How do you manage multiple subcultures in the workplace?

4 Minutes
The question, "Can a Business Have Multiple Cultures?" is more than just a topic for academic debate; it's a reality faced by many organisations.

In the diverse and ever-changing landscape of the corporate world, particularly in large or varied organisations, the existence of multiple subcultures is not just common but often inevitable. These subcultures, each with its distinct characteristics, are influenced by various factors, from departmental roles to geographic locations.

Understanding Subcultures in the Corporate World

When we delve into the heart of an organisation, we often find that different departments have nurtured their own unique subcultures. Marketing, finance, R&D – each of these realms operates in its own universe, with distinct objectives and day-to-day activities that shape its culture. This diversity extends beyond departmental walls to the global stage, where companies with international presence adapt and evolve to embrace local cultural nuances, from language to business practices.

Departmental Variations

  • Distinct Functions and Goals: Different departments like marketing, finance, and R&D often cultivate their own subcultures. This is because their objectives and day-to-day operations can be worlds apart.
  • Impact on Work Ethic and Interactions: These variations can influence everything from work ethic to communication styles within departments.

Geographical Differences

  • Cultural Nuances in Global Companies: For businesses spread across the globe, regional cultural nuances can lead to the development of distinct subcultures within the same company.
  • Adapting to Local Norms: These differences are not just about language or customs but also about adapting business strategies to local markets.

Integration of Subcultures

  • Balancing Act: The real challenge lies in integrating these subcultures without losing the overarching organisational identity.
  • Communication and Collaboration: Effective communication and collaboration strategies are key to bridging these subcultural divides.

Benefits and Challenges

  • Innovation Through Diversity: Multiple cultures within a business can be a breeding ground for innovation and diverse perspectives.
  • Cohesion vs. Conflict: However, it also poses challenges in maintaining cohesion and avoiding conflict between different subcultural groups.

The challenge, and indeed the art, lies in integrating these diverse subcultures without diluting the overarching organisational identity. It's a balancing act, requiring effective communication and collaboration strategies to bridge the gaps between these varied mini-cultures.

Can a Business Have Multiple Cultures? The Scientific Perspective

Recent studies shed light on this phenomenon. For instance, a study by Schneider, B., Ehrhart, M. G., & Macey, W. H. (2013) in the "Human Resource Management" journal highlights how organisational culture is not monolithic but rather a complex system of subcultures. This research underscores the reality that businesses, particularly large and diverse ones, naturally develop multiple subcultures.

The Role of Leadership in Cultivating Subcultures

Leaders as Culture Brokers: Leaders play a crucial role in either bridging or widening the gaps between subcultures.

Promoting Unity in Diversity: Effective leadership involves promoting a sense of unity whilst respecting the uniqueness of each subculture.

Technology's Impact on Business Cultures

Virtual Workspaces: The rise of remote work and virtual teams has introduced new subcultural dynamics within businesses.

Digital Culture: Technology not only connects geographically dispersed teams but also creates its own digital subculture within the workplace.

FAQs on Multiple Cultures in Business

How do multiple cultures impact employee morale?

Employee morale can be positively influenced by a sense of belonging to a unique subculture whilst being part of a larger organisation.

Can multiple cultures lead to conflicts within a business?

Yes, if not managed well, different subcultures can clash, leading to conflicts. However, effective communication and leadership can mitigate these risks.

Are multiple cultures more common in certain types of businesses?

Yes, they are more prevalent in large, global, or diverse organisations where varied influences naturally lead to the formation of subcultures.

So, can a business have multiple cultures? Absolutely! It's not just possible; it's a vibrant reality in many organisations. The key lies in recognising these subcultures, understanding their dynamics, and harnessing their potential to foster an environment of innovation and inclusivity. Like a mosaic, each piece is unique, but together, they create a masterpiece of organisational culture.

Embracing the Mosaic

Celebrating Diversity: Businesses should celebrate the diversity of their subcultures as a strength, not a challenge.

Unified Yet Diverse: The goal is to achieve a harmonious balance where the organisation's identity is preserved whilst allowing subcultures to thrive.

In the end, the question isn't just "Can a Business Have Multiple Cultures?" but rather, how can businesses weave these diverse cultural threads into a cohesive and dynamic tapestry? The answer lies in embracing the mosaic, not just as a necessity but as an opportunity to enrich the organisational narrative.



Schneider, B., Ehrhart, M. G., & Macey, W. H. (2013)

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