

It is culture that distinguishes human beings from the Animalia. Generally speaking, culture as a product of the long-form creation is a social phenomenon. And it is also a historical phenomenon with regard to the accumulation of social and historical product. Rather, culture refers to a country or a nation’s history, geography, customs, traditions and customs, lifestyle, literature and art, behavioral norms, ways of thinking, world outlook and universal values.

For a company, culture is a set of perceptions or beliefs accepted by an individual, a group of people or organizations. And culture as soft power affects the values, beliefs, and behaviors of an individual or organization from spirit level, and influences the management of an organization or a company.

Good corporate culture attracts people from different distinct culture working together and guides their behaviors toward the same goal under the regulation of an organization. In this part, national culture and corporate culture or organizational culture will be discussed.

 National culture
National culture is the value system, norms, general attitudes, customs, languages, behaviors, and beliefs that exist in the population of a nation. National cultures differ from different countries and regions, and affect the way people think and do business. For example, food culture in China is different form European countries. Chinese choose rice as their main food while the Europeans choose wheat or potato.

Hall and Hall (1990)revealed that cultures from the Japanese, Arabs, Mediterranean, and Latin are of high context, which tend to place great emphasis on friends and networks, rather than  being formalistic in negotiations, comprehension and preferring instead to rely on trust, while low context culture countries like Germans, Scandinavians and Anglo-Saxon countries tend to be more precise, specific, and require more explicit information in order to communicate effectively. Different national cultures have direct impact on regulation making, business policy, and communication manners.

National culture is becoming more and more important and valued in the management of organization, because international cooperation and business is prevailing gradually as the development of globalization. People from different countries with different background join in the same team and work together for the same business. Hence, it is necessary for the managers to have a better comprehension of national culture, and the importance of inter-culture and cross-culture communication should be focused in the management of enterprises or organizations.

 Organizational culture
Ravasi and Schultz (2006) defined organizational culture as a set of shared mental
assumptions guiding interpretation and action in organizations by regulating appropriate behavior for various situations.

Organizational culture (or corporate culture) is kind of spiritual and material wealth created by organization under certain conditions, operation and management activities. It includes cultural attitudes, values systems, ethics, codes of conduct, entrepreneurship, history and tradition, and enterprise system.

Corporate culture, with the organizational characteristics of spirit, values, philosophy, management systems, employee behavior and corporate responsibility, gradually formed in the development of enterprises, is recognized and accepted by all the employees in the organization. Further, an excellent corporate culture can be considered as an inexhaustible motive force to promote enterprise development and can provide a good environment for nourishing other cultures like management culture and safety culture, which have significant sense for the development of an organization.

Safety culture

The concept of safety culture was first introduced in 1988 by the International Nuclear Safety Advisory Group (INSAG), for the safety of nuclear power plants proposed after the
Chernobyl nuclear plant disaster in 1986. The attention to the importance of safety culture and the impact of managerial and human factors on the outcome of safety performance has been aroused since this disaster (IAEA, 1991). INSAG in its report ‘Summary Report on the Post-Accident Review Meeting on the Chernobyl Accident’ (1988) described safety culture as: “That combination of characteristics and attitudes in organizations and individuals which establishes that, as an overriding priority, nuclear plant safety issues receive the attention warranted by their significance.”

Health And Safety Commission (HSC) in 1993 defined safety culture as a product with
respect to individual and group values, attitudes, perceptions, competencies, and patterns of behavior that determine an organization’s health and safety management.
Berends (1996) argued that safety culture shapes the employees’ safety behavior.

Safety culture affects the way people think and the behavior they do things. The direct manifestation of safety culture is safety attitude, safety awareness, and safety perceptions, which determine the thinking manner and behavior when they face the tasks with high risk. The initiative safety awareness and attitude can conduct the employees to identify potential hazards positively and regulate their behaviors in the safety management. For example, in offshore oil and gas industry, PPE personal protection equipment)is the first and basic protection for personnel safety in a work site. Employees with good safety attitude and awareness would wear the PPE all the time even if in the hot weather, but very few employees like uncapping or taking off their gloves in the work site, because they may think occasional uncapping does not matter and have nothing to safety. Again for instance, handling the handrail when up and down stairs is a stipulation applied in all the platforms in South China Sea oilfields. However, someone always breaks the rules, because he or she, who did not experience the falling down accident, may think it is a habitual behavior and unnecessary to do with the rules. A very detailed behavior sometimes can display a person’s attitude towards safety.

From the other aspect, it is necessary and important to focus on very detailed issues when creating safety culture and making safety regulations. As discussed in chapter one and chapter two, high risk is an obvious characteristic in the offshore oil and gas industry. Hence, safety first is the priority principle in any offshore operations. The cultivation of safety culture and the impact of safety culture on an organization and safety performance should be an independent research direction in the management of an organization.