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Workplace cultures and pharmacy

The word “culture” probably brings to mind another country or its people but organisations also have cultures and these can be just as diverse. A corporate culture is more complex than the mission statement that an organisation adopts.

It is about what makes the organisation tick and what shapes its values. This means what an organisation really values as opposed to what it says it values. The gap between these is called the “rhetoric-reality gap”. This gap occurs because the values of many companies are based in rhetoric rather than reality — making statements about values is always easier than living them.

A common definition of corporate culture is that it is the shared beliefs that are reflected in habits and behaviours (eg, the way employees dress and address each other). Culture is the personality of an organisation but it is not necessarily just about the abstract. An organisation’s culture can also be seen in its tangible objects, such as decor, brochures, logos, corporate stationery and so on. Websites also give an indication of culture. The following extracts provide an insight into the respective cultures of two companies:

  • Google: “Though growing rapidly, Google still maintains a small company feel. At the Googleplex headquarters almost everyone eats in the Google café (known as “Charlie’s Place”), sitting at whatever table has an opening and enjoying conversations with Googlers from all different departments. Topics range from the trivial to the technical, and whether the discussion is about computer games or encryption or ad serving software, it’s not surprising to hear someone say, ‘That’s a product I helped develop before I came to Google’.”
  • Pfizer:“We will strengthen the culture of our organisation by rewarding those who live the Pfizer values. To achieve our purpose and mission, we affirm our values of integrity, innovation, leadership, performance, teamwork, customer focus, respect for people, and community. We demand of ourselves and others the highest ethical standards, and our products and processes will be of the highest quality. Our conduct as a company, and as individuals within it, will always reflect the highest standards of integrity. We will demonstrate open, honest and ethical behaviour in all dealings with customers, clients, colleagues, suppliers, partners, the public and governments”

Culture cannot always be easily defined by employees. However, various culture types have been identified by researchers. These include the following:

  • Power culture A power culture is based on the control and dominance of one or a few individuals in an organisation, who make key decisions. This culture is characterised as being competitive, power oriented and political.
  • Role culture In a role-driven culture individuals have clear functions to perform and tend to stick closely to their job descriptions. Work in this type of culture is driven by procedures and rules and power is linked to positions rather than people.
  • Person culture A person culture allows individuals to operate in a fairly autonomous manner and make decisions for themselves.
  • Task culture A task culture revolves around teams and tasks. Teams have tasks to complete and do so with a reasonable degree of autonomy for decision-making. This type of culture is based more on expert power than on position or personal power.

New employees or outsiders can often be more objective in defining an organisation’s culture than established employees, noting common behaviours (eg, good time-keeping) and attitudes (eg, to absence due to sickness). An organisation’s culture can also be assessed by considering the following questions:

  • What really counts as the key values in my organisation?
  • What kind of behaviours are tolerated or rewarded?
  • What kind of people fit in my organisation?
  • What type of person gets promoted?
  • Does my organisation really value people? How?
  • How are decisions made and implemented?
  • Is employee participation in decision-making encouraged or discouraged?
  • Do senior managers listen to employees?
  • Does the organisation encourage or discourage innovation and creative thinking?

Culture assessment tools (eg, a survey to check on attitudes) can be used to collect qualitative and quantitative data about an organisation and provide information about its real values and norms. These tools are commercially available and can help companies identify areas for improvement. Websites containing information about culture assessment tools include and

Download the attached PDF to read the full article.

Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal URI: 10997421

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