Dear Colleagues!  This is Asrar Qureshi’s Blog Post #832 for Pharma Veterans. Pharma Veterans aims to share knowledge and wisdom from Veterans for the benefit of Community at large. Pharma Veterans Blog is published by Asrar Qureshi on WordPress, the top blog site. Please email to for publishing your contributions here.

Let us talk about culture. And, with special reference to organizational culture.

Culture is an everyday word, but it is difficult to define. Usually people say, the culture is ‘the way things are done around here’. This is right, ‘but why are the things done around here like this?’ Culture is rooted in the patterns of thoughts, feelings, and behaviors – through shared norms, beliefs, and practices. These things are visible in practice but cannot be pinpointed and measured. Out of my 47 years pharma career, I worked for equal number of years in multinational and national pharma companies. The basic difference is of course the presence of ‘owner’ in the national companies. The owner’s style, behavior, and dealing largely affects the culture of the company, which is more powerful than the non-owner executives. There are many ways in which owners particularly influence culture. Owners’ behaviors vary widely, so do the cultures of the organizations.

Owners often define the company’s vision, mission, and core values. These guiding principles set the tone for the organization’s culture. When owners prioritize integrity, innovation, or customer-centricity, these values become embedded in the culture and influence how employees behave and make decisions. The problem in our country is that most owners stand for all negative things; they would cheat regulators, steal utilities, evade tax, lie to customers, refuse to pay to vendors on time, drain the money from the organization, exploit labor, and do all to maximize profit. However, when you enter the corporate office, you will see nicely worded Core Values displayed on many walls, which will include integrity, service to customers, teamwork, participative management etc. The practices and talk do not have any relation with one another, and finally the practice prevails. The employees follow the same practices. The managers also exploit staff, and steal wherever they can.

Owners’ leadership styles and behaviors serve as role models for the rest of the organization. Whether owners are hands-on, collaborative, or results-oriented, their actions impact how employees interact with each other, approach challenges, and engage with their work. The owners here flaunt their style unabashedly. In so many organizations, verbal abuse by owners is common. The same practice trickles downwards and managers treat their staffs poorly. Sexual harassment is also part of the package, even if not at the top, but it is rampant at the lower tiers.

The way owners communicate their expectations, goals, and feedback shapes the culture of transparency and open communication. When owners encourage open dialogue and actively listen to employees’ input, it fosters a culture of collaboration and trust. Progressive organizations are doing it and their employees follow the expectations. People learn, work as a team, get appreciated, and get rewarded.

How owners recognize and reward employees’ contributions communicates what is valued within the organization. Owners who acknowledge and reward both individual and team achievements encourage a culture of hard work and innovation. The owners lead the innovation effort, or drive for continuous improvement. Innovation involves some risk taking also, and owners who allow employees to take calculated risks shall get the most benefits.

If owners prioritize employee growth and development, it sends a message that learning and improvement are essential. This can foster a culture of continuous learning and professional growth.

Owners’ commitment to ethical behavior and integrity shapes the organization’s ethical standards. When owners lead with honesty and fairness, it sets the foundation for an ethical culture. As mentioned above, this is presently our weakest area. Since a great majority of owners are visibly involved in unethical practices, the staff cannot be expected to adhere to high moral standards.

Owners who prioritize diversity and inclusion demonstrate a commitment to creating a diverse workforce. This can lead to a culture of respect for differences and an environment where everyone feels valued.

Owners who prioritize employee well-being, both physical and mental, promote a culture that values work-life balance, health, and overall well-being.

As can be seen above, the owners drive the culture of their organization, not by pasting values on the wall, but by their practices.

Employees also bring their own personal cultures into the organization and influence its culture. If their practices are in line with the corporate practices, the culture is reinforced. However, if their beliefs are at odds with prevailing culture, they would either leave, or drive it towards their own way. While selecting senior executives, it therefore essential to see their cultural fit. Being senior, they have more clout and can influence culture significantly.

Organizational culture cannot be completely isolated from the social culture. Our social culture has undergone huge changes, most of which are negative. These developments affect the organizational culture in many ways. It is a tall order to create an island having virtuous values while negativity rages all around. Having said that, it is still a worthwhile objective to pursue. People should feel safe, respected, and valued when they come to office, even when they come from a stressful environment. This is only possible with the development of a culture of respect for everyone, inclusivity, teamwork, and empathy.

Concluded.Disclaimer: Most pictures in these blogs are taken from Google Images and Pexels. Credit is given where known; some do not show copyright ownership. However, if a claim is lodged at any stage, we shall either mention the ownership clearly, or remove the picture with suitable regrets.

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