Culture and Society

Paper instructions

In this project, you will be choosing objects used in a workplace and looking at them as cultural artifacts. These objects can be from your actual workplace, one you are familiar with, or a one where you might like to work in the future. You will analyze how well these artifacts reflect the culture of the workplace they come from and write a report on your findings.

Your task is to describe and analyze workplace artifacts to show the importance of aligning them to company culture. Artifacts are real, physical objects made by people that embody the ideas of the creators, users, and the culture in which they were made.
1. Choose two objects that fit the description of artifacts above. Examples of artifacts include training materials, a piece of equipment, a decoration, a business card, a newsletter, or something else.
2. Analyze the artifacts. Use the questions in the Artifact Analysis Guide to help you do this.
3. Write a report. In your report:

Identify the type of organization or workplace you used.

Briefly explain why artifact analysis is relevant to workplace culture.

Explain the importance of analyzing artifacts for understanding culture.
Provide specific examples of ways your workplace could improve its culture based on the results of the analysis.

Describe your chosen artifacts in detail.
If possible, include a picture of them.
Be sure to identify who created them and who uses them.

Explain the purpose of your chosen artifacts.
State whether you think the creator(s) succeeded in achieving that purpose.
How do different people interact with the artifacts?

Discuss how the artifacts reflect the norms, beliefs, and values of the organizational culture.
To do this, compare your artifacts with specific workplace culture statements. These might include a mission statement, motto, vision document, slogan, and so on. Do the artifacts reflect the workplace culture in which they are found?

Your report can be in the format you consider most appropriate. You could create a visual presentation (slides) or a written report. If you choose to create a presentation, you should provide comprehensive speaker notes. Remember to cite any sources you use.


Culture and Society

The term artifact is popularly used in history to understand how people who lived in ancient years conducted their lives. Artifacts are very crucial in the study of the past as they tell a lot about the way of life in the past. However, artifacts are equally relevant and important even in the society today as they help in understanding the customs, beliefs and values of a given community or organization (Manovich, 2020). This is because, in part, artifacts are one of the three distinct levels of a company’s culture, besides assumptions and values (Burkus, 2014). Given that artifacts are physical objects, it follows that artifacts help to understand an organization’s culture in that they provide clues about what is to be expected in a given organization. Against this background, this paper uses Walmart as a case study to illustrate the relationship between a company’s artifacts and its corporate culture. The two artifacts used in this analysis are the iconic Sam’s Walton’s cap and the famous smiley face poster.

The Sam Walton’s Cap is an “iconic piece of headgear… [that has been displayed not only on the Smithsonian archives but also appears] in America’s collective memory, [being one among the 1%] of the more than 3 million artifacts in the archives ever displayed” (Dranow, 2015 para.3). This object derives its name from Walmart’s founder, Sam Walton. The idea behind the hat is that Walton had an open preference for baseball caps as opposed to official wear. The cap is blue in color, with a white mesh at the back. On the front are the words Wal-Mart, Sam’s Wholesale Club and the slogan Our People Make the Difference. From this description, one may conclude that the Sam Walton’s Cap is intended to keep the company’s late founder’s values and dedication to the company alive among the current and future workforce. As Brunn (2006, p.81) observes, the strong corporate culture that Walmart represents is “predominantly derived from the model provided by its founder, Sam Walton [and whose] values and priorities [are] conveyed to all members…through store policies, meetings, and eventually as shared experience”.  In other words, the Sam Walton’s Cap is a very symbolic and significant artifact that emphasizes the commitment that Walton had for his company, and which all employees are required to emulate.

The fact that Walton used to come to work dressed casually and donning the blue baseball cap shown above indicates that the Sam Walton’s Cap is an artifact whose purpose is to foster an atmosphere of friendliness in the organization. Specifically, it sends the message that every member of Walmart, starting from the most senior person to the lowest level of workers, is approachable. This inference is made from the report that despite his rank, Sam Walton would arrive at work wearing the Sam Walton Cap and a plastic name badge that identified him as simply Sam (Lee, 2008). Added to the fact that Walton stood out for engaging and listening keenly to all employees shows that the founder advocated for an organization where everybody is treated with respect and his/her voice valued. This resonates with Walmart’s open door policy in which employees can approach managers at all times.

More importantly, the Cap portrays Walmart as a company that places a very high value on its employees.  The slogan ‘Our People Make the Difference’ indicates that Walmart takes pride in the work that employees do. For this reason, it serves as a source of motivation, appreciation and encouragement to all employees (Brunn, 2006). This is in line with one of Walmart’s core values: respect for the individual (Moreton, 2009).

The Sam Walton Cap somewhat reflects or rather supports the Walmart mission. According to Maheshwari and Agarwal (2020, p.28), Walmart pursues the mission of giving “ordinary folk the chance to buy the same thing as rich people”. Relating this statement to the simple dressing code of Sam Walton and the fact that he regarded every person in the company as equal, one may be conclude that the Sam Walton Cap is a simple but very powerful artifact that illustrates that at Walmart, every stakeholder matters.

Source: National Museum of American History

The smiley face is another of Walmart’s highly significant artifacts. The smiley face is usually used in advertisements and also in Walmart stores (Spotts, 2005). So significant and effective is this artifact that it is used in numerous outlets across the United States, the smiley face poster is all over. In some stores, the sign is accompanied by the message “Stop. Don’t forget to smile” (Chan, 2011 p.181). The smiley face has a motivational effect as it reminds employees, customers and anyone who comes across it to stay happy regardless of any challenges that they may be facing. More importantly, it keeps employees reminded that they have a primary obligation of keeping customers delighted in the way they attend to them. It helps employees to adhere to the 10-foot rule that instructs employees to maintain eye contact at all times and ensure that they greet customers before serving them.


It is rather interesting that the smiley face has become so embedded into the Walmart culture yet its design was neither invented nor is it owned by the company (Spotts, 2005). Even so, the smiley is regarded by most Americans as Walmart brand. Having established the effectiveness of this artifact, Walmart reportedly hires actors occasionally to promote the company’s brand by wearing the smiley head and appearing at openings of Walmart stores (Spotts, 2005).

It seems that most of Walmart employees interact positively with the smiley face artifact. In a report published in The Insider, Cain (2018) highlights meeting many new people as one of the most fulfilling experiences that Walmart employees have. According to one employee interviewed by the author, most of the customers that Walmart employees come into contact with are nice people to work with. They appreciate even the least help. Another employee is quoted as saying that making friends with his workmates was the most fulfilling thing about his job. From these testimonies, it can be said that Walmart employees embrace the smiley face as a very important object that helps them to meet the standards set by the company in as far as customer service is concerned. More importantly, it helps them to keep customers delighted and satisfied.

The smiley face also aligns with Walmart’s slogan of low prices. Schmid (2016) reports that Walmart’s associates love the Smiley face, interpreting it as a reinforcement of the company’s commitment to delivering low prices all the time and providing exemplary customer service. The smiley face is a symbol that Walmart employees are always happy to attend to customers.

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