How does culture affect employee behaviour and performance?

5 Minutes
Enriching the lives of employees, strengthening the fabric of the organisation, and echoing in the broader community it serves.

In the realm of organisational dynamics, culture stands as a cornerstone, shaping not just the identity of a company but profoundly influencing the experiences and outcomes of its workforce. It is the invisible yet powerful force that dictates the rhythm of organisational life, from the subtle nuances of daily interactions to the overarching goals that drive a company's vision. This exploration delves into the multifaceted ways in which organisational culture impacts employee behaviour, performance, motivation, job satisfaction, and the capacity for innovation and creativity.

At its core, organisational culture is more than a set of policies or practices; it is the heartbeat of a company, reflecting its values, beliefs, and attitudes. It's a complex ecosystem that nurtures the growth of individuals and the organization as a whole. Understanding the intricate relationship between culture and employee dynamics is crucial for any organisation aspiring to foster a positive, productive, and innovative environment.

As we embark on this journey, we will uncover the layers of influence that culture exerts on employees. From the way it moulds motivation and engagement to its role in shaping behavioural norms, setting performance expectations, enhancing job satisfaction, and igniting the spark of innovation and creativity, each aspect reveals a different facet of the powerful impact of organisational culture.

This exploration is not just an academic exercise; it is a vital inquiry into the soul of an organisation. It seeks to offer insights and strategies for cultivating a culture that not only drives success but also resonates with the aspirations and well-being of those who are its lifeblood – the employees. In doing so, it aims to illuminate the path towards creating workplaces that are not only productive but also nurturing, inclusive, and vibrant – a true reflection of a thriving organisational culture.

1. Motivation and Engagement

Organisational culture plays a pivotal role in shaping employee motivation and engagement. One key aspect of this is positive reinforcement. In environments where efforts and achievements are recognised and rewarded, employees are likely to experience a significant boost in motivation. This approach not only acknowledges their hard work but also fosters a culture of continuous improvement and dedication.

Another crucial element is the sense of belonging. Cultures that nurture a community feeling and make employees feel valued and integral to the organisation can greatly enhance engagement. This sense of belonging can transform an ordinary workplace into a space where employees feel connected and committed.

Supporting this perspective, a study by Ira Sumiati and S. Lo in 2022 at Bina Insan Mandiri School in Jakarta demonstrated the profound impact of achievement motivation and organisational culture on employee engagement and performance. Read the study. This research underscores the importance of these cultural aspects in influencing employee behaviour.

In the real world, companies like Google stand as a testament to the effectiveness of such cultures. Google's approach to fostering motivation and engagement through diverse employee benefits, a relaxed and creative work environment, and a strong emphasis on innovation is renowned. This approach not only enhances employee satisfaction but also drives innovation and productivity.

However, it's important to recognise the challenges in implementing such a culture. One significant issue is the challenge in uniformity. Different employees are motivated by different factors, and a one-size-fits-all approach may not be effective across an organisation. Additionally, there's a risk of overemphasis on certain cultural aspects, like competitiveness. While healthy competition can be beneficial, too much emphasis on it might lead to stress and burnout, negatively impacting motivation in the long run.

This nuanced understanding of organisational culture's impact on motivation and engagement highlights the need for a balanced and tailored approach. Recognising the diversity in employee motivation and carefully calibrating the cultural elements can lead to a more harmonious and productive work environment.

2. Behavioural Norms

Behavioural norms within an organisation are more than just a set of rules; they are the guiding principles that shape the daily interactions and decision-making processes of employees. The organisational culture plays a crucial role in setting these norms, essentially laying the groundwork for what is considered acceptable and expected behaviour in the workplace. These norms are not just about compliance; they are about creating an environment where positive behaviours are fostered and become the norm.

A key component of these behavioural norms is the emphasis on ethical standards. A strong ethical culture within an organisation encourages employees to act with integrity and professionalism. This aspect of culture is not just about avoiding negative behaviours but is more about proactively promoting ethical actions and decisions. It's about building a culture where doing the right thing is part of the organisation's DNA.

The importance of these aspects is highlighted in research by Ridwan Arifin and Singmin Johanes Lo, which shows that intrinsic motivation and organisational culture have a significant influence on employee performance, mediated by employee engagement. This research suggests that when employees are intrinsically motivated and operate in a strong cultural environment, their performance and engagement levels are positively impacted.

A real-world example of this can be seen in Zappos, the online shoe and clothing retailer. Zappos is renowned for its unique culture that places a strong emphasis on customer service and employee happiness. This culture has significantly influenced employee behaviour and decision-making, demonstrating the power of a well-defined and positive organisational culture.

However, establishing and maintaining these behavioural norms is not without its challenges. One such challenge is the potential for conformity. When strong cultural norms are present, there's a risk that they might lead to a conformity mindset, where individuality and diversity of thought are stifled. This can be counterproductive, as it may suppress creativity and innovation.

Another challenge lies in navigating ethical dilemmas. In some cases, employees might find themselves prioritising cultural norms over ethical considerations, especially if the culture implicitly encourages such behaviour. This can lead to ethical blind spots where the line between right and wrong becomes blurred.

These challenges underscore the need for a balanced approach in cultivating behavioural norms within an organisation. It's crucial to foster a culture that not only promotes positive behaviours and ethical standards but also encourages diversity of thought and ethical vigilance. By doing so, organisations can create an environment where employees are not only guided by strong principles but are also empowered to think critically and act ethically.

3. Performance Expectations

Performance expectations are a critical component of organisational culture, serving as a roadmap for employees to understand and meet the organisation's goals. A well-defined culture that articulates clear performance expectations plays a vital role in guiding employees. It's not just about setting targets; it's about providing clarity and direction, which can significantly enhance an employee's ability to perform effectively.

Another essential aspect of performance expectations is accountability. Cultures that emphasise accountability do more than just hold employees responsible for their work. They encourage a sense of ownership and pride in the outcomes. This approach fosters a proactive attitude where employees are more engaged and invested in the success of their tasks and, by extension, the organisation.

The impact of these cultural elements on employee engagement and motivation is evident in a study by Benari Saras Wardini and L. Nawangsari, which specifically looks at the context of millennials. Read the study. This research highlights how organisational culture influences not just performance but also the underlying engagement and motivation that drive this performance.

Salesforce, a leader in cloud-based software, exemplifies the positive outcomes of a culture with clear performance expectations and strong accountability. Known for its high-performance culture, Salesforce has seen rapid growth and success, largely attributed to its clear objectives and the accountability it fosters among its employees.

However, setting performance expectations is not without its challenges. One significant issue is the potential for increased stress and pressure. When performance expectations are set high, it can sometimes lead to undue stress, which may not always yield positive outcomes. This stress can impact employee well-being and, in turn, their overall performance.

Another challenge is the potential misalignment with personal goals. There can be a disconnect between what the organisation expects and an employee's personal career goals or values. This misalignment can lead to dissatisfaction and a feeling of being undervalued or misunderstood.

These challenges highlight the need for a nuanced approach to setting performance expectations. It's important for organisations to strike a balance between driving performance and maintaining employee well-being. Additionally, aligning organisational goals with individual aspirations can create a more harmonious and productive work environment. By doing so, organisations can foster a culture where high performance is achieved not at the expense of employee satisfaction but in tandem with it.

4. Job Satisfaction

Job satisfaction is a key indicator of an organisation's health and is deeply influenced by its culture. A supportive and respectful culture is fundamental in enhancing job satisfaction. Such a culture doesn't just create a pleasant working environment; it fosters a sense of belonging and respect among employees, which is crucial for their overall contentment and commitment to the organisation.

Equally important is the emphasis on work-life balance. Cultures that prioritise this balance do more than just prevent burnout; they contribute significantly to employee well-being and satisfaction. Recognising that employees have lives outside of work and respecting their time and personal commitments can lead to a more engaged and productive workforce.

The critical role of these cultural aspects in enhancing job satisfaction is underscored by a study conducted by Mullika Sanpakdee et al., which examines the influence of employee well-being, motivation, and engagement on organisational culture and firm performance in Thailand's tourism sector. Read more. This research highlights how a positive organisational culture can lead to better performance through improved employee satisfaction.

Costco's approach to job satisfaction, which includes offering above-average wages and benefits, has resulted in notably low turnover rates. This demonstrates how a supportive environment and fair compensation can lead to high levels of employee satisfaction and loyalty.

However, cultivating job satisfaction through organisational culture is not without its challenges. One significant issue is cultural fit. Not every employee will resonate with the existing organisational culture, which can lead to dissatisfaction and disengagement. This mismatch can be a source of discomfort for employees who feel out of sync with the predominant culture.

Another challenge is the potential neglect of individual needs. In cultures that focus heavily on collective goals and achievements, there's a risk that individual needs and aspirations might be overlooked. This can lead to employees feeling undervalued and dissatisfied, as their personal goals and desires are not being met.

These challenges highlight the importance of a balanced and inclusive approach to cultivating organisational culture. It's crucial for organisations to not only foster a supportive and balanced work environment but also to recognise and address the diverse needs and values of their employees. By doing so, they can create a culture that not only enhances job satisfaction but also respects and values the individuality of each employee.

5. Innovation and Creativity

Innovation and creativity are vital for the growth and sustainability of any organisation, and the culture of an organisation plays a crucial role in nurturing these qualities. Cultures that encourage experimentation provide a fertile ground for innovative thinking. When employees are encouraged to think outside the box and experiment with new ideas, it leads to a dynamic environment where creativity thrives.

Another critical aspect of such cultures is their approach to risk-taking. Cultures that allow for calculated risks create a safe space for employees to explore and propose innovative solutions. This tolerance for risk is essential in fostering an environment where employees are not paralyzed by the fear of failure but are instead motivated to try new approaches and ideas.

The impact of organisational culture on fostering innovation and creativity, particularly among millennials, is highlighted in the research by Benari Saras Wardini and L. Nawangsari. This study underscores the importance of a supportive culture in enhancing motivation and engagement, which are key drivers of innovation.

A prime example of this principle in action is 3M, renowned for its culture of innovation. 3M allows its employees to spend 15% of their time on independent projects, a policy that has led to the creation of groundbreaking products like Post-it Notes. This approach demonstrates how giving employees the freedom and time to explore can result in significant innovations.

However, creating a culture that fosters innovation and creativity is not without its challenges. One of the major hurdles is the fear of failure. Even in environments that encourage innovation, the fear of failing can significantly impede creativity. This fear can prevent employees from taking the necessary risks that are often required for true innovation.

Another challenge is the allocation of resources. Fostering an innovative environment requires not just a cultural shift but also the allocation of time and resources. In organisations where resources are limited, providing the necessary support for innovation can be a significant challenge.

These highlight the need for a strategic approach to cultivating a culture of innovation and creativity. It's important for organizations to create an environment where risk-taking is supported and failure is viewed as a learning opportunity. Additionally, ensuring that adequate resources are allocated for innovation initiatives is crucial. By addressing these challenges, organisations can create a culture that not only encourages but also sustains innovation and creativity.


The exploration of how culture impacts motivation, behaviour, performance, job satisfaction, and innovation reveals a profound truth: the heart of an organisation's success lies in its ability to foster a culture that resonates with the values, aspirations, and wellbeing of its people.

The journey through various facets of organisational culture underscores a central theme: the power of a positive, inclusive, and dynamic culture in unlocking the potential of its workforce. It's a reminder that organisations are not just business entities but vibrant communities where individual aspirations meet collective goals, where the pursuit of excellence is balanced with the nurturing of human spirit, and where innovation is not just encouraged but celebrated.

As we reflect on the lessons learned, it becomes evident that the task of building and maintaining a robust organisational culture is both an art and a science. It demands a thoughtful blend of strategy and empathy, foresight and flexibility, leadership and collaboration. In this endeavour, the greatest challenge lies not in the adoption of new policies or practices but in the cultivation of an ethos that permeates every level of the organisation, creating an environment where employees don't just work but thrive.

In the end, the true measure of an organisation's culture is not just in the heights it reaches but in the depth it gives – a depth that enriches the lives of its employees, strengthens the fabric of the organisation, and echoes in the broader community it serves. This is the essence of a thriving organisational culture, a beacon that guides the journey towards collective success and individual fulfilment.


Sumiati, Ira, and S. Lo. (2022). "Employee Engagement Mediates the Achievement Motivation and Organizational Culture Towards Teacher Performance at Bina Insan Mandiri School, Jakarta

Behavioral Norms

Arifin, Ridwan, and Singmin Johanes Lo. "The Effect of Intrinsic Motivation and Organizational Culture on Employee Engagement Mediated Performance at PT XYZ.

Performance Expectations

Wardini, Benari Saras, and L. Nawangsari. "The Influence of Employer Branding and Organizational Culture on Employee Engagement with Motivation as Mediators on the Millennials Generation at KAP TSFBR

Job Satisfaction

Sanpakdee, Mullika, Sudawan Somjai, and Pornkul Suksod. "The Influence of Employee Wellbeing, Employee Motivation, Employee Engagement and Organizational Culture for Tourism Firm Performance in Thailand

Innovation and Creativity

(Same as Performance Expectations) Wardini, Benari Saras, and L. Nawangsari. "The Influence of Employer Branding and Organizational Culture on Employee Engagement with Motivation as Mediators on the Millennials Generation at KAP TSFBR." Read the study

Mojo delivers a number of unique benefits for any organisation that cares about its employees.
These include:
<li>Improved employee motivation, wellbeing and resilience</li>
<li>Sustainable productivity growth</li>
<li>Talent attraction & retention</li>
<li>Better customer service</li>
<li>The Human Energy Transition<br>
(from Extrinsic to Intrinsic motivation)</li>

Mojo is our online employee motivation platform that drives productivity, wellbeing and resilience

Mojo delivers a number of unique benefits for any organisation that cares about its employees. These include:
  • Improved employee motivation, wellbeing and resilience
  • Sustainable productivity growth
  • Talent attraction & retention
  • Better customer service
  • The Human Energy Transition
    (from Extrinsic to Intrinsic motivation)

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