In order to better understand cultural differences, I decided to introduce Hofstede’s cultural dimensions. As we set foot in the business world, we immediately notice cultural differences while others seem to be closer to home. In some cases, countries of the same region tend to show similarities in culture and social norms, However, that does not mean that we fully and truly understand the people of neighboring countries because they seem to behave similarly. In addition, this model not only explains cultures of countries, it also indicates cultures of organizations.
Hofstede identified six categories through which cultures can be more easily analyzed and understood. These categories are known as cultural dimensions. Hofstede’s six cultural dimensions are: power distance index, individualism, masculinity, uncertainty avoidance index, long term orientation, and indulgence.
Power Distance Index (PDI)
The power distance index indicates the degree to which less powerful members of a society accept or expect the unequal distribution of power. In other words, it shows how less powerful people react to these differences. A country or organization that shows a high power distance index is more tolerable towards inequality. Thus, the members of this society expect power differences and are less likely to make attempts to reach more equality. Power is centralized and there are more tiers in the hierarchy.
An organization with a high power index is more crowded in the top levels and an authoritarian model of management is exercised. Therefore, the final decision maker is the one who holds the power, and only those close to the source of power may have some influence. In such cases, a presentation is best to address the person or few people that hold the power.
On the other hand, a low power index shows that society members adopt a more collaborative approach. Power in decentralized, people are free to make decisions, and they are responsible for the decisions they make. The hierarchy tends to be more flat since there exist less tiers in compare to high power index organizations. Members of such a society are aware of their rights and attempt to reach equality. Committees and teamwork are more active in lower power index societies and they are more likely to affect decision making processes and outcomes.
Individualism (IDV) vs Collectivism
Individualism and collectivism determine the degree to which a society shows individual and idiosyncratic characteristics. In other words, it shows whether individuals tend to adopt the characteristics of the group (we) or develop their own personal characteristics (I).
In a society where individualism is preferred, members prioritize their personal growth and benefits. Subsequently their preferences takes precedence to the society’s needs or wants. Independence is more prevalent and individual values and beliefs are more visible. An organization which indicates higher level of individualism finds the environment more competitive. Employees consider their career development more important than group progress. However, a society that values collectivism is the opposite.
Collectivism indicates that healthy relationships and teamwork are given priority. Members of the society tend to help each other and accept help when they need it. An environment that encourages collectivism encounters more cases of cooperation and collaborations than one which prefers individualism. Behaviors and actions are regulated according to group values. Additionally, group preferences are more important than individual opinions. In a society that takes a moderate position, both aspects receive attention.
Masculinity (MAS) vs Femininity
A masculine environment values competition and encourages heroism. Members of the society tend to compete to reach a higher state. Assertiveness is reinforced and achievement is the final goal. Cooperation is scarce, therefore, team works may be viewed as challenging. In a society with a high degree of masculinity, material awards are more valuable.
On the contrary, the higher the degree of femininity in a society, the more important the quality of life becomes. Such societies are more consensus-oriented, encouraging cooperation and teamwork. Modesty is a trait of such a society and it strives to care for weak members. Power and competition give their place to compassion and collaboration.
Uncertainty Avoidance Index (UAI)
A society’s degree of risk taking is closely related to this index. The higher the uncertainty index, the less the risk takings. The society that prefers certainty and control, becomes a risk avoider. A low uncertainty in index entails less flexibility and adherence to what is known. At this level, an organization sticks to the rules and regulations and seldom attempts different or new approaches.
Pre-planning is important to societies that dislike uncertainty. Hence, an organization is less likely to change its ways and may even suppress any suggestions or lineation towards change. The status quo is easily reached in such organizations and change management becomes a hurdle. Naturally, creativity is not their point of strength.
The other side of the spectrum belongs to cultures in which uncertainty is welcomed. The society is more tolerant towards uncertainty and is therefore open to new experiences. The flexibility allows them to adapt to new situations with ease. In addition, change is less likely to be an issue; it could even lead to new experiences. The lower the uncertainty avoidance index, the higher the acceptance of different ideas, opinions, and behaviors. In an organization with this characteristic, people may be promoted regardless of their age or seniority, contrary to the organizations with strict standards.
Long Term Orientation (LTO) vs Short term orientation
Long term orientation refers to whether the society looks more towards the future or leans towards it past. Long term orientations involves more focus towards the future. A long term orientation entails attention to sustainability. Therefore, members of the society pay more attention to long term goals than short term objectives. An organization with a long term orientation indicates signs of attachment from employees. Members do their best to live up to the management’s expectations and in turn, the organization tries to maintain its workforce and create a long term relationship.
In the short term orientation, however, attention is mostly on the past. Society trusts what has been done by predecessors and attempts to keep traditions alive. These societies tend to be fixed and continue their activities in alignment with what has been done in the past. Members seldom attempt to look for or take new roads. Their respect for the traditions or their history prevents them from deviation. Frameworks, rules, and past regulations provides them with a guideline and they seldom stop to reevaluate them. Of course, this is only an extreme. More moderate approaches exist within the spectrum.
Indulgence (IND) vs Restraint
Indulgence is a dimension that indicates society’s level of enjoyment and attention to human drives. It indicates whether behaviors and actions are motivated by basic human drives or whether they are controlled. A high score of indulgence shows that members’ actions are driven by their instincts and their feeling of enjoyment.
On the other hand, restraint refers to cases where human drives are controlled and actions and behaviors are formed based on social norms. Social norms can be strict to a point where expression of enjoyment leads to criticism in extreme cases. In general, enjoying life and having fun is the essence of indulgence and its absence is filled by duty in a society with low indulgence. A more moderate society pays attention to both enjoying life and duty.
Each cultural dimension is considered as a continuum. Countries are given a score from zero to 120 based on the degree to which they indicate related characteristics. Keep in mind that cultural dimensions do not represent all members of a cultural society, but the majority. Hofstede’s cultural dimensions explain the collective characteristics of a certain culture. Therefore, individualistic aspects have to be considered when interacting with a person from another culture.
The classification and categorization intends to help us better understand the underlying elements and the degree to which they dominate a culture. In order to better understand general cultural aspects of a country, find the scores on cultural dimensions on Hofstede Insights: https://www.hofstede-insights.com/product/compare-countries/
Search two countries with which you do business or intend to engage in business relationships. Analyze and compare the results. (250 words)
You may also be interested in
Cultural Differences: Business Etiquette part 1