Organizational culture, atmosphere or emotional climate?

The actions and the atmosphere of different organizations have been described in many ways. It is rather difficult to distinguish all these straight away as there are so many different ways to define them. What does organizational culture mean, how to define the atmosphere at work and what is meant by the emotional climate of a workplace?

They are not too different from each other but in this article, we will distinguish these three from each other.

The definition of organizational culture

The term ‘organizational culture’ is very diverse and usually it is used when referring to the values, practicalities and the norms of a company as a whole. Simply put, the organizational culture guides and leads the working environment, how things should be done. The most well-known model of the organizational culture is by Edgar Schein from the 1980s. His model divides the culture into three layers:

  1. The visible symbols of the culture and the company’s framework such as the uniform, the décor of the offices, any behaviour that is visible to the eye.
  2. The values. They are the core of what is important to the company and how the company wants to be seen by the others. This also includes the identity, the vision and the mission of the company.
  3. The basic assumptions and beliefs. These are normally so deeply integrated within the company that often happen unintentionally. These may be hard to make visible or change but these also explain the ‘real’ culture of the company.

Every organization has its culture regardless of whether it has been defined or not. It is generally thought that changing and adjusting the culture requires a lot of resources and time. The organizational culture changes rather slowly and can also be carried through generations and generations.

What does ’atmosphere of a workplace’ mean?

There are several different definitions of the atmosphere of a workplace, but it is mostly referred to as the general atmosphere of the company that is seen in interactions, attitudes, and emotions. It is often described in a very short manner, either as ‘good’ or ‘bad’. The organizational atmosphere questionnaire, if carried out, can be used to research the quality of the managerial work, the internal communication, the actions of the management and the commitment of the personnel.

The atmosphere in the company changes fairly a lot and can be different from one team to another – there is no such thing as a united organizational atmosphere. It can change rather quickly, for example due to the change in the management, or an exceptionally stressful period at work can change the atmosphere in the organization quickly.

What is then the emotional climate of the workplace?

The emotional climate arises from the emotions the employees experience and express. The emotions are in relation to work, colleagues and to the organization. How do I feel to be part of this community? How do I feel when I meet my colleagues, when I work and when I think about my goals?

Naturally every individual goes through many emotions during their workday. The emotional climate explains which emotions are the most characteristically typical for the company, which emotions are expressed, how they are seen in everyday life, which emotions are allowed, and which emotions are not seen so often.

The emotional climate spreads not only through speech and language but also through expressions, gestures and the tones of voice. The organizational emotional climate has been scientifically proven, and it explains many factors essential to the productivity and the success such as sick leaves, the quality of the teamwork, the job satisfaction and the psychological safety.

The organizational culture changes very slowly but the emotional climate can change quickly.

These three definitions – organizational culture, atmosphere and emotional climate – are very similar and sometimes it is difficult to extinguish them from each other. There is a good rule to differentiate – the organizational culture changes very slowly but the emotional climate can change quickly.

The difference between the emotional climate and the atmosphere is that the atmosphere is a generic description of the atmosphere at work that is often described as shortly as ‘good’ or ‘bad’. The emotional climate, on the other hand, is rather specific and really explains the emotions behind the organization; which emotions are expressed, how they are expressed and what is the best way deal with these emotions.

It is possible to describe the atmosphere in a very simplified manner from very good to very bad, whereas the emotional climate cannot be described so black and white. The most typical emotions that are felt at work such as fear, sadness, pride and excitement are examined when measuring the emotional climate at a workplace,

If the topic interests you, please be in touch and we would be more than happy to share more information on this!


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