Distinguishing Countercultures and Subcultures

Let us take it for granted that managers are sufficiently astute and mature that if they attempt to create countercultures, they do so for good reasons.

The more deviance involved in the activity, the more one pays in credibility credits to carry out the attack successfully-and the larger the stock of credits one must have in the first place. The leader creates a subculture whose followers provide the clout needed to deviate from the company culture. First, a manager may simply be unaware of the prevailing culture and go against it unwittingly. Certain values, rites, or symbols may be shared between the main culture and this subculture, but the subculture will, by and large, stress different beliefs and patterns of action. By embracing some deviance, organizations can adapt to environmental changes. In this view, countercultures could be valuable to an organization, rather than threatening. If countercultures survive, the initial opposition to them may be replaced by a closing of the links between the counterculture and the top of the organization. If this does not work, it frequently attempts to wall the deviant off, building a protective wall around the original culture, essentially isolating the deviant by other means. As in any act of deviance, the prevailing culture may act to stop counterculture activity, initially devoting a great deal of attention to the deviant in an attempt to get him back into the fold. We might view counterculture activities as falling into three camps.

One builds metaphoric credits over time by being compliant with the group's wishes; these credits can be cashed in at a later time through deviant behavior. Those who use self-insurance in going against the culture do so on the basis of their credibility and acceptance by the dominant culture. In the third approach, managers can deviate from culture with the support of lower-status people, provided they are of sufficient number. Within any culture-including any organizational culture-a group of people may form a subculture different from the main culture. The counterculture may then respond by attempting to develop other linkages, only to be met with several more rounds of obstruction. Then one might ask, How can one constructively deviate from the prevailing culture?A counterculture may develop for a variety of reasons. Countercultures can serve some useful functions for the dominant culture, such as bringing into question old values and providing a safe haven for the development of innovative ideas. In general, going against the culture requires marshaling personal and organizational resources. When the subculture contradicts the main culture, it is called a counterculture. This strategy spreads the risk of nonconformity among the "old faithful. Yet another strategy, called the culture insurance strategy, requires support from others in high places. Some of the core values of the counterculture should present a direct challenge to those of the dominant culture; the two should exist in an uneasy symbiosis, taking opposite and critically important positions. In this way, the dominant culture attempts to minimize the counterculture's impact on the organization. More frequently, however, she goes against the grain of the culture because it is the right thing to do or for such personal reasons as rebelliousness. Gradually, a successful counterculture may even be granted more resources, autonomy, and legitimacy.

Let us take it for granted that managers are sufficiently astute and mature that if they attempt to create countercultures, they do so for good reasons. The more deviance involved in the activity, the more one pays in credibility credits to carry out the attack successfully-and the larger the stock of credits one must have in the first place. The leader creates a subculture whose followers provide the clout needed to deviate from the company culture. First, a manager may simply be unaware of the prevailing culture and go against it unwittingly. Certain values, rites, or symbols may be shared between the main culture and this subculture, but the subculture will, by and large, stress different beliefs and patterns of action. By embracing some deviance, organizations can adapt to environmental changes. In this view, countercultures could be valuable to an organization, rather than threatening. If countercultures survive, the initial opposition to them may be replaced by a closing of the links between the counterculture and the top of the organization. If this does not work, it frequently attempts to wall the deviant off, building a protective wall around the original culture, essentially isolating the deviant by other means. As in any act of deviance, the prevailing culture may act to stop counterculture activity, initially devoting a great deal of attention to the deviant in an attempt to get him back into the fold. We might view counterculture activities as falling into three camps. One builds metaphoric credits over time by being compliant with the group's wishes; these credits can be cashed in at a later time through deviant behavior. Those who use self-insurance in going against the culture do so on the basis of their credibility and acceptance by the dominant culture. In the third approach, managers can deviate from culture with the support of lower-status people, provided they are of sufficient number. Within any culture-including any organizational culture-a group of people may form a subculture different from the main culture. The counterculture may then respond by attempting to develop other linkages, only to be met with several more rounds of obstruction. Then one might ask, How can one constructively deviate from the prevailing culture?A counterculture may develop for a variety of reasons. Countercultures can serve some useful functions for the dominant culture, such as bringing into question old values and providing a safe haven for the development of innovative ideas. In general, going against the culture requires marshaling personal and organizational resources. When the subculture contradicts the main culture, it is called a counterculture. This strategy spreads the risk of nonconformity among the "old faithful. Yet another strategy, called the culture insurance strategy, requires support from others in high places. Some of the core values of the counterculture should present a direct challenge to those of the dominant culture; the two should exist in an uneasy symbiosis, taking opposite and critically important positions. In this way, the dominant culture attempts to minimize the counterculture's impact on the organization. More frequently, however, she goes against the grain of the culture because it is the right thing to do or for such personal reasons as rebelliousness. Gradually, a successful counterculture may even be granted more resources, autonomy, and legitimacy.

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