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What is organisational culture?

Now that we have discussed national culture, let’s move on to culture at an organisational level.

Organisational culture can also be explored through metaphor, which helps people understand through comparison (Browaeys & Price, 2019). People who speak a different language may interpret and use metaphors differently. For example, ‘boiling with anger’ is an English expression used to make sense of the abstract (Kövecses, 2003). Do people with different cultural backgrounds express their anger in a similar way?

What about organisations? How do we use metaphors to describe them? Tietze et al. (2003) presented some examples of metaphors for organisations which you can see in the below table.

The ‘features and applications’ column shows how the metaphor relates to organisations, the ‘value’ column is what value the metaphor brings to the organisation and ‘weaknesses’ highlights the potential issues with using the metaphor.

Metaphors for organisations

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Adapted from Tietze et al. (2003, p.41 ). Select to expand

Using culture as a metaphor, we may assert that an organisation’s operations are composed of individual and collective behaviours, which are affected by different cultural backgrounds and experience.

The differences and similarities between individuals within organisations may contribute to shared beliefs and values, but may also lead to fragmentation, ambiguity and conflict.

What then is organisational culture? As defined by Browaeys and Price (2019, p. 20), ‘organisational culture is the acceptance – in a tacit or formal way – of norms of specific behaviour by the members of an organisation.’

Your task

How do you express emotions through metaphor in your country? Share your examples in the discussion forum.

Read through a few examples from your fellow learners. What similarities and differences do you notice? What do you think could account for these? Share your thoughts below.


Browaeys, M. J., & Price, R. (2019). Understanding cross-cultural management (3rd ed.). Pearson Education.

Kövecses, Z. (2003). Metaphor and emotion: Language, culture, and body in human feeling. Cambridge University Press.

Tietze, S., Cohen, L., & Musson, G. (2003). Understanding organizations through language. Sage.

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This article is from the free online course:

Business Management: National and Organisational Cultures

Coventry University