Let’s Talk About Workplace Cultures

Let’s Talk About Workplace Cultures


In one of my previous blogs, I had mentioned how establishing your WHY will help you attract the right people to work for you and that the right culture will develop within the group of people you work with. I also mentioned some examples of workplace cultures: Clan, Adhocracy, Market, and Hierarchy. Let’s dive into these categories.

Bruce M. Tharp of the University of Michigan gave definition to the term “culture” in his research about these examples.

“Culture… includes all of a group’s shared values, attitudes, beliefs, assumptions, artifacts and behaviors.” In his study, Tharp mentioned how culture runs so deep within an organization that it guides individual actions while members “are not even aware they are influenced by it.”

Let’s think about that for a second. The atmosphere at work, spoken or unspoken, can navigate the quality of work and the decisions employees make in the workplace without them even knowing it? That’s pretty powerful. That means that in the right atmosphere and with the right values set in place, managers and employees will be making decisions in accordance to your mission without you even being there, it will just be a matter of second nature.

So let’s look at these categories of workplace culture. According to business professors, Robert Quinn and Kim Cameron, the values of a workplace break down and fit into 4 categories. The result of their study is a four-quadrant chart below.

According to their study, the four cultures value different traits. While the two cultures on the top half of the chart value flexibility and discretion, the clan culture emphasizes loyalty and takes on more of an “extended family” vibe. The adhocracy culture focuses more on taking risks and innovation; they emphasize differentiation among the individuals in the company.

Image explaining the impact workplace culture has on quality of work.
Examining the effects of workplace culture.

In the bottom half of the chart you will find cultures that look to create more controlled and stable environments. In a hierarchy culture, however, you will find rules, standard procedures and what Tharp described as “a well-defined structure for authority and decision making.” In a market culture, the stability is sought after through external relationships that can help the company gain leverage.

What is it that you value? What traits would make the most sense with your WHY? For more details about these categories, check out Tharp’s in depth research on what they entail.