Organizational Climate: Definition, Factors & Impacts on Culture

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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: John McLaughlin
In this lesson you will learn the definition of organizational climate, how it differs from organizational culture, and how the culture of an organization governs the organizational climate.

What is Organizational Climate?

Jack Brunson is a jack-of-all-trades. Whenever someone has a special job they need done, they call Jack. Because he can do just about anything, Jack has had some very interesting jobs over the years. Last year, for example, Jack worked in Yosemite National Park all summer as a park ranger and learned a lot about the wildlife there. Jack then spent that fall on a ranch in California picking kumquats out of kumquat trees. After that, Jack was hired by the FBI to test stun guns.

Because he can do just about anything, Jack has worked for many different types of businesses and has experienced firsthand the variety of cultures and climates that are part of these organizations. Before we can explore organizational climate, let's define organizational culture. Organizational culture is a system of shared assumptions, values and beliefs that governs how people behave in organizations. The culture of an organization provides boundaries and guidelines that help members of the organization know the correct way to perform their jobs.

The culture of an organization is ingrained in the behavior of the members of an organization and is very difficult to change. For this reason, culture can be thought of as the 'personality' of the organization. The unique culture of an organization creates a distinct atmosphere that is felt by the people who are part of the group, and this atmosphere is known as the climate of an organization. We define organizational climate as how members of an organization experience the culture of an organization.

The climate of an organization is subject to change frequently and can be shaped by the upper management of an organization. If culture represents the personality of the organization, climate is the organization's mood. Organizational climate is much easier to experience and measure than organizational culture and also much easier to change.

Types of Organizational Climate

There are many different types of climates that can be produced by the culture of an organization and they can be grouped in many different ways. One way to categorize the different types of organizational climates is climates that are people-oriented, rule-oriented, innovation-oriented and goal-oriented.

Examples of Organizational Climate

It is known by people everywhere that Jack can do just about anything, so when a cactus farm in Arizona needed some help, they called Jack. The culture of the cactus farm consisted of a core value that emphasized care and concern for the people of that organization. This culture produced a people-oriented climate that was obvious to Jack. He felt an immediate sense of belonging to the organization and could tell they genuinely cared about his well-being. The owner of the cactus farm spent two days training Jack on the best way to care for cacti, and a supervisor was always nearby to make sure that none of the farm workers ever got too hot or thirsty in the scorching Arizona desert.

One of Jack's most dangerous jobs was the time he was hired as a crab fisherman in Alaska. The culture of this organization valued attention to detail by its members, and this culture produced a climate that was very rule-oriented. The crab fisherman had a very established way of performing their jobs and were quick to correct Jack if he did anything that did not conform to the established procedures. Jack was quick to notice that this was a very stable environment built on a tradition of doing each job a certain way. Since it was such a dangerous job, it was important that no one do anything that went against the established rules in order to ensure the safety of all members of the group.

Jack was once hired to work in an ice cream factory in Vermont. Jack's job was to fill empty containers with ice cream. The culture of the ice cream company valued emphasis on outcome - everyone had to fill 100 cartons with ice cream every day. The culture of this organization produced a climate that was goal-oriented. Jack was able to instantly sense this climate since there were signs on the wall with clearly defined goals for the workers and everyone there felt the pressure to produce. Everyone who filled containers with ice cream had to stay at the factory until they completed their daily goal, no matter how long it took.

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