Organization Management Journal


The purpose of this study was to measure the culture gaps between hierarchical subgroups within unionized utilities companies. We conducted a mixed methods study. Using archival survey data, we compared hierarchically-defined subgroups’ perceptions of performance-linked culture traits within five unionized utilities companies. We later conducted interviews and focus groups, followed by qualitative coding and analysis. As compared to non-union employees, union employees viewed their companies as substantially less involving, consistent, adaptable, and clear about purpose and direction. Our qualitative analysis highlighted two prior management decisions as illustrative of the contrast between high and low levels of union involvement and clarity. Culture scholars and practitioners have suggested that leaders must align subcultures where they exist. Our study demonstrates large culture gaps between union employees and other subgroups and suggests that management’s involvement of the workforce in strategic decisions may have unique consequences for how subgroups perceive and interpret the culture.