The material in this module compels us to understand that traditional motivators are culture bound and that what works in our own culture may not be the best motivator in another country. Once again, this Discussion is broken into weekly topics. You must participate in both topics to receive full credit.
Describe a specific reward that motivates you. How does that type of reward appeal to your values as a member of an individualist society? Would this reward be as effective at motivating workers in a collectivist culture? Why or why not?
Choose one of the following leadership functions and contrast how these functions would most effectively be carried out according to one of Hofstede’s dimensions (your choice). In responding to another student’s post, examine the same leadership function within a culture displaying another of Hofstede’s dimensions.
Suggested leadership functions:
- Recruiting new talent
- Retaining valued employees, customers, or clients
- Decision-making processes
- Measuring performance
- Correcting performance problems
- Determining organizational structure
- Resolving conflict
- Identifying your own leadership function
All readings are required unless noted as “Optional” or “Not Required.”
After reading the introductory material on the home page, delve more deeply into three different typologies—or ways of classifying cultures. The module starts with a simple dichotomous typology—individualism/collectivism—expands to Hofstede’s six dimensions of culture, and rounds out with a more impressionistic framework—that of Gannon’s cultural metaphors.
Perhaps the oldest construct in thinking about dimensions of culture is the dichotomy of individualism and collectivism. It is a good place to start in understanding cultural dimensions, because it represents one of the more readily apparent characteristics of a culture—the degree to which members of a society think of themselves as individuals separate and distinct from their fellows or as a part of a group that is greater and more significant than the self.
Social scientists have studied the distinction between societies that value obligations to the group over the individual (or vice versa) for nearly 100 years. Beginning with the work of Emile Durkeim, the construct of individualism/collectivism was popularized in modern cross-cultural study largely by the work of Harry Triandis and colleagues.
What follows is an extensive review of the topic that will give you a thorough understanding of the characteristics of individualistic and collectivistic cultures and help you understand how leadership styles and practices vary between the two. In addition, the article discusses how these two orientations can disparately affect economic development, organizational culture, group dynamics, job design and rewards, conflict, and communication. Later parts of the article cover research and methodological concerns—this section is optional.
Note: Although this article was published in 1998, it still constitutes a solid review of a foundational construct in the field of cross-cultural studies. If you have trouble finding it in the library, check the Business Source Complete database after clicking on “Additional Library Resources.”
Earley, P., & Gibson, C. B. (1998). Taking Stock in Our Progress on Individualism-Collectivism: 100 Years of Solidarity and Community. Journal Of Management, 24(3): 265–304.
Hofstede’s Dimensions of Culture
Currently, the most widely used framework for classifying types of cultures is Geert Hofstede’s dimensions of culture. Hofstede, a Dutch social psychologist, once worked with IBM International, where he became interested in cross-cultural influences on work behavior. In 1980, Hofstede published his groundbreaking work, Culture’s Consequences. In this work, Hofstede proposed four cultural dimensions, each forming a bipolar continuum. He argued that cultures can be measured along these dimensions, and that differences in behavior and customs can be explained by mapping these dimensions. The original dimensions were:
- Power distance (high or low)
- Uncertainty avoidance (high or low)
Although his work has been criticized on methodological grounds and that his dimensions explain only a small part of the variation in behavior across cultures, it remains popular due to the value it has in helping people anticipate, understand, and interpret cultural differences. The following interactive website offers a quick overview of the original four dimensions.
Gill, C. (2017, March 23). Hofstede’s cultural dimensions and differences across cultures. Oxford University Press Blog. Retrieved from https://blog.oup.com/2017/03/hofstede-cultural-dim…
Hofstede, G. (n.d). National culture. Geert Hofstede. Retrieved from https://geert-hofstede.com/national-culture.html
In the years since his first book, Hofstede has expanded his typology to include two additional dimensions. Hear him discuss his recent work in the following video:
Dr. Martin Gannon has developed an innovative way of thinking about and understanding cultural differences that employs a more “holistic” approach. Rather than breaking down behavior patterns into categories and using those categories to compare cultures, Gannon uses metaphors to help us understand the essence or “feel” of a culture. From Gannon (2002):
A cultural metaphor is any activity, phenomenon, or institution with which members of a given culture emotionally and/or cognitively identify. As such, cultural metaphors reflect the underlying values of a culture. Examples of national cultural metaphors include the Japanese garden, the Chinese family altar, and American football.
Gannon, M. J. (2002). Cultural metaphors: Their use in management practice and as a method for understanding cultures. In W. J. Lonner, D. L. Dinnel, S. A. Hayes, & D. N. Sattler (Eds.), Online Readings in Psychology and Culture (Unit 16, Chapter 4), Center for Cross-Cultural Research, Western Washington University, Bellingham, Washington USA. Not required.
Metaphors reflect the values and core beliefs of the society and thus enable us to grasp the underlying meaning or rationale behind the approaches to such things as negotiation, relationships between boss and subordinate, or many other day-to-day interactions. In other words, they give us a palpable sense of what happens in real-world interactions. The advantage of thinking about culture in terms of metaphor, is that it allows us to compare something quite unfamiliar with something with which we are already familiar. Take the Turkish Coffeehouse, for example:
Turkey is a very unique culture, straddling the intersection between traditional Turkish customs or ways of life and Western ideologies. Turkey embraces the old and the new, Christianity and Islam, modern cities and rural villages that have not changes in decades. The people are known for being hospitable, emotional, and devoted to rich traditions. Significantly, Turks have never been conquered by an outside civilization, but the culture’s origins can be traced to roots in the Mongul, Slav, Greek, Kurd, Armenian, and Arab societies.
Gannon chose the Turkish Coffeehouse as a metaphor for Turkish culture because in it one finds an emphasis on both Islam and secularity; an outlet for community, discourse, and recreation; a customer base reflecting a male-dominated culture; and finally coffeehouses outside of major metropolitan areas are modest— especially when compared with upscale cafes or distinguished pubs characteristic of large cities.
To learn more about cultural metaphors, how they relate to Individualism/collectivism, Hofstede’s dimensions, and other topics to be covered in later module, review Chapter 1 of Gannon’s best-selling book:
Gannon, M. J. & Rajnandini K. P. (2013). Understanding Global Cultures: Metaphorical Journeys through 31 Nations, Clusters of Nations, Continents, and Diversity. Sage: Thousand Oaks, California. Chapter 1: Understanding Cultural Metaphors.
For some brief examples of other cultural metaphors described in depth in the book, read the following review of the first edition. If you have trouble finding this in the general library search, click on “Additional Library Resources” and search the Business Source Complete Database.
Vernon-Wortzel, H., & Shrivastava, P. (1996). Understanding Global Cultures: Metaphorical Journeys Through 17 Countries. Academy Of Management Review, 21(1), 288–291.
Understanding or misunderstanding cultural differences can have a profound effect on the successful process and outcome in negotiations. The following short article indicates how Hofstede’s dimensions can inform the best strategy to pursue when negotiating across national borders.
Ramping up your skills for cross-cultural negotiation. (2010). Leader to Leader, (56): 60–61.