Clan culture is a common label for an organization characterized by a flexible atmosphere and a family-oriented attitude. It is one of the common cultural types identified in studies of workplace culture, especially in small bsuinesses. While clan workplaces often make for a positive place for employees to work, they do have drawbacks relative to more concrete cultures.

Less Structure

By definition, clan cultures exist in less-structured workplaces with fewer rules and policies. While the intent is to encourage unified vision and flexible decision-making, there is risk that employees will work outside the scope of their roles and take advantage of flexible policies to avoid non-preferred work activities. If employees don't get on board with the vision and directives of leadership, it is easy for departments and employees to get off track.

Propensity for Group Think

The term clan describes a community of people who stick together. A clan culture can lead to employees becoming overly concerned with maintaining group harmony with little challenge to the status quo. This contrasts organizations where some conflict is encouraged to challenge current ways of doing things. Rather than discussing various perspectives on approaching a task, clan employees may simply go along with the first idea put forth.

Control Concerns

The term "clan control" is used to emphasize the extreme risks of a clan culture in which leadership relies on shared cultural values as a manipulative tool to influence the behaviors of employees. For instance, control-hungry managers may make use an ingrained employee loyalty to authority to reject employee input or to insist upon taking a certain approach in a decision-making situation.

Internal Focus

Another defining quality of a clan culture organization a high level of internal focus. Maintenance of a family-friendly culture and cohesiveness are primary points of emphasis. While this has some merit, it can lead to delays or deficiencies in having the discipline necessary to quickly assess market conditions and respond to customer or client needs. This can detract from sales and service performance for a customer-driven organization.