Formal Vs Informal Organizational Culture 16105

“It’s rare to see a workplace which is absolutely aligned with its formal Culture because that is what has been thought one wants to be, but actually they are defined by what they do day in and day out. The onus is on everyone in the organization from top to bottom to make sure that the Formal and Informal Organization Culture is aligned”

-Sumeet Jindal

I was in one of the training programs when I heard the term Informal Organization Culture and taking the lead from the term I landed in a slight argument with the facilitator about its details and comparison with the Formal Organization Culture. Now before we move further, let’s try to know what would these terms mean.

The definition of the organizational culture may be many but I connect more with the following definition:

“Organizational Culture is the set of beliefs, assumptions, symbols, values, priorities, rituals and practices that are shared, mostly unconsciously, amongst members of an organization.”


I am stuck with the terms “Mostly Unconsciously” in this definition more as I myself relate to this theory more. So let us understand what would be Formal Organization Culture. Most of the organizations these days define their value systems and in turn, give a message to an internal and external world that these are the basic ground rules the workplace will be following day in and day out. They propagate these values through different campaigns such that they (at least the name and their meaning) are imbibed by each and every employee of the organization. This makes sense if everyone in the organization is working on the same value system, then it will definitely reflect on the product and services and will be felt by the customers too.

“Customers will never love a company until the employees love it first.”

– Simon Sinek, author, Start with Why 

Talking about the Informal Organization Culture according to me it will be simply what a new joiner experiences in the first week of their job in that organization because at that point in time that person is bombarded with the knowledge of the formal Culture, however, the culture that the person experiences becomes his reality.

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Needless to say, what matters more is the culture that actually exists at the workplace and that defines how your people are interacting with each other, how each function is dealing with the other function and how the image of that organization is perceived by the external stakeholders. Its however very difficult to see a workplace which is absolutely aligned with its formal Culture because that is what has been thought one wants to be, but actually they are defined by what they do day in and day out. The onus is on everyone in the organization from top to bottom to make sure that the Formal and Informal Organization Culture is aligned but a weak link can be a big deterrent.

What can we do to align both these cultures?

The answer to this is not to launch another awareness campaign. Campaigns do their job of making people aware, but when we talk about the change of behaviours, that will need the people to actually practice those things in real as well as subconsciously. And to do that, here are some of the suggestions:

  • First and foremost, define a Formal Value System of the organization with utmost clarity.
  • Not only a top driven approach but also an approach, which is owned by the top leadership.
  • The same level of seriousness and priority to be given to adhere to the value system of the organization, which is given to the bottom line. Because eventually, this will be a biggest driving factor for the bottom line itself.
  • For those weak links, find them out through different survey methods and take stern action to correct the same.
  • Not only reprimand but reward those who are torch bearers but beware that these rewards should have ingenuity and not pleasing mechanisms.
  • Hire those people who are strong believers in those value systems.
  • Making the awareness of value system a part of daily routine in the beginning especially so that people are aware that the management wants something to be done by them.
  • Taking continuous feedback from the external stakeholders about the success so that you are aware that the actions are being taken in the right direction.


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I heard somewhere that we might go to any university of the world, they will teach us everything except handling the “Office Politics”. So this office politics is also a big factor that determines the workplace culture. Any bunch of incompetent people will try to work in their own way trashing the expected behaviour so that their salaries are saved but in this process, the organization bleeds the talent.

“Until I came to IBM, I probably would have told you that culture was just one among several important elements in any organization’s makeup and success — along with vision, strategy, marketing, financials, and the like… I came to see, in my time at IBM, that culture isn’t just one aspect of the game, it is the game. In the end, an organization is nothing more than the collective capacity of its people to create value.”

 Louis V. Gerstner, Jr., Former CEO of IBM

While there are a lot of ways to align Formal and Informal Culture but more challenging are the factors that have larger capabilities to misalign them and that is where the DNA of an organization is defined.

Management that ignores corporate culture risks leading the company down a path of turmoil and troubles. It will not be successful at organizing and motivating employees or producing stellar financial and production results. Management will end up with a host of unresolved problems hindering company productivity, damaging employee morale and impeding company growth. While employees should be courted, new policies carefully explained and their impact on individuals and groups taken into account. A strong organizational culture conveys the same values through written and the unwritten rules, interactions, and connections.


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Sumeet Jindal is an Organisation Development specialist wherein he has contributed to the implementation of change and transformation in HR for a better sustainable business. He is an SHRM certified HRBP and has experience in managing HR processes independently for the entire business unit and cluster of business units too. An IT Enthusiast he believes in proactive HR and in continuous development.

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