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Measures of culture and climate in organizations

Author: Dr Simon Moss


A variety of protocols and scales have been devised to assess the culture or climate of organizations. Nevertheless, only a few of these measures have been validated sufficiently and are available freely in the public domain. That is, researchers need to pay a fee to use some popular scales, such as the organizational culture inventory (Cooke & Lafferty, 1987&Cooke & Szurnal, 2000& Szumal, 1998).


Many scholars have attempted to differentiate the concepts of culture and climate in organizations. Some scholars regard climate and culture as distinct facets of an organization. In particular, according to these scholars, climate represents evaluations-that is, the attitudes of employees towards facets of the work environment, processes, structures, and events. The concept of climate primarily emerged from the field of organizational psychology. In contrast, culture represents a subjective description of the core values and beliefs of an organization (e.g., Denison, 1996& Meyerson, 1991& Schnieder & Snyder, 1975) and primarily emanated from the fields of anthropology and sociology.

Other scholars, often operating in the discipline of management science, regard climate as a subset of culture. In particular, according to scholars such as Hofstede (2003), Schein (2004) and Rousseau (1990), culture comprises several levels, ranging from overt manifestations to underling causes. Climate, in essence, reflects the overt manifestations of underlying values and motivations.

For example, Hofstede (2003) differentiates practices and values. Practices refer to overt, tangible, and observable behaviours, actions, and procedures. Values, in contrast, reflect implicit perspectives and priorities, which guide decisions, choices, and ultimately practices and behaviours. Climate reflects employee perceptions of practices and, in this sense, represents a subset of culture.

Bond (2004) delineates some of the key features of culture. First, Bond specifies the content of culture, which comprises beliefs, values, expectations, and meanings. In this context, meaning refers to the implication of some action or behavior. Second, these beliefs, values, expectations, and meanings are largely shared across members and developed over time. Third, these shared cognitions support the functioning of groups within a specific niche, facilitating protection, nourishment, belonging, respect, and purpose. Fourth, these shared cognitions ensure that behavior is predictable, comprehendible, and valued, ultimately curbing uncertainty and anxiety.

Facets of climate

Several researchers have attempted to identify a few broad and core set of practices-and thus facets of climate-that are germane to most organizations or at least championed the need to uncover these classes (see, Huselid, 1995& Niehaus & Swiercz, 1996& Tomer, 2001& Pfeffer, 1998&, Parker, Baltes, Young, Huff, Altmann, Lacost, & Roberts, 2003& van den Berg & Wilderom, 2004).

Delaney and Huselid (1996) and Huselid (1995), for example, distinguished two sets of practices. The first set comprises practices that relate to employee skills, such as information sharing, job design, training, quality circles, and grievance procedures. The second set comprises practices that relate to employee motivation, such as performance appraisal and recruitment. Nevertheless, some of these practices could apply to both classes.

Guest (1997, Guest, Conway, & Dewe, 2004) included, together with employee skills and employee motivation, also argued that many practices relate to opportunity to contribute. Nevertheless, these three sets or systems have seldom been subjected to empirical enquiry. Indeed, Guest, Conway, and Dewe (2004) showed that various practices seem to relate to a single factor or collection (for similar findings, see MacDuffie, 1995).

Some scholars, such as Patterson, West, Shackelton, Dawson, Lawthom, Maitlis, Robinson, & Wallace (2005), argue that practices correspond to four main sets: relations, internal processes, open systems and rational goal, derived from the recommendations proposed by Quinn and Rohrbaugh (1983). Empirical support for these systems, however, is not especially compelling.

Organizational Culture Profile

The organizational culture profile (OCP) was developed and validated by O'Reilly, Chatman, and Caldwell (1991). Specifically, 54 value statements corresponded to eight dimensions of culture: attention to detail, innovation, outcome orientation, decisiveness, aggressiveness, supportiveness, team orientation, and emphasis on rewards. Reliability coefficients for each facet exceeded .85 (O'Reilly, Chatman, & Caldwell, 1991& for a shorter version, see Cable & Judge, 1997). Ashkanasy, Broadfoot and Falkus (2000) indeed argued the OCP is one of the few instruments, from a pool of 18 alternatives, to have been validated convincingly. The OCP is one of the most prominent measures of organizational culture (e.g., Agle & Caldwell 1999& Howard 1998& Judge & Cable 1997).

Nevertheless, whether these dimensions are germane to all cultures remains a source of contention (for a review, see Sarros, Gray, Densten, & Cooper, 2005).

To create the profile, a Q sort methodology is applied. That is, each statement appears on a card. Participants then arrange these cards, according to the extent to which they describe their organization. In addition, Participants then arrange these cards again, according to the extent to which they are attracted to the values depicted on the cards.

The Q sort is undertaken to identify the values that characterize an organization and the attitudes of individuals towards this configuration. The Q sort methodology enables researchers to examined subjective meanings underlying cultures. Nevertheless, a facilitator must be available to coordinate each Q sort, which is not always feasible, especially when the sample is large.

More recently, Sarros, Gray, Densten, and Cooper (2005) developed a variant of the OCP that does not demand a Q sort. In particular, individuals rate the extent to which they feel the organization is recognized to demonstrate specific qualities and characteristics on a five point rating scale. After validation with an Australian sample of executives from a diversity of industries, 28 items were extracted, corresponding to 7 factors. The seven factors, together with some sample items, include:

This revised version also demonstrates acceptable psychometric properties. The average level of Cronbach's alpha is .75 across the subscales. A confirmatory factor analysis also supported the factor structure. These subscales also predicted stress, trust, and loyalty in the expected directions.

Organizational Climate Measure

The organizational climate measure (OCM) is a proprietary tool, validated by Patterson, West, Shackelton, Dawson, Lawthom, Maitlis, Robinson, & Wallace (2005). The instrument examines 17 specific work practices. Superordinate factors called quadrants-namely facets derived from the competing values framework (Quinn & Rohrbaugh, 1983), such as human relations, internal processes, open systems, and rational goal, were not supported as convincingly. Interestingly, the questions relate to practices, often regarded as a manifestation of climate, but the values framework is more reminiscent of culture-and climate and culture are often regarded as distinct. The 17 specific scales, together with a sample item, are:

Human relations quadrant

Internal processes quadrant

Open systems quadrant

Rational goal quadrant

The psychometric properties of this scale are acceptable. Apart from the autonomy, in which the Cronbach's alpha was .69, internal consistency always exceeded the acceptable level of .70. Inter-rater reliability, as measured by intraclass correlations, was also encouraging.

Several findings vindicate the predictive validity of these scales. For example, both the innovation and reflexivity scales predicted ratings of organizational innovation one year in the future. Furthermore, eight of the scales were correlated with organizational productivity one year later: training, welfare, effort, supervisor support, innovation, performance management, quality, and formalization.

Many of the findings also substantiated the concurrent validity of these subscales. To illustrate, autonomy was related to level of responsibility that employees received. Innovation was inversely related to company age, as anticipated.

Hofstede values

Hofstede (1980) uncovered four main cultural values that vary across nations: individuals-collectivism, power distance, uncertainty avoidance, and masculinity-femininity. Specifically, he analyzed the responses of 88,000 IBM employees to surveys that assess morale, across 72 countries during the 1960s and 1970s. Responses were collapsed across sites within countries. The responses were then subjected to factor analysis, uncovering four dimensions (for competing frameworks, see Trompenaars, 1993).

Individualism-collectivism represents the extent to which employees strive to enhance their personal success rather than attempt to optimize a team or collective (see also self construal. Power distance represents the degree to which power, influence, status, and resources are distributed unevenly rather than evenly across the institution. Uncertainty avoidance corresponds to the extent to which societies attempt to avert ambiguous, unpredictable, or uncertain contexts& unequivocal procedures and rules are prescribed, and violations are prohibited. Risks may be accepted, however. Finally, masculinity-femininity refers to the degree to which the society values assertive behavior and the acquisition of resources, like money, instead of a more cooperative, friendly, understanding, and secure environment.

Subsequently, Hofstede and Bond (1988) uncovered a fifth dimension, called Confucian dynamism. This dimension refers to the extent to which individuals orient attention to the future, exemplified by persistence and thrift, rather than orient attention to the past or present, such as tradition or social obligations. Nevertheless, this dimension has seldom been examined empirically.

Hofstede developed a measure, called the Values Survey Module, to assess the main four dimensions (for discussions about this measure, see Hofstede, 2002& Spector, Cooper, & Sparks, 2001). Nevertheless, many other surveys of values and culture include overlapping scales, some of which can be used instead (for examples, see Taras, Rowney, & Steel, 2009).

Associations with Hofstede values

Many studies have investigated the determinants and consequences of these four cultural values (e.g., Earley, 1999& Jackson, Colquitt, Wesson, & Zapata-Phelan, 2006& Johnson, Kulesa, Cho, & Shavitt, 2005& Kim & Leung, 2007& Kirkman & Shapiro, 2001). Taras, Kirkman, and Steel (2010) conducted a meta-analysis to examine the association between these cultural dimensions and various outcomes. Specifically, this analysis was conducted to ascertain whether the four primary dimensions are associated with various predictors, such as personality, mental ability, and demographics. In addition, this analysis examined whether these dimensions predict emotions, job attitudes, workplace perceptions, citizenship behaviors, and job performance. Finally, factors that moderate these associations were examined.

The overall effect size, representing the extent to which the value dimensions were associated with the various outcomes, was modest at .18. Nevertheless, these cultural dimensions were more appreciably associated with emotions, such as depression and anxiety. To a marginally lesser extent, these cultural dimensions were also associated with work attitudes and perceptions, such as perceived justice and leadership. The association between these cultural dimensions and both behavior, such as cooperation, and performance was not as pronounced.

Some of these associations were examined at the national level. For example, some studies investigated whether or not the national level of power distance is associated with conformity, also measured at a national level:

Other associations were examined at an individual level. To illustrate, some studies investigated whether individuals who avoid uncertainty are more creative. Specifically:


As Fine (2010) showed, two of the dimensions that were developed by Hofstede--power distance and collectivism--are positively related to measures of corruption. Specifically, in this study, to gauge corruption, the researchers collated a measure of corruption of 27 nations. This measure, called the Corruption Perception Index, is constructed by Transparency International. To derive this index, expert panels of business people and analysts answer questions about the corruption of public officials. In addition, the researchers collated scores on an overt integrity across these nations, in which participants reported the degree to which they have engaged in theft, fraud, and other counterproductive behaviors. Finally, the researchers examined the correlations between these scales and measures of culture. Power distance and collectivism were positively associated with corruption and negatively associated with integrity.

Presumably, when power distance is elevated, people who are granted power feel entitled to engage in corruption. People with less power may be especially motivated to engage in corruption to redress inequalities. In addition, when collectivism is elevated, people often feel entitled to engage in corruption on behalf of their community.


As Fischer and Boer (2011) showed, as the individualism of nations increases, negative affect sometimes, but not invariably, diminishes. That is, symptoms of anxiety as well as burnout are not as likely. Nevertheless, some important caveats need to be recognized as well.

In particular, Fischer and Boer (2011) conducted three studies. For each study, these researchers determined the level of individualism in 63 nations. The Hofstede measure of individualism and a measure of values that differentiates autonomy versus embeddedness, proposed by Schwartz (1994, 2004), were utilized. The first study examined the association between individualism and symptoms of anxiety, as gauged by the general health questionnaire. The second study examined the association between individualism and anxiety, as measured by the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory. The final study examined the association between individualism and emotional exhaustion. Furthermore, in each study, GDP per capita was examined as well

Overall, individualism was positively associated with wellbeing. Indeed, when individualism was controlled, GDP per capita, a measure of wealth, was no longer related to wellbeing. Furthermore, when quadratic and cubic terms were included, the relationship between individualism and wellbeing was especially pronounced in more deprived nations.

Arguably, individualism may foster the autonomy that individuals seek, consistent with self determination theory. Perhaps the primary benefit of wealth is to enable this autonomy. Once autonomy is controlled, wealth no longer is beneficial to wellbeing.

Nevertheless, at very high or very low levels of individualism, further increases in individualism were negatively associated with wellbeing, as gauged by the general health questionnaire. Conceivably, at very high levels of individualism, the benefits of more autonomy are offset by the drawbacks of less embeddedness with the community. At very low levels of individualism, increases in individualism may not enhance autonomy enough to compensate the reduced support from the community.

Factors that amplify or inhibit associations with Hofstede values

These associations between cultural dimensions and various outcomes was especially pronounced for older employees, managers, men, educated individuals, and culturally tight nations. Taras, Kirkman, and Steel (2010) presented several accounts to explain these findings. First, when individuals are granted opportunities to express their traits and characteristics--traits and characteristics that are shaped by the culture--these associations will be more pronounced. To illustrate, traits and values of individuals tend to become more entrenched with age. That is, older individuals tend to become more consistent over contexts. Hence, the culture, which shapes the values and traits of individuals, is more likely to manifest in oler people. Furthermore, managers are granted more choice and, therefore, can more readily express their traits and values. Third, as Cross and Madson (1997) emphasize, men tend to emphasize independence and agency, whereas women tend to emphasize relationships and cooperation. Because of this independence and agency, men are more inclined to express their traits and values as well.

Other mechanisms could explain some of the other findings. Education, for example, might increase the extent to which individuals are indoctrinated. With study and learning, individuals thus become more likely to demonstrate the values and norms of their culture. Finally, in cultures in which social norms is followed and violations are prohibited, this level of indoctrination or socialization is more pronounced.

Measures of job characteristics

The vitamin model

The vitamin model, proposed by Warr (1987, 2007), represents an attempt to classify all the various characteristics of jobs that could affect health, well-being, and ultimately behavior. This model assumes that most, if not all, of these job characteristics can be divided into nine categories:

Other studies have applied this framework to examine the association between job characteristics and various outcomes. Notelaers, De Witte, and Einarsen (2010), for example, utilized this taxonomy to investigate the determinants of bullying. Over 6000 Belgian participants completed questionnaires. A questionnaire that assesses the various job characteristics, called the Questionnaire Experience and Evaluation of Work (van Veldhoven & Meijman, 1994, cited in Notelaers, De Witte, & Einarsen, 2010 ), was administered. This questionnaire assessed facets of the nine factors, including task autonomy, participation in decision making, role ambiguity, variety, feedback, and other scales. They also completed a measure that gauges the extent to which they have been the victim of various forms of bullying at work.

Limited participation in decision making, minimal utilization of skills, workload, cognitive demands, role conflict, role ambiguity, job insecurity, changes in the job, and inadequate feedback all increased the likelihood of bullying. In general, these characteristics of job reduce the extent to which individuals feel a sense of control& the environment seems unpredictable, provoking strain and ultimately culminating in defensive, aggressive, and bullying tendencies. Furthermore, limited utilization of skills could induce boredom and frustration, also inciting bullying.


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Last Update: 6/22/2016