Week 9: Myths, Metaphors & Stories

To shape an organization’s culture and how the members of an organization view the organization, many cultural elements can be manipulated. Through the use of myths, metaphors, stories, and many other symbolic expressions, the impression of the organization can be morphed and manipulated. This can be positive as the community is grown and individuals feel a stronger connection to their group, or it can be negative as the organization abuses its power over the individuals.

Metaphors define the member’s experience by a figure of speech in which it is described in more familiar terms. For example, some companies require that all employees are called “teammates” rather than “employees” to shape the organization’s culture. When calling them teammates, it cultivates an environment where all employees are working towards the same goal and are on the same team versus viewing themselves as simple subordinates to their boss.

Stories are powerful in the development of an organization’s culture because they “convey to members what and who the culture values” (Organizational Communication — Balancing Creativity and Constraint, pg. 106). Through informal and formal communication channels, the organization and the stories told by its leaders and members shape how the membership views it.

Myths are a subset of stories that are fictional, believed by a large portion of the membership, and explain some natural or social phenomenon. The use of myths in the workplace may be used to motivate employees to reach an impossible standard to be similar to the idealized worker.

The use of metaphors, myths, stories and other elements of culture have a large impact on the ideology of a company because the culture greatly impacts the ideology. Because all of these figures of speech and communication tools impact how an employee views the culture of the company, it also impacts how they do their work. These beliefs which guide the employee and define how they view the organization make up the group’s ideology. According to Jim Collins on the Harvard Business Review, a core ideology of a business combines the organization’s core values and core purpose which remain constant while the company adapts it’s strategies and practices to keep relevant in the business world. This ideology is portrayed to employees through careful use of these cultural elements. The longer this ideology is maintained, the more “cultlike” it becomes according to management theorists Jim Collins and Jerry Porras.

A strong ideology is viewed as cultlike because the culture of the organization is so strongly built upon it. It is fervently held and valued by the members of the organization. New members are indoctrinated with it thoroughly during orientation and training programs. Perspective members are extensively screened to ensure they will fit well with the culture defined by the organization. Lastly, a sense of elitism is cultured among members which encourages a sense of belonging and pride in the organization.

Through development of an ideology, an organization creates power. When a company has a strong corporate culture, they encourage a strong sense of commitment among employees. Thus, employees will be more willing to sacrifice for the good of the organization. They will be more likely to work long hours, work tirelessly when on the job, and overall still have higher job satisfaction. Thus, the company has great power through having a large satisfied army of workers.