The CEO and Organizational Culture Profile of Southwest Airlines Essay

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Integrating Culture and Diversity in Decision Making; Southwest Airlines
Christina Pheifer
Dr. Melissa Williams
Organizational Behavior
August 24, 2014
Southwest Airlines started out in Texas in June 1971, making it 43 years old. (Southwest Media, 2014) Southwest has a history of offering low fares, along with outstanding customer service. They have a strong corporate culture that starts with strong leadership and works its way through the ranks. Southwest has always been quick on their feet, evolved with the times and thus continued to be profitable. Ginger Hardage, the airline’s chief communication officer stated the key mission was to instill three ideals into every employee; “a warrior spirit, a servant’s heart and a fun-luving attitude (the way Southwest spells “love”)”. (Makovsky, 2013) Southwest has had very little turnover, especially in the upper levels of management which has allowed the focus to stay consistent and true throughout the years.
As indicated above, the ideals that are instilled in every employee are “a warrior spirit, a servant’s heart and a fun-luving attitude.” (Makovsky, 2013) From the Southwest website, they also run under the following philosophy; “Customer appreciation day is every day. Customer service is #1 for us. We like to think of ourselves as a Customer Service company that happens to fly airplanes.” (Why Fly Southwest, 2014) If you have ever flown a Southwest flight, you will agree. The staff is clearly happy to be doing what they do. They greet you with a smile every step of the process; it starts even before you book your flight with their support centers and continues from the moment you reach their gate through exiting the plane. A warrior spirit translates into giving the employees all the tools they need to handle any situation. A servant’s heart translates into giving the customer more than what they paid for and connecting with the customer to understand what they need. The fun-luving attitude translates into people who don’t take themselves too seriously. Southwest embeds these three values into a new hire employee and runs it through their entire company philosophy, thus their culture. As described in our book, these characteristics fall under the “observable culture; the way things are done in an organization.” (Schermerhorn, Osborn, Uhl-Bien, & Hunt, 2012) This is the way Southwest does business, from the top down. You can see these ideals in every section of their web page, feel it when you talk to someone in the call center, and experience it on your flight. Based on employee surveys completed by glassdoor through August 2014, the company was rated 4.1 out of five stars, and the current CEO received 86% approval rating. (Southwest Airlines Reviews, 2014). These numbers were relatively high compared to other airlines. Showing that people want to work for Southwest and enjoy doing so. The feedback highlighted typical things such as low-cost benefits; some non-typical items such as free standby flights and in spite of lower wages, employees gave high marks for Southwest being a fun place to work. As the baton passed from CEO to CEO, the core culture has been passed with it.
Slogans have changed; origination and destination locations have changed; the CEO has changed and more recently the entire organization is being restructured to complete the acquisition of AirTran. The one item that has held true is how Southwest conducts its business and how it feels about its employees and customers as stated in their mission statement released in 1980:
The mission statement of Southwest is dedication to the highest of customer service delivered with a sense of warmth, friendliness, individual pride, and company spirit. To our employees: We are committed to providing our employees a stable work environment with equal opportunity for learning and personal growth. Creativity and innovation are encouraged for improving the effectiveness of