How to Change the Culture of an Organisation

Social Worker Perspectives by Ryan Hill – Breathe Counselling Perth

An effective organisational team consists of honest, supportive, symbiotic relationships. Hughes and Wearing (2007) assert organisational culture change happens in the context of managing professional and personal values, and in the effective treatment of competing organisation and service-user demands. Hence, changing culture in organisations involves individual employee’s attitude and approach towards the organisation’s mandate, and the service-users expectations of the agency. For these reasons, managing relationships astutely and with wisdom is vital to negotiating successful organisational change. People perish without vision. This means, a leader’s influence over change resides in casting vision and motivating others towards a common goal. Specifically, this means incorporating referent, earned respect through attractiveness, and expert, superior skills and knowledge base, influence-power into one’s leadership approach. Maxwell (1998) insists intentional non-judgemental listening to others, collaboration, and compromise are strategies to have others buy into change. To Jones and May (1992), leaders who display these characteristics create a progressive organisational culture. Organisations are governed by legislation, organisational mandates, policies and procedures. Organisations mandate, policies and procedures have a significant impact upon the culture of the organisation. A key aspect of a social worker’s role is to challenge policies and procedures which do not treat people fairly (Australian Association of Social Workers, 2010, p. 8). Social work organisational practice is about working in a team, and therefore involves mediation and negotiation on behalf of service-users. Social workers may influence organisational policies and procedures by indicating how, in their current form, they are: creating legal, ethical, or psychological risk to service-user’s or organisational staff; contravening international or national human rights law; not meeting service-user’s needs; or are not in the best interest of service-users. Nevertheless, social workers ought to be diplomatic in their approach to influencing organisational change, adhering to organisational reporting lines, and convey change-relevant information with respect, clarity and openness. Evidence-based practice is an important aspect of the social workers role. Thus, the astute social worker will influence organisational change of policies and procedures utilising evidence-based practice from within and outside the agency they are working for. Therefore, the social worker must be abreast of current social work practice and relevant information to the organisation and service-users. An effective social worker must skilfully and tactfully negotiate their relationship with organisational employees. This may include subtle investments into the wellbeing and showing care for organisational employees. People do not care about what you have to say until they know you care about them. This means the social workers attitude, personality, commitment, approach-style, and self-efficacy all contribute to influencing organisational culture change.

References Australian Association of Social Workers. (2010). Code of Ethics. Retrieved 2017, from AASW: Australian Association of Social Workers. (2013). Practice Standards for Mental Health Social Workers. Canberra, ACT: Australian Association of Social Workers. Retrieved from Hughes, M., & Wearing, M. (2007). Organisations and management in social work. London: Sage (Online access). Jones, A., & May, J. (1992). Working in human service organisations, a critical introduction. South Melbourne, Australia: Longman Cheshire. Maxwell, J. C. (1998). The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership: Follow Them and People Will Follow You. United States: Thomas Nelson. Pease, B., & Fook, J. (Eds.). (1999). Transforming social work practice: Postmodern critical perspectives. London: Routledge. Siporin, M. (1980). Ecological Systems Theory in social work. The Journal of Sociology & Social Welfare, 7(4), 1-27. Retrieved from