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The 4 Types of Work Culture (+Quiz)
By: Emily May on Nov 7, 2022 5:00:00 AM
What type of work culture do you have? Whether this is a question you’ve been asking yourself or been asked by others lately, you might find it challenging to put it into words.
After all, work culture isn’t something you can see or touch. You can, however, feel it every day when you log into work or walk into the office. It’s our experiences at work that shape how we view our job and the environment we work in. It’s the totality of the behaviors and attitudes of a team and is evident in the way they think, act, and interact with one another.
One way to help you describe your team’s work culture and understand it better is to learn about the four types below.
Quiz: What Type of Work Culture Does Your Team Have?
Before you dive into the explanations of the four types of work cultures, take a few minutes to complete the following quiz. Once you have honestly answered the questions, you’ll receive a breakdown of which type of cultures most and least resemble the one you currently have. This is the first step in truly understanding your culture as it stands and beginning the process of changing it if you so choose.
The 4 Types of Work Culture
The types of work cultures that are widely referred to today are based on research conducted by two business professors, Robert E. Quinn and Kim Cameron, in the 1980s. According to Cameron, “These are not made-up culture types. Rather, they emerged from empirical analyses of data from a large number of organizations. The result has been that almost 90 percent of organizations worldwide can be categorized as having one or more of these culture types.”
The four main types of work culture are:
Clan culture is defined by interpersonal connections and relationships that create a strong sense of belonging. You will typically see the clan culture in family-run businesses and startups.
Those who are part of it may express that they “feel like family.” The people who are a part of this type of culture are fiercely loyal to the team/organization and have a strong sense of accountability because they do not want to let their teammates down. This is a culture that is more focused on the success of the group rather than the individual. Also, given the team members' focus on relationships, a healthy level of trust exists, so constructive feedback and coaching are freely offered and openly accepted.
However, one disadvantage of the clan culture that you should be aware of is that because members of this culture can be so tight-knit, it can be difficult to make hard or unpopular decisions out of fear of upsetting someone or damaging a relationship.
Hierarchy culture is defined by structure, stability, and order. You will typically see this type of culture in organizations with high risks, such as in healthcare, manufacturing, or the military.
As the name suggests, the hierarchy culture operates on a formal hierarchy or chain of command, where all decision-making power is concentrated at the top among those in leadership. In order to ensure order and stability, adherence to defined rules, processes, and procedures is of the utmost importance, along with clearly defined roles and responsibilities. This is also the type of culture that highly values its traditions.
However, one disadvantage of the hierarchy culture that you should be aware of is that the strict adherence to rules and procedures can stifle collaboration and innovation.
Adhocracy culture is defined by creativity, flexibility, and agility. You will typically see this type of culture in startups and in the tech industry.
In this type of culture, taking calculated risks is encouraged, and mistakes are treated as learning opportunities. Members of this culture are rewarded for being innovative, taking initiative, and adopting an entrepreneurial spirit. They also excel when they have strong self-management skills. In an adhocracy culture, change and disruption are not something to fear but rather something to embrace.
However, one disadvantage of the adhocracy culture that you should be aware of is that the entrepreneurial spirit of this team can lead to a lack of team alignment.
Market culture is defined by a relentless focus on results and performance. According to Workplace from Meta, you will typically see this type of culture in “bigger and long-established companies” such as Apple, Amazon, and Tesla.
In order to achieve the desired financial results and remain competitive, lofty personal and team goals are set and closely monitored by leadership. The need to achieve can lead to intense internal competition, which may even be encouraged by leadership, as team members not only push to attain their goals and targets but exceed them. Those that do are rewarded with financial incentives or career advancement opportunities.
However, one disadvantage of the market culture that you should be aware of is that the employee experience can suffer when the internal competition gets unchecked, and direct managers do not closely monitor the signs of burnout.
If your goal is to understand your team’s culture and eventually transform it, identifying which of the four types (clan, hierarchy, adhocracy, market) you currently are is a great starting point. The next step is to download the Toolkit for Understanding Your Team Culture. It contains three additional resources that will help you understand where your culture is today and where you would like to see it in the future.
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