A cross stitched WC sign in warm colors

The sociologist Dr. Ron Westrum defined three main categories of company cultures: pathological, bureaucratic and generative.

The first time I heard of Westrum organisational culture I misheard it as “Restroom Culture”. I thought it was a way to tell company culture by looking at shared facilities. It turned into a neat mnemonic, so now I bring you the explanation of the three organisational cultures of Westrums, using restrooms. Hopefully, though a bit silly, it will help you remember the real name, as well as the concept. What kind of culture do you work in?

Pathological

No one dares to use up the last square of toilet paper. That person will be punished and might even be fired. The storage is locked, some few select have a key. If you are friendly with someone who has access to extra toilet paper you might get a fresh roll. But first you have to find out who those people are, and how to suade them. No one dares to mention that it might be wasteful to limit access to toilet paper. The last one who brought up the subject was first publicly blamed for all restroom related problems and then let go. Some people bring their own rolls, but in secret, so that it won’t be taken for critique.

Bureaucratic

Toilet paper is refilled Tuesdays and Thursdays. If it runs out any other day there is a form to fill out that heed approval from your bosses boss. Any suggestion to change this will be ignored. Employees are not trusted with important things like toilet paper.

Generative

Toilet paper is stored where everyone has access to it. If it runs low anyone who notices takes action. There is also a supply of sanitary products available in all restrooms, as a result of an employee initiative.

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