The norms of behaviour – culture – are the most powerful aspect of any system. According to Human Synergistics, culture is the:
“…behavioural patterns that people believe are required to ‘fit in’ and ‘meet expectations’ within their organisation…”
How conflict is habitually dealt with in organisations is actually more likely to be determine by the culture than by the formal policies and processes.
For example, this point is demonstrated by the Victorian (Australia) public service climate survey, People Matter, which has in the past indicated that out of 34% of respondents who witnessed bullying, only 5% ever formally reported. So, even though people are seeing bullying, they are not necessarily following the formal process to report it – so it might not be dealt with according to the formal process. Why don;lt they follow the formal process? Why not report it?
How others respond to us on a day to day basis is often more compelling than the formal rules, or even our own moral judgement as we have seen in almost any of the organisational catastrophes in history. In many of these cases rather than risk conflict or a relationship breakdown, people remained quite when they saw someone doing the wrong thing. How people are treated when they express a difference of opinion, or raise concerns is often more powerful than any formal policy. This tells them what the real rules are and what is acceptable and not acceptable behaviour.