Do jobs matter more than nations? Cultural constraints on organizational performance

Mariusz Tomasz Wolonciej (Institute of Psychology, The John Paul II Catholic University of Lublin, Lublin, Poland)

Journal of Organizational Change Management

ISSN: 0953-4814

Publication date: 14 May 2018



The purpose of this paper is to introduce new perspectives on the job position analysis practice rooted in the traditional person-job fit approach. It highlights selected theoretical assumptions and the case of a company challenged by hidden cultural constraints on the work environment. The author attempts to show how human resources management may benefit from incorporating the aspect of cultural traits in job position analysis. Next, the author provides a regulatory definition of a job position culture, followed by practical guidelines to facilitate a better person-job fit across various work environments.


The paper opts for a conceptual contribution by introducing a new term “job position culture” as, companies are challenged by new management difficulties when creating universal job position descriptions and a better person-job fit. The paper highlights the need of including additional, cultural aspects of the work environment to better manage organizational change.


The paper shows how cultural traits could be implemented in human resources management such as recruitment and selection, as well as efficient job position management. A regulatory definition of job position culture is proposed, and some practical implications for a more complete organizational change management in job cultures.

Research limitations/implications

The regulatory definition for the job position culture, presented in the paper, is at the preliminary and theoretical stage. It requires being operationalized and implemented it in each job analysis case.

Practical implications

The new, cultural perspective on the job analysis may serve for the more adequate fit of personnel to the work environment and better manage organizational change including distinct job cultures.

Social implications

The cultural perspective on a job analysis may serve a more adequate fit and work satisfaction of workers resulting in job attachment and better work performance.


The paper shows the need to study additional work environment traits on the bases of the regulatory definition of job position culture.



Wolonciej, M. (2018), "Do jobs matter more than nations? Cultural constraints on organizational performance", Journal of Organizational Change Management, Vol. 31 No. 3, pp. 494-511.

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2018, Emerald Publishing Limited


Why do some businesses do better than others and why do specific job positions sometimes tend to frustrate employees? The majority of organizational theories assume that the fit between an organization and the environment ensures efficient business performance (Miller, 1996; Teece et al., 1997). Simultaneously, the complexity of the work environment has increased and requires a more thorough analysis of the key determinants of work success, with a new perspective on job position analysis as an important building block of the comprehensive study of human performance at work.

The recruitment of well-qualified workers who are satisfied with their jobs is one of the major challenges many managers face in the search, selection, and recruitment process for new employees. Systematic investigation of the work environment with its typical activities, tasks, tools, and requirements related to the worker’s attributes is needed to better comprehend the person/work system (Morgeson and Campion, 2000). Work context analysis is an elementary condition and a challenge for efficient performance in specific job positions (Brannick et al., 2007).

The golden age of high technology advancement in the last five decades stimulated the sudden and significant automation and mechanization of the traditional model of human work (Guzman and Stanton, 2009). At the same time, profound changes occurred in the conception of work and in the understanding of the role of the employee and the job position. Beside the classic concept of job position (Tiffin and McCormick, 1958; Biela et al., 1992) as a set of tasks, activities, and requirements, the understanding of job position as the role performed in a given post has been increasingly popular in management practice. This tendency is inherent in Edward Hay’s conception – timeless, as it seems – and in the methodology of job description by key roles of responsibility and accountability (Hay and Purves, 1953; Steinburg, 1992; Gilbert, 2005). The classic conceptions of work and job position based on the strict technical rules of Fordism have become a thing of the past.

These conceptions present the job position more as a role in the process of work, the scope of decision making, or influence on other people or on the outcome (Hay and Purves, 1951). In this perspective, the job position resembles an environment defined also by cultural specificity with specific traits regarding employee’s responsibility and accountability for the outcome of work. The cultural specificity of a job position is related to the set of the most desirable strategies aimed at the performance of tasks and solving of problems in a given post. As such it became a cultural issue such as the kaizen concept and the culture of continuous development of the work performance. These assumptions coincide with Edward Hay’s vision (Hay and Purves, 1951, 1953), which is currently being implemented – with slight modifications – to improve the management of the world’s largest corporations by top consulting companies, such as Mercer, McKinsey & Company, Delloite, PwC Advisory Services, Ernst & Young, Korn Ferry, Hay Group, etc.

In a relatively short time, a shift occurred from traditional forms of work marked by labor to activities requiring the reconsideration of psychosocial and culturally oriented characteristics of specific job positions. Additionally, there has been an escalating globalization process. Though the world’s business is becoming increasingly global every year, and although successive economic, technological, and communication borders are vanishing, cultural limitations will most likely grow, challenging the contemporary organization of work (House et al., 2004).

The present study extends the well-established analysis of job positions (Tiffin and McCormick, 1958; Palmer and McCormick, 1972; Biela et al., 1992) by taking into account the cultural qualities in the job position and complementing its description with this less tangible but still influential aspect of the work setting. This new and rather hidden trait of the workplace will be referred to as the job position culture; its discussion is meant to contribute to the better and more complete fit of employee resources and traits with the job position environment by providing complementary work analysis information (DuVernet et al., 2015).

Culture used to be linked mostly to specific traits of the group living or working together (be it ethnic, national, or organizational), but it also refers to categories of people such as teenagers, the homeless, or pensioners living in different regions but having certain cultural traits in common. More recently, academics have come to see it as relating to the work environment as well. In their study, Torren and Griffel (1983) gave an interesting example of how culture may be related to academic work characteristics. The authors compared 1,312 scholars from two different cultures – Israel and the USSR – who had recently immigrated to the USA to examine differences in the value attributed to certain job characteristics such as the importance of work, working conditions, recognition, independence, etc. The study provides evidence that job characteristics – in this case, the characteristics of a research-related job – are not culture-free. Though Torren and Griffel (1983) stated that occupational culture matters in academic performance, this also implies that cultural traits associated with a given job position may influence person-job fit. According to the occupational culture theory, based on shared values, beliefs, ideas, and orientations, this implies the membership in a specific profession or occupation group (Ames et al., 2009). The culture of an occupational group (e.g. policemen, physicians, or IT engineers) refers to distinctive and similar patterns of values and thoughts, imprinted in typical norms and solutions, visible in shared behavioral codes and habits or hearable in the specific language and jargon associated with their particular job or type of occupation.

Although occupational traits form and distinguish members of the occupational group, they do not eliminate the uncertainty that may await them in the job position connected with their occupation. Occupational culture does not coincide with cultural traits present in a given job position as a specific hologram (Morgan, 2006) of organizational culture made concrete in that job position.

The understanding of the job position as the set of roles, operational standards, and best strategies expected from the employee does not coincide with occupational culture as a category of people working in a given field and having a certain ethos, language, dress-code, etc. They have been replaced by the salesperson, who has taken over responsibility for the optimization of costs and logistics; the production and service technician has also become partly responsible for the quality of the process and product of work. Everyone’s success has become increasingly dependent on multitasking and teamwork, including the ability to exert influence on subordinates and to take responsibility for the productivity of the team, both as a coworker and as a superior.

In the present study, the classical definition of culture will be extended: culture will be understood as a trait of the job position. To understand this standpoint, it is necessary to distinguish between culture as an attribute of a community or group of people and culture as a category, moving from social group characteristics to characteristics of employees in a specific job position.

The origin of job position culture

Not only new controlling tools, lean management, reengineering, continuous productivity optimization, employment rationalization, but also employee loyalty, as organizational attachment, and organizational trust have appeared indicating new challenges in management. These changes have already been noticed by many companies, which have achieved spectacular successes, such as Toyota with kaizen strategies in organizing job position performance. Some scholars exploring organizational behaviors believe that the concept of job position is definitely one of the most outdated areas, despite the profound revolution in theories and models of management during the last 50 years (Howard, 2013).

To explain why some organizations are better suited and more efficient than others, some researchers have highlighted the importance of organizational culture in complex multidimensional constructs related to the person-organization approach (Kristof, 1996). Candidates beginning work in a new company immediately become aware of its particular organizational culture and the roles expected of the employee; however, it is specific culture-driven job position traits that make employees satisfied or frustrated, which significantly impacts the efficiency of their performance. The study by Guzman and Stanton (2009) focuses on the importance of the cultural fit of newcomers entering the specific IT career and on how they perceive the new identity rooted in the IT community they have become part of. While occupational culture as a social phenomenon attests to the existence of a culture of a particular occupation, it does not refer to the specificity of the job position in which a certain cultural code is rooted and conferred, making the employee feel in place or out of place. There are many graduates from IT majors – that is, many representatives of the IT occupational culture, who nevertheless cannot adapt to and be fulfilled in the typical job position culture of IT employees.

One real-life example that helps to capture the “hidden dimension” of the job position (workplace) and argues for the need to study job position culture is one of the largest Polish companies involved in the production, transmission, and sales of energy. The company planned to establish a large corporation consisting of about 40 small companies. The aim of the project was to create a large conglomerate comprised of minor-related companies and plants and make them uniform with a common and standardized set of job descriptions in order to better manage the bigger and more complex corporation. During the implementation of the elaborate unified model of job descriptions, a number of tensions appeared for employees accepting new conditions at nominally the same job position in the conglomerate and finding themselves placed in rather distinct cultural roles expected from the employees assigned to that position.

The classic set of job description features does not indicate aspects that might help create a better job-person fit for newly recruited staff at nominally the same work positions with the same or even increased salary. Complaints related to the mismatch of the positions may attest to the existence of additional aspects of the workplace that are closely related to the concept of job position culture and go beyond the traditional taxonomy of job description for the “same” positions (e.g. machinist, maintenance technician, driver, accountant, carpenter, etc.). Therefore, the complete set of conditions that company employees had to face in their new but similar job positions cannot be reduced and needs to be extended to include typical cultural dimensions. We may reconsider the job position culture on the basis of some existing cultural trait taxonomies of national or organizational cultures: such as those by Hofstede (2007), Trompenaars and Hampden-Turner (2002), Kluckhohn and Strodtbeck (1961), by Hall (1976) and Schein (1999), or the simple triad by Richard Lewis (2006).

Hofstede’s national culture dimensions were applied in the study of occupational culture (Ulijn et al., 2001; Herkenhof, 2009). Herkenhof (2009) stated that it is possible to describe occupational groups in terms of cultural dimensions proposed by Hofstede and differentiate occupations in terms of cultural traits such as power – the extent to which power distance is accepted in a particular profession; risk – the extent to which members of a the occupational group accept uncertainty; gender – the extent to which gender roles are distinguished and visible; time – a long-term or short-term perspective as the most typical in a given profession; and individualism – the extent to which personal needs and aims are primary to the well-being of the collective.

Many categorizations of cultures have been proposed. The most well-known ones have been proposed by the following authors:

  1. Edward Hall (1976), who classified cultures as monochronic or polychronic, high or low context, and past or future oriented.

  2. Kluckhohn and Strodtbeck (1961), who distinguished the following dimensions: attitude to problems, time, nature, nature of man, form of activity, and reaction to compatriots.

  3. Trompenaars and Hampden-Turner (2002), who identified the following dimensions with the highest discriminatory power for cultures: universalist vs particularist, individualist vs collectivist, specific vs diffuse, achievement oriented vs ascriptive, and neutral vs emotional or affective.

  4. Lewis (2006), whose model is the latest one that gained world-wide recognition, having been developed in the 1990s and articulated in Richard Lewis’s blockbuster, “When Cultures Collide” (2006), The Lewis Model of Cross-Cultural Communication was developed by Richard D. Lewis. The core of the model classifies cultural norms and roles into Linear-Active, Multi-Active and Re-Active which may successfully illustrate a culture of specific job positions.

All of these typical cultural traits can be applied with success in new analysis developed for more complete job description. One of the best ways to define a new concept is not only to indicate its characteristics, but to indicate its origin. Job position culture is derived primarily from the nature of tasks and activities associated with the aims of a particular post. It fits best with the classical job position description models (McCormick, 1967; Biela et al., 1992) that indicate typical tasks and activities of the job.

Importantly, job position culture is also derived from the written and unwritten rules and strategies that are transmitted in the group of employees performing their job with its tasks. This second aspect of the cultural traits of the work environment at the position is associated with social dynamics and attributed to a group of employees who usually not only share a particular occupational culture but also contribute to the job position’s work environment with a set of specific values, norms, and typical strategies that define “how things should be done.”

This is close to Hofstede’s concept of “occupational culture”, related to the employees occupying one distinct job position. However, the concept of job position culture does not refer to the occupational culture of a professional group but to culture as an attribute associated with the characteristics of the job position where individuals work. Job position culture refers mainly to two operational aspects of the job position (in addition to the scope of tasks and activities traditionally assigned to that position): the scope of decision making and the scope and type of responsibility as attributes of the culture typical of a category of specific job positions. The scope of decision making, being a manifestation of a culture of particular job positions, may significantly distinguish the work environment of employees representing a particular occupational culture of a group united by a particular organizational culture. The type and scope of responsibility involved in the cultural role assigned to a given job position is no longer only an attribute of occupational culture (e.g. engineer, nurse, operator, or accountant), but also an attribute of the unique role assigned to a given job position.

In other words, if I understand culture as a set of specific solutions for internal integration and eternal adaptation (Schein, 1996, 2004), pertaining to the activities assigned to a given work environment – job position, I am moving beyond the scope of the concept of occupational culture and the related function of identification with a given occupational group toward a quality whose “carrier” and basis is the job position. Likewise, convergence with the organizational culture is also limited because the cultural traits inherent, for example, in the scope of decision making and responsibility present in the microculture of the job position is a characteristic from a totally different level than the macroculture of an organization or corporation.

The third component of job position culture is the embodiment of the company’s general organizational culture work out in the critical moments, approved and transmitted by the organizational leader or direct superior in the company. Analogically, it may also be related to the impact of national culture on the nature of work in a specific job position.

Finally, we should also consider the significance of cultural factors to person-job fit when an employee encounters a foreign culture at his/her new job abroad. Each foreign employee will definitely eventually experience the national culture traits imprinted and embodied in his/her new concrete job. While national culture matters in business as such (Trompenaars and Hampden-Turner, 2002), it needs to be considered how German, Japanese, American, or any other national culture is implemented in various aspects of the direct job environment.

When analyzing the genesis of job position culture, it is important to point out that just as national culture is largely anchored in the values acquired from birth (Hofstede et al., 2002, 2010) and organizational culture refers to written and unwritten rules learned in the company, job position culture is limited to specific characteristics of the work environment in a particular job, considered to be the set of skills required from the candidate in this position, which implies a set of cultural requirements necessary for efficient functioning in a specific post. In this sense, job position culture does not necessarily coincide with organizational or national culture.

To sum up, the first aspect of job position culture is the non-personal aspect of a physical and functional entity with its typical tools, space characteristics, microclimate and macroclimate, and other environmental traits that require certain cultural abilities from the candidate. The second and third factors of the job position culture cannot be attributed to the occupational culture of certain professions (e.g. teacher, driver, pilot, or carpenter) abstracted from the job position but are directly related to the very concrete position in a particular organization. Within the same occupational group there may be distinct job position cultures created by specific groups (e.g. teachers, drivers, pilots, or carpenters), resulting in different cultural outcomes in the position.

Person-job fit as a background for a new dimension of job analysis

The job characteristics theory (Hackman and Oldham, 1980) underlies adequate person-job fit. It is related to the concept of person-environment fit, where the jobholder’s capacities need to match the characteristics of the job. Ergonomics refers directly to the concept of person-environment fit. Interestingly, in the classical conception culture is defined as a medium to satisfy human needs (Malinowski, 2002). Human satisfaction requires work, and therefore a link between cultural values and work processes is implicit in the specific cultural dimension of the workplace. Interestingly, the job characteristics theory was originally framed as a model of task motivation, with the psycho-cultural aspects of work playing an important role in the job (Kulik and Oldham, 1987; Malinowski, 2000).

According to the Job Demands-Resource Model by Schaufeli and Bakker (2004), the psychosocial aspects of work environment can be divided into job demands and job resources. The authors described job demands as “those physical, psychological, social or organizational aspects of the job that require sustained physical and/or psychological (i.e. cognitive or emotional) effort and are, therefore, associated with certain physiological and/or psychological costs” (Schaufeli and Bakker, 2004, p. 296). Their study concerns the cultural aspects of the job description, which belong to the field of organizational psychology and management and involve both organizational culture and cultural aspects of job descriptions.

The study by Judge and Cable (1997) stressed the importance of congruence between a job candidate’s cultural preferences and the attractiveness of the organization with its specific job position. Similarly, Cookson (2017) found that the training provided by the United Nations for American pilots was not appropriate for pilots from other cultures in analogous job positions.

Cookson (2017) explored the impact of cultural differences – including those pertaining to professional culture – on mixed nationality crews working in similar environments. Though some studies demonstrated that the organizational culture has a distinct effect in the processes of recruitment and selection (Braddy et al., 2006), the relevant literature lacks sufficient research on the ultimate effect that job position culture might have on efficient performance once the recruit begins work at a particular company.

In this context, culture can be considered either as an additional prerequisite or as a resource for a specific job position, answering to what extend the employee meets workplace requirements (Schaufeli and Bakker, 2004). Schaufeli and Bakker also stated that an employee’s job resources condition job performance, as they reduce job demands as well as the physiological and psychological costs involved; contribute to the achievement of work goals; and stimulate personal growth and learning.

The problem of person-job environment fit is a complex one, particularly visible and tangible at the job description level. Particular occupations are characterized by configurations of job demands and job resources (Bakker and Demerouti, 2007). The character of a particular position is defined by specific demands, while the cultural dimension is somehow hidden and usually skipped in the set of job features. However, as my paper will demonstrate, it is a significant aspect of the job position that contributes meaningfully to person-job congruency and to the satisfaction of human needs at work (Malinowski, 2000). The cultural traits of the job determine the most typical strategies, activities, and task conditions in which individuals are predicted to thrive in their work (Kulik and Oldham, 1987).

The multidimensionality of person-job environment fit is reflected in the complexity of assessment tools and job descriptions procedures (McCormick, 1967; Biela et al., 1992). Some attempts have been made to operationalize the reality of the work situation in terms of its macroclimate, microclimate, tasks, activities, tools, physical demands, motor skills required, and even “personality,” so that it can be quantified and measured.

However, the practice of human resources personnel in the recruitment and selection tasks suffers from the lack of complete parameters to describe the work environment, which makes it impossible to predict the actual person-job fit. Some time ago, the research literature documented a case of employees who seemed to meet all job requirements but lacked the expected job satisfaction, which decreased their performance and resulted in high stress (Pervin, 1968). Examples of workers not matching their jobs can be observed in cases of the relocation of employees between the same job positions within a company. Despite being a good fit for a particular job in terms of competencies as well as physical, social, cognitive, and personality traits, these workers faced serious difficulties at an analogous post in the same company.

The practice of internal human resources management – the management of employees and their job positions within a company – is such that the same job is related to a completely different work environment, which implies that there are some hidden job position features that are undefined and are neither included in job descriptions nor considered as job characteristics.

Organizational culture or job position culture: from general to specific

The current academic environment provides certain empirical evidence that managerial job positions are shaped by cultural values and beliefs (Earley and Erez, 1997; Chan and Tse, 2003); consequently, while the standard approach assumes that culture should also influence job position practices, there has not been sufficient research to establish an appropriate benchmark. The job position perspective that will be presented in this section stands in opposition to this and implies the existence of a certain set of cultural traits necessary to be an efficient manager, driver, teacher, nurse, etc.

Is culture only a characteristic of a nation, organization, or professional group? Or can this term also be applied to characterize a particular job position? If we assume that culture applies to job positions, we cannot state that Japanese, American, and German cultures necessarily produce the most efficient workers in all job positions, although these cultures have been stereotyped as “producing” efficient workers: this would imply that all job positions are the same in terms of cultural requirements. It is more accurate to state that the most typical American, German, and Japanese workers, with their typical culture profiles, are more effective in some positions, and less effective in others. We may expect that job positions also have their specific cultural traits and requirements, but to check if this is the case it would be necessary to consider a variety of job positions in an extended analysis taking cultural elements into account.

As an integral aspect of the organization, job position culture must be related to organizational culture, but it is not or cannot always be identical to the general corporate culture. Job positions define the company culture, additionally including the workplace requirements that do not necessarily coincide with the ones inherent in the organizational culture.

What, then, is organizational culture? A great deal of literature and numerous organizational culture inventories generated over the past decade have attempted to define this concept. Basically, culture is the result of what an organization has learned from dealing with typical internal problems. Culture is comprised of the beliefs, values, norms, and tangible signs shared by organization members and of their behaviors (Schein, 2004). It is also mentioned that culture is a set of the most typical strategies and standards of internal integration (relating to the organization’s employees) and external adaptation (relating to the environment of the organization).

Different theoretical backgrounds have given rise to distinct methodologies and perspectives on organizational culture. Most assessment tools for corporate culture, however, are related to job-person fit or, more specifically, to person-organization fit. The most frequently used instruments of this kind include:

Some of the differences in perspective between organizational culture and the view focused on the cultural characteristics of the job position are highlighted in Table I.

The most common differences between organizational culture and job position culture can be grasped in the following descriptive categories, presented in Table I: building blocks; creation process; specificity; origin; transmission mode; discrepancy: organization vs post culture; and carriers of culture.

First, it can be seen that the background (building blocks) of organizational culture and the specific workplace culture are dissimilar. Second, job position culture has its own way, different from the way culture is created. As the organization is marked by more general cultural strategies and standards, it is only possible to see the concrete expression of the omnipresent culture in the context of specific job positions as a set of expected, work environment culture-driven roles and standards.

As regards the origin, organizational culture is usually driven by the leader and the human factor, while job position culture implies some crucial cultural characteristics of work performance. Another difference lies in the way culture is transmitted in the organization and in a particular job position, which implies the specificity and the physical environment of the position.

Finally, only when these two cultures are distinguished does it become clear that an employee who does not fit the culture of the organization may at the same time meet the cultural demands of a particular job position perfectly. Interestingly, the difference is also related to the so-called “carriers” of cultures; the organization is mainly related to the values and norms promoted by the leader, while the workplace tends to be defined by standards and strategies governing the work performance at the specific position.

The most typical differences between the organization and the job position that justify their differentiation relate to cultural aspects: the nature of the building blocks, the creation process, the origin, the transmission modes, the specificity, and the possible discrepancy between the organization and the job position culture (Table I).

While entering the new corporate culture, one may easily experience that the general profile of organizational culture is highly diverse at the level of distinct workplaces in the company. Consequently, while the employee is supposed to fit the organizational culture on the operational level, it is also necessary for him/her to fit the job position culture; ultimately, this is what determines the degree of person-workplace fit. To a great extent, it is on the job position level that the new employee encounters the most typical strategies that guide relations with others as well as determine the hierarchy and power issues, dealing with risk, temporal perspective, individualism, locus of control, etc.

Organizational culture is defined by Schein (1996, 2004) as a set of typical strategies of internal integration and external adaptation. These two domains of culture are reflected and embodied in specific job position activities and work performance. At the most operational level, typical culture is assimilated in most job positions to accomplish the adaptation and integration tasks of the company. Organizational culture as such operates at many levels. The external, macrolevel of organizational culture – often very superficial – does not necessarily relate to the job position level. Corporate-level culture is the expected, generalized outcome that consists of many subcultures existing at the level of distinct categories of professional units, or – more accurately – job position units in the organization. Typical strategies of the organization are rooted, assimilated, and expressed at the job position level or in a subgroup of positions created according to the specific requirements of the workplace, which is the fusion of organizational culture and job position reality.

The set of existing job analysis tools and taxonomies of the typical aspects of the job position – namely, physical, physiological, fine/gross motor, sensorial, cognitive, or temperamental aspects as well as personality traits – lack specific culture-oriented characteristics needed to better describe the work environment. Distinguishing between organizational culture traits and job position culture traits is justified, for example, by the frequent problem of employment incompatibility. A candidate who is perfectly trained, has sufficient experience, and has been successful in one company at a certain job position may not fit the same job position in another company’s culture.

While culture, at the national or organizational level, is a group phenomenon and relates to humans, the concept of “category” (understood as a trait, not necessarily related to a social group or community) introduced in the definition of culture supports the extension of its applicability to job position characteristics. This allows for an improved understanding of the meaning of the microculture of the workplace as a specification of the macroculture of the organization. Therefore, the application of the concept of culture to the job position environment, rather than only to a nation or organization, is even more justified, as it refers to the social aspect of human behavior at work.

Interestingly, job position analysis is considered by experienced managers in their everyday human resources management duties to be one of the most crucial tools in successful company performance, as it gives them detailed insight into the reality of organizational performance. Efficient organizational change requires a thorough analysis of the “job position culture,” which is a concretization of organizational culture. Consequently, it is more practical to plan organizational change through job position analysis and work performance modifications, which may result in more efficient bottom-up cultural change, at the job position culture level.

To sum up, work environment has so far been analyzed from a culture-free perspective on the job position, where particular job positions were seen as shaped by certain physical, psychological, or social aspects, but not cultural ones. Organizational culture management involves the job position level, so whenever culture change is planned it also needs to be considered in terms of the typical strategies permeating certain workplaces in the company. Consequently, the job position-oriented approach implies a new job-demand perspective extended by cultural characteristics of the workplace. As such, job position analysis requires some new competencies, related not only to physical work environment characteristics, typical general bodily activities, manual activities, mental activities, sensory systems, etc. (McCormick, 1967) but also to culture-like aspects of the job such as typical roles and efficient strategies of the work performance at the post. Therefore, while aiming to describe the job position in terms of certain physical, physiological, and psychological characteristics, it is also reasonable to consider the cultural traits required in a certain job position.

A regulatory definition of job position culture

What, then, is the culture of the workplace? While the most widespread concepts of national or organizational culture (Hofstede et al., 2002; Trompenaars and Hampden-Turner, 2002) aim to emphasize typical assumptions, values, and strategies of a nation or corporation, job position culture refers to work environment characteristics, or – more accurately – to employee traits expected in a particular job. The best attempt to grasp the complex phenomenon of culture in the context of job position culture is the definition proposed by Schein (1999), who defined culture as “a pattern of shared basic assumptions that a group has learned as it solved its problems of external adaptation and internal integration which has worked well enough to be considered valid and therefore to be taught to new members as the correct way to perceive, think, and feel in relation to those problems.” Job position culture is focused on the way tasks should be done in a certain job. The definition of organization should coincide with the distinct job position culture, but does not necessarily cover its full scope shaped by the set of roles and norms and may become a subcategory of the more concrete work environment unit.

Organizational culture is rarely a homogeneous entity and usually an aggregation of the subcultures a new employee encounters – the specific cultural contexts at different levels, departments, or workplaces in the organization (Hatch, 2002). What are the differences between the cultures of a social group, be it a nation, an organization, or a workplace? National culture is anchored mainly in the values acquired during the socialization process from the time of birth (Hofstede et al., 2002; Hofstede, 2007), while organizational culture, as mentioned above, refers to the written and unwritten rules and strategies learned while working in the company. Job position culture has a dispositional nature and begins to matter when a particular candidate with his/her cultural programming, in spite of being immersed in the national and organizational culture, has to face the cultural challenges of the job position. In fact, job environment culture implies a very concrete set of requirements that are neither included nor considered in the traditional job description taxonomy but matter in the complete person-job fit process. Workplace cultural characteristics concern the skills required from an employee in a job position and imply a set of cultural traits associated with efficient functioning in a specific workplace.

In a certain sense, the cultural traits of the workplace exist by the differences that one may encounter in different “editions” of the same or similar job. Job culture traits concern and operationalize national culture, organizational culture, and the most relevant unique characteristics of job position culture. In this sense, the work environment of the job is relative, as all job positions are unique and can be meaningfully used only for comparisons between different groups of positions considering job position traits that may differentiate not only nations and organizations but also job position categories. In other words, without comparing job positions it would not be possible to define the concept of workplace culture, as it would mean that either culture does not matter or there are no cultural differences between specific categories of job positions.

Is it legitimate to use cultural dimensions to describe the workplace? Culture used to be considered only as a characteristic of a group or community with its distinct features. Culture is defined as “the collective programming of the mind that distinguishes the members of one group or category of people from others” (Hofstede et al., 2010, p. 6).

The concept of category in the context of culture is evidence of the slight paradigm shift from the analysis of group characteristics or collective life in a certain place (or tribe, country, ethnic minority, etc.) toward a “category” of a group of people who do not necessarily live together but may share certain traits, similarly to some cultural emics (Berry, 1999). It may refer, for instance, to the category of young people (the Generation X culture), a culture that is found in different nations. This difference is crucial for the understanding of this new perspective on the cultural dimension of the job position. In that sense, cultural features are not a property of a social group, but a characteristic of a job position with specific requirements that may be regarded as culture. It is possible to express this relationship as the analogy of cultural differences between nations and cultural differences related to the concept of “category” of certain job positions which, independently of the national characteristic of potential employees, has features of its own. These features define the “optimal” profile of an employee’s cultural traits necessary for the successful performance of a given job. For this reason, job position culture should be introduced as a new dimension, making it possible to describe a concealed aspect of the work environment inherent in a specific job position.

How to define workplace culture? In line with the previous assumptions, the concept of culture can apply to novel categories or areas. Although it has been used to refer to ethnic, national, or other social groups, it can also refer to “category” as such. The most typical categories include gender, age group, and social class, but the term can also apply to occupational groups (Terpstra, 2016), such as policemen, drivers, engineers, teachers, or doctors, where culture provides a sense of belonging to an occupational category, marked by certain cultural characteristics (Terpstra, 2016).

Occupational culture is one of the conceptual challenges while the job position culture is introduced. Occupational culture, however, is associated with the process of professionalization, which crystalizes occupational rules. Clot (2014) identified three processes underlying the emergence of occupational culture: access to a new identity, reflected in social roles; and development of specific competencies. The process of occupational culture formation is connected with the interiorization of specific aspects of occupational identity associated with belonging to a given social group (Hansen et al., 1994).

Additionally, it should be stressed that, in view of the changing pattern of modern career paths, it is more appropriate to use the term “job position culture” than the frequently changed social category of “occupational culture.” Rooted in subcultural patterning, occupational culture stems from belonging to a particular social group and has been giving way to the category of job position culture, which reflects the actual level or lack of job-person fit seen from the perspective of a new term: job position culture.

Understood in the classic way, a job position is based on the schema of a clearly defined goal and established operation procedures, and descriptions of job positions have a rather operational and static character – formally correct, but operationally not very useful. In view of the need for a dynamic change of the company’s organizational strategies and the need to speed up technological changes of the globalized market, as well as in view of competition, job positions fail to keep up with the demands of management. The view of an organization as a hologram (Morgan, 2006), where culture is imprinted in specific cells, fairly accurately conveys the reality of organizational culture having been moved to the level of job positions (Yiengprugsawan et al., 2015).

To sum up, while we usually speak about Japanese, American, German, or Asian culture, the term “category” implies a slightly different perspective on culture in the context of job analysis as culture imprinted in roles and expected work standards. Using the term “cultural category,” we can speak about the culture of men or women, about the culture of the category of drivers, or the culture of the category of fishermen existing in different parts of the world and united by certain properties of culture due to their distinct environment traits, which distinguish not only a category of workers, but also their specific job culture.

Toward a cultural perspective on job position

Do we need to consider culture in the context of job position characteristics? Extensive tests on a group of 11,678 managers from 25 countries, reported by Kanter (1991) in the Harvard Business Review, clearly indicated that the idea of the global village, where it is assumed that we all seem to think, feel, and act to the rhythm of the global culture’s “tom-toms,” proves to be an illusion. It seems that, beyond the most natural, biological and objective aspects of the work environment, animal-like human nature is immersed in a specific culture (Geertz, 1973), which – apart from being a company-level marker – can also be a feature of the job position.

Contemporary cross-cultural management psychology has increased the importance of organizational culture in the effective management of human resources, examples being Toyota, IBM, IKEA, Google, and many other companies. Job design and description can be considered the most important tools for the development and management of a company. The development of a methodology for analysis and job description contributes to the humanization of work on the basis of applied social sciences. Its purpose is to increase the level of accuracy and efficiency in selection and recruitment, and ultimately to match the employee to the job.

Some recent studies indicate that current theoretical models of job analysis and job design no longer reflect the impact of the remarkable changes in work contexts that have occurred over the past few decades. There has been a significant shift from agriculture and industry toward a services-oriented labor market and a knowledge-worker society (Grant and Parker, 2009; Rousseau and Fried, 2001).

The belief that “work is work” and is the same everywhere may result in serious and persistent misunderstandings or significant economic loss. While the life of a typical Japanese company is permeated by the idea of Keiretsu[1] or the kaizen concept of lean management, an employee of the German Audi company may be convinced that the only and key prerequisite for success is technology and science (Vorsprung durch Technik). Simultaneously, a citizen of a Scandinavian country may assume that the only way to achieve effective and balanced functioning in the workplace is to adhere consistently to the principles of egalitarianism while performing his/her job.

One may wonder whether we really need to analyze the culture of the workplace while we have access to quite advanced and robust research and well-grounded mainstream theories on corporate culture. If organizational culture is a set of shared assumptions and beliefs that affect the performance of an organization in a given situation (Ravasi and Schultz, 2006), the natural consequence is to see how it impacts the operational level of culture, manifesting itself in the job position with its tangible, though unwritten, standards of behavior in a particular workplace.

Just as nature is made up of diverse and noticeably different backgrounds, different work environments with their distinct occupations and requirements are organized around different principles. The evolutionary processes of natural selection result in the absolute necessity of adaptation to ecological conditions, with new organs and bodies evolving to better function in the natural environment. It is the most adaptable species (the fittest) that survive, not necessarily those attempting to adjust themselves (adaptors) in the absence of specialized features or organs. Interestingly, the term “survival of the fittest” – attributed to Darwin – was not originally introduced with reference to nature but in the context of culture and social environment. Though the phrase “survival of the fittest” is associated with the English naturalist and his work On the Origin of Species (1859)[2], where he described the process of natural selection, it was originally coined by English philosopher Herbert Spencer, who first used it in his Principles of Sociology.

One of the most concise definitions of culture as a means for meeting needs implies that the process of work humanization requires identifying the features that ensure the optimal functioning of the employee in a particular job environment which satisfies or frustrates specific needs impacted by “job culture.” The best job-employee fit is related to the cultural traits of the work environment, which may meet or frustrate a job candidate’s needs.


This paper aims to raise the issue of culture considered in the context of job position as a distinct marker of the workplace which does not coincide with organizational culture. It is an attempt to highlight the missing dimensions of the existing job analyses, extending them to include some additional, job-culture-related items, distinguished from organizational culture.

Each job position generates a specific organizational culture of its own, which is often very different from the “omnipresent” macrolevel company culture. The case of the company described in the introductory section indicates that the definition of organizational culture as a parameter of the workplace is no longer sufficient in job position analysis. Assuming that culture is a collection of the most commonly used, standard, and accepted solutions in a particular group or place, I define job position culture as a multidimensional space with its distinctive set of actions and solutions constituting the culture of the post.

Job position should no longer be viewed as a culture-free entity, as it is intertwined with cultural norms, rules, values, or sets of typical strategies to be applied for effective performance at work. Organizational culture and job position are distinct domains. First, it is possible to encounter many similar work environments with their distinct organizational cultures that extend beyond the presumably omnipresent culture of the company. The culture of the position of an engineer or manager in one department might differ from another one in the same organization, despite the fact that the positions have the same job description. Second, it is possible to observe new trends in the contemporary job description and a detachment of work culture from the physical aspects of work and organizational environment. For instance, there are nomad workers, freelancers, and teleworkers, who are often free from the constraints of the workplace with its physical markers and company reality. Third, we are witnessing a great shift in the style of work, where the mechanization and automation of work decreases the importance of the physical aspect of work environment in favor of more unconscious aspects, such as unwritten norms, values, as well as unspoken rules and strategies that condition successful performance at work. These are very often imprinted in the cultural code of efficient performance at a certain workplace, not in the job position description in the classical sense.

At the same time, it is difficult to deny that job candidates represent specific cultural traits, with a mindset (Hofstede et al., 2002) that predisposes them to work in workplaces dominated either by individualism or by collectivism, low or high power distance, strict separation between professional roles or an egalitarian culture set, focus on the present or on distant future goals, etc. If so, these categories need to be operationalized and “translated” into workplace descriptors – including the specificity of tasks, the requirements, work conditions, etc. – to verify to what extent they correspond to the cultural dispositions of candidates for a particular job.

Inaccurate and unreliable prediction of the estimated effectiveness of employees in the workplace may stem from the omission of important parameters of job positions and/or candidates for particular posts. Such omission may lead to recruitment and selection errors (i.e. from the application of a wrong tool). The consequences of the possible job position mismatch and misguided recruitment and selection, conditioned by a defective job analysis methodology, include low work satisfaction, high employees rotation, and low efficiency of the employee in a particular job position.

Another reason to redefine the classical model of job description (McCormick et al. 1972) is the considerable increase in totally new professions and new career patterns, which are a kind of cultural phenomenon. They include job jumpers, NEETs, fretters, and internet-based workers (crowdfunders, YouTubers, and freelancers) that defy classical models and are not included in existing paradigms of job description. Finally, we need new concepts and models for better job-fit solutions in the constantly changing world of work.

This study highlights the importance of including cultural aspects as job characteristics of great significance for improved recruitment procedures and employees’ work satisfaction. Both job demands and – in particular – job resources related to the cultural characteristics of the candidate or the employee may impact efficient work performance and productivity or unfavorable phenomena such as truancy, burnout, or low work satisfaction. For this reason, job analysis and workplace descriptions require improvement and updating; the existing taxonomies should be extended to include the cultural dimension of the specific work environment of a particular job position. This would contribute to the better and more adequate management of human resources and make for more conscious and efficient organizational culture management at a very concrete job position level.

The analysis of potential employees’ capacities expressed in terms of cultural traits does not coincide with previous distinctions, as it is based on a different theoretical background of job description paradigms and organization culture theories. The cultural aspect of the job position opens a new perspective on workplace dimensions in recruitment, organizational change, and other human resource management challenges. The new approach requires an extended job position analysis to contribute toward an increase in work-related well-being at the individual level, emerging not only from the cultural environment of the company but also from the concrete job position with its distinct culture.

Summing up the requirements that managers set management consultants, it is possible to observe a departure from static description of work in favor of defining the employee’s role or the culture of responsibility as well as independence in problem solving and decision making.

Key differences between organizational culture and job position culture

Area of difference Organizational culture Job position culture
Building blocks Consists of standards and rules relating to the organization Consists of the set of standards and strategies regarding a specific job position
Creation process A top-down process, flowing mainly from senior executives A bottom-up process resulting from the inherent nature of work, typical roles emerging in specific job positions
Specificity A general description of the organization A specific description of a job within the organization
Origin Comes mainly from the leader and members of the organization The nature of work, seen as typical roles and responsibilities linked to the job position
Transmission mode Specific norms and values are transmitted by the leader and employees of the organization Transmission occurs by the expected standards, roles, and type activities in a specific job position
Discrepancy: organization vs post culture An employee may be well adapted to the culture of the organization but unsuitable for the job position The employee may not be adapted to the culture of the organization but may at the same time meet the cultural demands of a specific job position
Carriers of culture Imprinted in the mission and philosophy of the organization (values and norms promoted by the leader) Imprinted in the specificity of tasks and roles for a specific job (standards and strategies governing the operation at a specific position)



A strong trust-based relationship between the client and the provider.


The full title of Darwin’s (1859) work is: On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life (1st ed.).


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Further reading

Boesch, C. and Tomasello, M. (1998), “Chimpanzee and human cultures”, Current Anthropology, Vol. 39, No. 5, pp. 591-614.

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Hofstede, G. (1980), Culture’s Consequences: International Differences in Work-Related Values, Sage, Beverly Hills.

Hofstede, G. (1991), Cultures and Organizations: Software of the Mind, McGraw-Hill, London.

Markus, H.R. and Kitayama, S. (1993), “Kultura i ja: implikacje dla procesów poznawczych, emocji i motywacji (Culture and the self: implications for cognitive processes)”, Nowiny Psychologiczne, Vol. 3 No. 1, pp. 5-70.

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Corresponding author

Mariusz Tomasz Wolonciej can be contacted at: