Picture this, on your first day of work, did you observe how your colleagues acted before deciding how you should behave? That dilemma you experienced is known as conformity, which is defined as a change in one’s behavior due to the real or imagined influence of other people. The behavior of workers is majorly dictated by the organizational culture and the behaviour of the people around them. The corporate culture is set from the top-down where the management team has influenced the working culture you experience in your job. Whatever the corporate culture is where you work, it is probably because it is what the management wants it to be.
They are confident that the culture will be passed onto the new employees as they understand a behvaioural trait of humans: Under strong social pressure, individuals will conform to the group even when this means doing something that they do not necessarily agree with.
Humans rely on other people as a source of information to guide our behaviour: we conform because we believe that others' conduct in an unfamiliar scenario is the most appropriate course of action. We observe every aspect of behaviour; verbal cues, tone, body language and working hours expectations.
Do as most do, and [people] will speak well of thee. —THOMAS FULLER
What does Conformity actually do for Organizations?
Conformity helps to unify the organization into behaving as one entity working towards a shared objective. In order to do this, companies need to have regulations and guidelines in place to help streamline and regulate output standards in order to maintain brand integrity. It may be argued that conformity strangles creativity and it does to a certain extent.
However, allowing employees to come to work without any defined work flow is not conducive to running a successful business. Conformity arrests this issue, but outlining company standards and expectations of employees. It enables organizations to have a degree of uniformity which better ensures that everyone is working towards a common goal.
Balance of Conformity and Creativity?
The trick however is to do so without compromising individuality and creativity. In successful implementations of workplace conformity, employees should be free to come up with out of the box solutions to problems but conformity ensures that they operate within a carefully navigated bubble.
Think of it this way, if you were the CEO of an organization, would you allow your employees to have complete autonomy in their work? Where they could operate without any boundaries? And that is what conformity brings, it highlights certain company expectations that everyone must comply with.
From the perspective of the organization, this is how they maintain their brand integrity and image. Individuality is welcomed but not at the expense of complete disregard for company policy. Picture a workplace, where every employee does what they want, it will be havoc and there would be no need for leaders.
Conformity in the workplace may be seen as an iteration of bureaucracy but to those who still oppose it, think of it as a necessary evil, guidelines needed to shape the workplace as we know it today. The onus is on management teams to curate a balance between conformity and individuality.
Organizations must make an effort to change the perception that conformity is a top-down instruction and make it more collaborative for all. Let workers have their say on what can be improved while still operating within the confines of company culture.