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Effects of Organizational Culture on Women in the It Industry

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Effects of Organizational Culture on Women in the IT Industry


Counterproductive work behaviors (CWBs) are the result of a corporation’s lack of structure. The researcher Sigal Barsade introduces the concept of emotional contagion (EC), which states that emotions and behaviors are contagious and the best way to prevent the spread of CWBs is by developing a workforce with high institutional collectivism (IC). Women and minorities tend to be the victims of CWBs. Chronic exposure to CWBs is harmful to the health of employees, particularly those who are more easily taken advantage of. By having corporations implement organizational cultures into their workforce, the chances of an employee having their health effected by CWBs will be minimized.

Keywords: counterproductive work behavior, emotional contagion, institutional collectivism, emotional capability, psychosocial stressors.

Effects of Organizational Culture on Women in the IT Industry

Workers live in a time where they are led to believe that their worth is only as much as the quality and quantity of what they produce (Nolfe 2007). The stress that workers feel from being seen as more of a commodity rather than a human being, creates what researchers have called counterproductive work behaviors (CWB). Rotundo and Spector (2010) defined CWB’s as behaviors by employees that intend to harm the organization and its people, including customers and clients. For example, Barsade (2002) posited that coworkers can influence the mood, judgments, and even the behaviors of others (2002) in the workplace. Therefore, a worker displaying CWB’s could in a sense contaminate his or her coworkers by exposing them to the deviant behavior.

Given the “common assumption that women… experience more workplace mistreatment than men (McCord 2015),” the focus of this paper will be on their experiences. The field of information technologies (IT) is in large part a male dominated career path, but the women that do choose to walk that road often experience several physical, mental, and emotional problems (Balasubramanian 2009), primarily brought about by trying to maintain an even work-life balance. However, research conducted by Akgun (2011) showed that a positive work environment creates the emotional security needed to enhance IT project success. Current research indicates that a positive work environment, one where collaboration is encouraged and new ideas are nurtured, can only be sustained when the level of institutional collectivism (IC) is high. IC is the idea that an organization encourages and rewards creativity and the flow of ideas (Gu 2014).

The development of a positive organizational culture is an investment in workers and ultimately a company as a whole, because CWBs not only negatively impact employees, but also lead to financial loses for the company. For these reasons, the implementation of a positive organizational culture will lessen the degree to which women ages 18-55 in the IT industry will experience deleterious health consequences.

Literature Review

Emotional contagion (EC) is a process in which a person or group influences the emotions or behaviors of others, through the induction of emotional states and behavioral attitudes (Barsade 2012). Research data gathered by Barsade explains how a person with a hostile or depressed demeanor can affect the emotions and moods of others around him or her, and for the purpose of this paper, coworkers. This raises the question as to whether EC can be harnessed to infuse groups with positive thoughts and emotions, and if it can in turn increase the profitability of a company. A related study supported the theory that the relationships between organizational culture and IT project performance is governed by environmental pressures (Gu, Hoffman, Cao, & Schniederjans 2013).

Many organizations have caught on to the idea of implementing work cultures as a means to give their workers a sense of belonging to a group. This feeling of togetherness fosters the growth of emotional capability (EC) amongst coworkers, which refers to a team’s ability to perceive, understand, monitor, and regulate its members’ emotions (Akgun). The benefits of a team with high EC are that said team will be more autonomous and intrinsically motivated to achieve their goal. Unfortunately not all organizations have a set culture, and this lack of connection to the workplace can lead employees to act in ways that are self-serving, rather that inclusive of all members of a team.

Organizations without a goal or mission in mind, are often times stratified in a sense that there is a majority and a minority. In the field of information technologies (IT), the minority group is composed of female workers. Traditionally a male dominated field, women “experience the brunt of mistreatment in the workplace (McCord, Joseph, & Dhanani 2015).” Being seen as a subpar employee or coworker, instills a feeling of underutilization, as well as personal inadequacy (Balasubramanian & Chokalingam 2009.) Clinical research conducted by Sansone and Sansone (2015) has also shown that the emotional/psychological effects of workplace mistreatment can include increased mental distress, sleep disturbances, fatigue, and anxiety. While these effects may be unpleasant, chronic stress is a key contributor to morbidity and the costs of healthcare.

The stress response is designed to get us out of an aversive situation, either by fleeing or by fighting. Unfortunately, much of the stress that is experienced today is either environmental, or work-related. These type of stressor are difficult to disassociate from because they make up our daily lives. Continued exposure to unpleasant coworkers, or unyielding pressure from supervisors and eventually lead to severe psychosocial illnesses such as burnout and depression (Bakusic 2016). Burnout, has yet to become a formal diagnosis, but its tell-tale signs of exhaustion, cynicism, and lack of professional efficacy, will likely earn it a place in the DSM. Depression is likely the most serious of health issue to arise from continued exposure to psychosocial stressors, as it can indirectly lead to many other health conditions, or even suicide.

A workplace without a set culture is not a safe one, as the lack of direction can lead some workers to act in an inappropriate manner and in turn create a stressful environment for others, which can negatively impact their health. If we apply the theory of emotional contagion and view these two types of employees as “walking mood inductors (Barsade 2002),” then we can expect a stark increase in counterproductive work behaviors, as well as decreased morale and productivity throughout the workplace (Gu et al., 2014). Therefore, an organizational culture is essential to the wellbeing of employees as well as the organization as a whole. Akgun et al. found that not only does a work culture create a fun work environment, but the collaboration and mutual interaction between team members that it helps generate also has a positive impact by increasing collective hope, joy and enthusiasm. A team with high emotional capability will know if a member is struggling with something, and will offer assistance in order to get them up to speed. When a team is comfortable with its members, ideas will flow, and in the field of IT, collaboration and communication is key. Additionally, having a culture in which mutual respect for one another is paramount, will fend off most gender related issues that may arise in respect to value as a team member.



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