8 types of culture in the workplace (plus factors and tips)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 20 May 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

The culture that an organisation develops can greatly impact its employees' mental health and productivity. Many companies even develop different cultures or embody different ideas between departments. Understanding these different types of office cultures can help you decide what sorts of companies best suit your personality and interests. In this article, we define the most common types of culture in the workplace and offer tips on finding a work environment that suits you best.

How do different types of cultures in the workplace develop?

Different types of culture in the workplace shape the overall environment in an office. Sometimes management plans office culture strategically through training and supporting different attitudes vocally. This culture may reflect the values of the company's leadership or develop from the ground up. Different types of culture in the workplace manifest in different ways and often develop naturally, depending on how their employees interact.

Related: The ultimate guide to management styles

What factors affect office culture?

Many different factors can affect how office culture develops both internally and externally. Here are some of the main contributing factors:

  • Company mission: A company's guiding principles and long-term goals can affect how employees interact and behave in relation to their tasks. Employees are more likely to work hard towards a mission they agree with, so you may find it beneficial to research a company's mission well in advance.

  • Company history: The background of an organisation can impact how the company trains employees and what sort of culture develops as a result. Startup companies often have a very different environment and structure to established cultures.

  • Company policy: Senior management may instal policies that affect office culture since they define the protocol that employees follow. Therefore, the networks of communication they go through to accomplish these tasks can affect the general atmosphere of an office.

  • Leadership: The management styles of an organisation often cause different types of office culture to develop, especially in terms of formality. Leadership styles often reflect the mission and policies of a company, since companies expect leaders to reflect the company's values.

  • Benefits for employees: How an organisation rewards its staff can change employee attitudes towards their work and management. Appraisals, bonuses, sick pay and other benefits promote enthusiasm and productivity but can also create competition between employees.

  • Location: Businesses that maintain a physical office can have a very different atmosphere from remote businesses. Furthermore, businesses and employees based in cities and large towns can also hold different values to more rural locations.

  • Industry: Companies operating in different industries encounter different standards, skill sets and subcultures. Some individuals may choose to present themselves and their work differently to fit industry trends, impacting office culture.

  • Communication: The communication that an organisation encourages between employees can change how offices function and how informally they communicate. Companies are often concerned about honesty, and effective communication can help keep the culture positive and transparent.

Types of culture in the workplace

Office cultures are usually unique and dependent on a number of the factors discussed, but they fit broadly into a few different standard categories. Here are some of the most common types of workplace culture:

1. Purpose

A purpose work culture refers to organisations working towards a common cause. Employees are motivated by their devotion to the mission, which usually entails some way of helping others or providing an essential service. This work culture is based around close-knit teams and a community mindset rather than a strict organisational structure. This culture is common in non-profit businesses and charities, with their common goals being donation targets and providing help to those in need. This sort of culture suits people who want to help others and make a tangible difference without being driven by profit.

2. Normative

Normative work culture is arguably the most common type of work culture in the corporate world. The office obeys a standard structure where employees perform specific tasks in line with their job description, and work is compartmentalised to different specialised departments. Employees follow strict protocols, and these standards are encouraged amongst new employees. Typically, a company values adherence to these policies and reward this with benefits such as paid leave and salary bonuses. Traditionally established corporations and financially driven companies usually instil this culture, which suits people who appreciate structure, consistency and stability in their workplace.

3. Pragmatic

Pragmatic office cultures prioritise customer feedback and often put this purpose above all protocols. Pragmatic organisations modify and adapt their practices to suit whatever their client requires, maintaining very few definite rules and structures and emphasising freedom. Companies that prioritise customer satisfaction, such as sales and marketing firms, often encourage this sort of office culture. This culture is often effective, since doing away with traditional company protocols and hierarchies may remove barriers to providing creative solutions to difficult problems. Employees who enjoy self-direction, creative solutions and individuality can thrive in this sort of work environment.

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4. Academy

An academy work culture prioritises learning and professional development for team members and new recruits. Companies following this culture recruit new hires more for their proficiency or potential and prioritise swift and supported professional development in terms of both knowledge and practice. They encourage employees to stay knowledgeable about movements in their field and current research. Industries that make use of continually updated knowledge, such as healthcare, education providers and technology, usually encourage this sort of culture. Continued certification and assessment may be common. This culture benefits professionals who want to grow and develop their skill set consistently.

5. Baseball team

A 'baseball team' work culture focuses on keeping employees happy and productive. They often use motivational tools such as food and drinks, social outings and small bonuses for meeting short-term goals to help keep staff motivated. Companies that encourage this culture understand that their company's success, productivity and image depend on employee satisfaction. This sort of culture is therefore common in tech companies, creatives and companies that often employ young people part-time, such as restaurant chains or retail outlets. If you want to feel valued and receive short-term benefits, this sort of culture may suit your goals.

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6. Club

Club work cultures focus on exclusivity, talent and making employees feel that they have a high value. Club cultures observe a rigorous and competitive hiring process which may depend on access to internships or graduate schemes to curate the best talent for the company. Companies following this culture reward high performance but may also subject struggling employees to great scrutiny. These company cultures are common in highly specialised industries such as law, consultancy and investment banking. Confident professionals who want to maintain personal excellence often succeed in this high-pressure culture.

Related: What is an internship?

7. Fortress

Fortress work cultures prioritise success, productivity and quotas, above all. The company rewards employees who meet and exceed their goals and may dismiss employees who don't meet their goals consistently. These companies see low retention rates and often rely on seasonal employees. They may maintain a consistent training programme to help new employees settle in quickly. This culture is common in industries delivering contractual goals such as sales, property, heavy industries, civil engineering or marketing. Organised and committed employees who can work efficiently and learn new practices quickly may find success in fortress cultures.

8. Constructive

A constructive work culture encourages collaboration and teamwork in everyday tasks. Companies with this culture focus on collective responsibility rather than the success and failure of individuals, supporting team efforts to overcome broad challenges. This is an especially common culture in industries that involve close-knit teams of professionals working towards project goals, such as engineering, graphic design, software and startups. Professionals that excel in team environments and support roles can find great success in these environments.

Related: The pros and cons of working at a startup

Tips for finding the right company culture

Finding a company culture that supports you can be difficult if you don't have any experience with a company. Here, we suggest some tips and tricks to establishing a company's culture in advance:

  • Pay attention to the wording in job adverts. The phrases and qualities a job advert emphasises may show what sort of qualities a company regularly tests. A job advert emphasising 'creativity' and 'teamwork' usually operates differently from one prioritising 'excellence' and 'rigour'.

  • Talk to current employees. If you know someone who already works for the company, ask them informally what their work is like. This can lead to a biased account, but you may get an insight into how the company generally operates.

  • Examine their website. The styling of a company's website often provides hints about its work culture. Highly professional and prestigious-looking websites may indicate that a company adopts an academy or club culture, while creative websites indicate constructive or baseball team type cultures.

  • Get experience with the company. One of the best ways to gauge a company's work culture is to observe it directly through work experience. If the option is open to you, contact the company and arrange a visit or experience before making any long-term commitments.

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