Complex subcultures

You might have subcultures in your organisation for different groups of workers, for example in different departments, teams (such as care teams, management and ancillary teams) or shifts (such as day and night staff). These have the potential to support or disrupt the achievement of your organisation’s aims and objectives.

Sometimes this might be good, for example if teams have different outcomes or tasks to achieve. However subcultures that develop in response to the needs of particular groups, for example as a result of a person’s political views, personal beliefs or shift patterns, may be more damaging.

Positive workplace cultures should have subcultures that complement each other to meet the organisations overall aims and objectives, and strong leadership to enable this.

Leaders and managers need to address the negative and build on the positive attributes of these subcultures so that they are aligned with your organisational aims and objectives.

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Read the scenario and answer the questions below.

The manager of a busy domiciliary support service is very forward thinking and embraces assisted living technology (ALT). The culture of the service is evolutionary and tries to move with the times to provide more effective, person centred care.

The service operates two different teams, one based in a very rural location and one based in a town.

The manager is keen to encourage staff and people who need care and support to consider ALT as a solution to an identified need, when and where appropriate. 

The service has been supporting people to learn about and to use various pieces of ALT for a number of years, beginning with more low level equipment such as easy pour kettles, talking scales and remote locking devices. 

As ALT improves and develops, some members of staff are realising the potential of digital technology, such as applications available for smart phones and tablets. These staff try to encourage wider use of these devices with those who have them. One particular member of the rural team would like to support the rest of the staff to learn how to use Skype – this could benefit some of the people they support who are more isolated.

Other members of staff are reluctant to try Skype and don’t feel comfortable using apps on smart phones or tablets. They insist they are ‘not very good with computers’ and this is causing frustration within one of the teams.

Now answer these questions. 

  • What subcultures do you think this organisation may have?
  • How can you ensure that each subculture shares the organisational aims and objectives and so improves the service delivered?
  • What barriers do you think there may be?
  • Thinking about your own organisation, can you identify any subcultures?
  • How do they support or disrupt your organisations aims and objectives?

How to integrate complex subcultures in your workplace

Confident leaders can help you manage complex subcultures, to ensure that a positive workplace culture is developed and maintained in your organisation.

Resources to help: People performance management toolkit

This toolkit can help you manage your staff and their performance. It includes everyday scenarios such as what to do if someone’s performance is slipping or if they don’t show the right attitude, and advice about managing different types of people and having open and honest two-way conversations.

Section five explains how to have conversations about people performance. It explains how to give constructive feedback, discussing under-performance and praising the positives.

Download the toolkit here and go to section five.

Resources to help: Leadership qualities framework

To effectively manage people, leaders themselves need to have the right skills and values.

The ‘ Leadership qualities framework’ describes what good leadership looks like and the attitudes and behaviours needed by leaders at all levels.

It can be used:

  • by individuals to review and reflect on their performance as a leader
  • to support recruitment and selection to leadership roles
  • to design learning and development for leaders
  • to review leader’s performance.

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