Office Culture in Ghana
“Culture is a way of life of a particular group of people”. This is a pretty popular definition across all elementary school students in fifth grade and above who did Citizenship Education or Social Studies. Regardless of what school you went to or the difference in teachers and teaching styles, a lot of students gave this standardized definition of culture. As cliché as it is, it is true. Culture defines a people and gives them a certain distinctiveness that makes them stand out.
For a long time, it seemed as though people culture was often associated to an indigenous group of people who were oppressed or oppressed others. However, what seems to be gaining more momentum in these days is office culture.
Companies have their visions and mission statements clearly lined out as a form of identity to let others know the type of business they are involved in. A company without these two is regarded as aimless and is not considered as having a good foundation. Such companies, often have many phases of drastic identity crisis and having a “go-with-the-flow” kind of spirit. The mission and the vision statements of companies help mould the office culture into being. Office culture is more of an unspoken rule; it is a relatively common way of behaving among members of staff.
In organizations such as Facebook, the office culture goes beyond the behavioural (culture) of having a strong sense of teamwork, open communication and luxe dress code. At Facebook, there are on-site laundry facilities, friendly décor like huge murals on walls and balloons by each person’s desk to signify their Facebook anniversary. These are said to encourage creativity. It’s flat-organization structure however, seems to be fading away with the continuous growth of the company. As companies get larger, it is more difficult to have a seemingly equal and decentralized organizational structure.
Understanding this, Facebook has made different buildings for different departments separated by gardens and other recreational facilities to make it appear like there are “sub-companies” within the same company. In this way, some extent of the ‘flat-organizational system can be employed’.
Organizational culture plays a very important role in the identity of the company especially in the hiring process. A persons’ curriculum vitae only shows the qualifications of a person for a job, but what sets the person apart from the many other people who carry similar qualifications? Well, according to Zappo, the persona of the person does. Through this, the employer gets to know if the interviewee would be compatible for the company and can easily fit in. Zappo, a large business in the shoe making market has a “cultural fit interview” that takes up almost half of the interview assessment.
In Ghana, however, office culture does not seem to be a key factor in running a company. In a lot of businesses, there seems to be a monotonous way of life- the official pencil skirt and a full buttoned blouse, the well ironed black trousers and long sleeve shirt, the chit-chat during working hours and even longer-than expected lunch breaks, “the we close at 5pm so I have packed my bags at 4.30pm” type of mentality. Work for most people has become more of a chore, than an actualization of fulfilling the core purpose of a business. We find that when people do not personalise the vision of a company, they are often nonchalant and indifferent to the general running of the company. People must share in the mission and make it theirs and that way they can each take various measures to enjoy the work they are doing and by so doing help form the culture.
For better productivity in workplaces, it is imperative that more human relations officers and corporate bodies take office culture more seriously. The start-up space in Ghana however seems to be taking the issues of forming culture serious. Start-ups by their nature have a flat organizational structure, which helps to build a cohesive team. At Workshed for example, our happy hour events are aimed at creating a sense of unity among the members of the space while creating an opportunity for the businesses within the space to grow. Far from the typical corporate Ghanaian setting, you will see inscriptions like, ‘Sarcastic comment loading’, on some of the shirts of members. Also, the mix of colours and African themed art pieces are aimed at boosting creativity, while lightening the mood of the office. Certainly, culture transcends the atmosphere and dress code of the people in a business and for Workshed the silent rule of observing community guidelines, knowing when to ‘jam’ and when to work, among others are some of the things that are building the culture of our space.