Busting the Myths of Corporate Culture and Addressing the Realities of Effective Compliance to Organizational Growth and Performance

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Busting the Myths of Corporate Culture and Addressing the Realities of Effective Compliance to Organizational Growth and Performance

The saying “culture will eat strategy for breakfast” shows the impact of corporate culture management on the survival of any business venture or community. Suffice it to say that without a culture, it will be difficult for organizations to determine what they stand for. The culture of your organization can make or mar its development. There are many myths about corporate culture and this article is about to bust them. Please come along with me. In my 12 years as a commercial banker spanning five institutions and working with more than five management executives’ leadership with different and distinct cultures, it is logical to assume that I understand how corporate culture works.

Apart from the fact that I am a student of management and organizational behaviour, I am equally an observant fellow. You might argue that it takes more than being observant and having an MBA degree to claim mastery of corporate culture. While I may agree with you to an extent (as I currently do not have an MBA) corporate cultures just like other cultures that guide us in our society are rather adaptive than adoptive. It is naked and can be seen with the naked eye. If you spend a week with the geeks in Microsoft, you will get to feel if not understand their way of life.


What is culture? As a way of life, culture is the customs and beliefs, art, way of life and social organization of a particular country or group. The group could be a corporate body which is the focus of this article. Corporate culture in layman’s language is the generally agreed (written and unwritten) way of behaviour and expression of a group of people or business organization. For bankers in Nigeria wearing nicely pressed suits are part of the corporate culture. It gives a sense of professionalism and probity to our activities. Going deeper, there is also a defined hierarchical structure and career progression template which is rarely upset. What changes in the cultural representation and projection is the attitude and mindsets of the progenitors of this culture. The buck stops at the management's table and the ability to project an enduring culture will largely determine the survival of that organization.


If the culture is right then there are chances that the culture will outlive the progenitors but if otherwise, they might as well kiss their organizations goodbye right in front of their eyes. There are myths about the corporate culture just as there are realities. I will explain some in this article. However worthy of note is that culture is more adaptive rather than adoptive. Even though culture can permeate, how do we adopt the disruptive nature of changes in technology, business environment and regulations that challenge the corporate cultures of today's organizations?

MYTH 1: Culture is static.

REALITY: Culture is not static, get on with that. There are as many cultures as there are more countries, organizations, and groups in the world. No organizational culture can endure 50 years in this century. If you doubt me, the impact of COVID-19 on many businesses will bring you back to reality. What worked in the 20th century is not working today. Before, employees stay in single jobs for almost half of their years but today people are consciously discouraged or are moving out of their own volition. The level of job mobility and insecurity in the 21st century is so high, and this has led to culture dilution. Just as new employees join the organization, and the business goes through various business growth stages it is important to align the corporate culture to best practices to increase the chance of organizational survival.

MYTH 2: Corporate culture is formed and passed from top to bottom.

REALITY: Corporate culture can either be from top to bottom or from bottom to top. If you doubt me the tech guys have changed how work is done in the 21st century. Telecommuting was not the ideal way of life of the previous proponent of industrial management but majorly for would-be employees. This is the age of knowledge management. Because of the highly mobile nature of today's workforce, many organizations have reviewed how work is done due to the nature and peculiarities of today's workforce. Most times when corporate culture is designed it is expected that it cascades from the management to the rank-and-file employees. In a place where the management is replaced from outside the firm, how will they sustain the already existing culture? The reality is that the vision statement which sets the tone for every other thing in the organization should drive the culture of the people at all times. Corporate culture can also be passed from bottom to top management in the scenario earlier posed. We live in a global village where cultural transfusion has become more of an establishment than a passing phase.

MYTH 3: Corporate culture is supreme and should be distinct from others.

REALITY: The truth of the matter is that no culture is supreme to the other. What is permissible in one culture can be an abomination in another clime or organization. In the two previous organizations where I worked before my current organization, it is permissible to adorn native attires every Friday to work, however, for some strange reason this is not allowed by my current organization except at the management level. Does this create harmony or disillusionment? I wouldn’t want to dwell on that. It is not a question of what is right or wrong but that of adaptation. Learning to cope with these realities is what will sustain you in the organization.

I highlighted my experiences in the three organizations that I have worked for and the impact of corporate culture adaptation on business growth, employee mobility and organizational survival. Corporate culture is still necessary because it directs the behaviours and expectations of the entire organization. What is important is to preserve the culture and make sure that everyone on board abides by this culture most especially the leaders and the gatekeepers of the culture.