Tag Archives: Complexity

Company Culture

Benjamin Schneider (1987), argues that humans are not separate from their organizational settings. The two are interdependent, and through a process of attraction, selection, and attrition, individual-level behavior is homogenized around similar people sharing similar experiences of organization-level function and communication. Those that do not feel good about working at the coffee shop, or can’t perform to standards, eventually seek other employment, voluntarily or not. This makes it simply appear as though the organization dictates behavior, and the individual’s follow suit. However, it is more a situation where those that remain support the organization-level to the point that they hold each other accountable under organization-level expectations; if individuals who do not fit well remain with the organization, coherent organization-level functions could become chaotic or disappear altogether due to the incongruences formed by conflicted individuals who must function together in a small space.

Take a coffee shop that was founded by passionate people who built an amazing specialty coffee roaster that grew quickly by providing a unique and great place for guests to socialize and work over high-quality coffee. If the original discourse that guided the emergence of such a great place are not maintained as these original people move on, then those that replace them may become less passionate about coffee. The coffee shop may slowly lose quality of coffee and professionalism if it does not have a stable structure or a system to train new-hires to that structure. Without these, upper-management may not be able to guide the selection process, the professional baristas who are initially attracted to the company might get selected out because the company itself is not a professional environment. Through this attrition of the professionals, all that’s left is part-time, minimum wage workers who do not care about increasing their levels of professionalism and skill, and the whole organization will likely stagnate.

To increase the benefit of the selection and attrition process, it is imperative that coffee shop owners and managers hire for fit rather than for need (Newton, 2017). This isn’t just about hiring for fit with the job demands either, it is important that new hires be screened to ensure they fit in with the company culture as well (Green, 2017). Being that culture will inform the appropriate behavior of everyone working for the coffee shop, individual incongruence with organizational culture can increase workplace conflict and undermine teamwork through a lack of shared meaning and social integration (Salas, et al., 2015). Research from organizational change management suggests that the best way to maintain organizational stability during times of change, such as an increase in new-hires or modification of routines, is to maintain the existing organization-level discourse to constrain the inevitable meaning reconstruction in a congruent way with the existing organizational meaning (McClellan, 2014). Hiring for job and culture fit will also decrease emotional labor by increasing authenticity and positive meaning of work for all the stakeholders. For baristas and managers alike, one of the most important structures to systematically maintain is how individual, group, and organizational conflicts are engaged, managed, and resolved.



Green, S. (2017). Culture Hacker. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.

McClellan, J. G. (2014). Announcing change: Discourse, Uncertainty, and Organizational Control. Journal of Change
Management, 14
(2). 192-209.

Newton, T. (2017, July 19). How to keep your best baristas from quitting. Perfect Daily Grind. Retrieved from

Salas, E., Shuffler, M. L., Thayer, A. L., Bedwell, W. L., Lazzara, E. H. (2015). Understanding and improving teamwork in
organizations: A scientifically based practical guide. Human Resource Management, 54(4). 599-622.

Schneider, B. (1987). The People Make the Place. Personnel Psychology, 40(3), 437–453.


Conflict Culture Emergence

For example, if management expects the employees to be incompetent on the job, they may not recognize employee behaviors that would contradict this meaning, even when they are there. This structure supports a perception that could constrain management decisions and behavior toward overt domination, micro-managing, and/or impatience when interacting with these employees. Likewise, if the employees don’t feel valued by management, their decisions and behavior could be constrained toward apathy for being great at their jobs. If there is no shared spontaneous communication arena between the management and employee groups to negotiate the reality of these meanings, a reinforcing feedback loop might be created between the two groups that supports the two discursive-structures of domination and apathy. These structures could then dissipate unchecked within the groups until their scope of impact grows to affect organization-level functions through intergroup and interpersonal conflicts that reduce cooperation and effective communication. If these structures are transmitted to new hires as the reality of working there, then an individual/group-level discursive-structure with an organization-level scope of impact will likely embed itself as a belief about that organization, and even the most-qualified new-hires could appear, or learn to behave, as though they are incompetent.

All of these communicative interactions, discursive-structures, experiences, and shared meanings are interdependent elements, and they influence the emergence of an organization-level function known as culture. Culture represents the collective values and beliefs that individuals reference to understand what it means to be an employee of the company and what behavior is necessary to survive as a functional employee of the company (Schein, 2010). Being aware of this information helps ensure their survivability within that organizational system. Company culture reflects the reality of working for the company and guides individual behavior and learning within the company context. As an emergent phenomenon (Ikegami, 2000) no single individual can control culture. However, through the management of discursive-structures, the building blocks of culture might be influenced to guide the emergence of culture along desired ideals.

To manage discursive-structures, leaders could try attending to how they construct their own personal meaning about the people they work with, while also considering how their own communicative interactions with those people construct meaning about the organizational systems governing them all. Ample evidence suggests that employee perception of their work environment can create very real costs (or benefits) to the company (Kopaneva, 2015; Choi, 2019; Prasad & Prasad, 2000) that goe beyond the formation of counterproductive discursive-structures. Evidence also suggests that company culture is comprised of multiple, distinct subcultures and countercultures that individuals use collectively to understand different aspects of their work (Jermier, Slocum, Fry, & Gaines, 1991), and they too influence individual-level function. Katz & Flynn (2013) contend that a sub-culture can be formed around organization-level beliefs on how to engage and resolve conflict. If conflict is constructed as a disruptive behavior among individuals, individual behavior will likely lean toward a negative affect, causing a poor natural reaction to tensions, perceived differences, and escalated conflicts.