Corporate Culture As Myths, Stories, and Other Manifestations of Language

November 30, 2010 by  Filed under: Management 

An argument for uniqueness is that each organization differs from the rest, a fact manifested in the stories created in organizations. Second, they are related to concerns about status inequality. Stories about whether the company will help an employee who has to move. Such stories are implicit or explicit about the hardship the move will cause and indicate whether the company helps or does nothing for the employee. Because reputations and self-esteem are on the line, organizational stories pound home the righteousness of organizations and their key players and reflect the myths organizations have. The status credentials of the central character are established, the character is presented with an opportunity to perform a status-equalization act, and the character does or does not abrogate status temporarily, exhibiting (or not exhibiting) “human” qualities (e. Such stories include three events. Ray Kroc is humanized by the “talk to Ray” program still available after his death, and stories about the rags-to-riches growth of the firm are embedded in the story about the rain stopping and sales doubling. The stories conclude with forgiveness or punishment. The most famous of these is the Horatio Alger hero, who, through hard work, rose from rags to riches. Third, such stories deal with security versus insecurity: people want to ensure themselves of security, and yet organizations must retain the right to deprive them of that security. We have seen some of these story motifs in the McDonald’s case. Stories about whether a little person can rise to the top. What themes do these stories convey? One set of research studies, however, shows that such stories may not be unique. Stories about whether the boss is human. Finally, these stories deal with the clash between our desire for control and events that indicate our inability to exert such control. In addition to conveying themes that reflect important individual and organizational concerns, organizational stories offer self-enhancing explanations for organizational events.

Stories about how the boss reacts to mistakes. These stories include an employee who makes a mistake and one or more higher-level persons who learn of it. Stories about getting fired. Here again we see how organizations use retrospective explanations of events. Attempts are usually made to deal with obstacles, and the stories end when the obstacles are either overcome or it is clear they are insurmountable. The high-status person may become angry, conform to the rule, disregard the low-status person, or take some other action. Stories about how the organization deals with obstacles. These stories describe the match between abilities and position. Seven kinds of stories exist across a variety of kinds of organizations: Stories that describe how organizations treat status considerations when rules are broken.

We live in a society that values equality, but the hierarchical nature of organizations often conflicts with this value; these stories embody, and show resolution of, that conflict. Certain themes appear repeatedly in different organizations, and they seem to have a universal meaning. These stories include employees who fear losing their jobs and employees who must make the decision to lay off or fire people. These are the most commonly found kinds of organizational stories involving employees at any status level. First, they appear to express the tensions that arise from conflicts between organizational requirements and the values held by employees. Organizational cultures and the stories that define them are said to be unique to their locations. A reason for the layoff or firing is given, and the company’s decision is announced along with justification for the decision. Such stories tell about how a high-status person breaks a rule and is confronted by a lower-status person who attempts to enforce the rule.

Martin Hahn PhD has received his education and degrees in Europe in organizational/industrial sociology. He grew up in South-East Asia and moved to Europe to get his tertiary education and gain experience in the fields of scientific research, radio journalism, and management consulting. If you would like to know more about Martin Hahn PhD and purchase his e-book, please visit:

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