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Criticisms of Hofstede's Model

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Business
Wordcount: 2961 words Published: 10th Aug 2021

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Hofstede’s model indicates 5 dimensions, which are Power distances, Individualism, Uncertainty avoidance, Masculine and Long-term orientation (Hofetede, 1998), to distinguish culture in different countries. Many organisational managers claimed that Hofstefe model is successfully comparative different culture in different countries. However, some scholars argued that it is risk to apply Hofstede model due to validity and reliably to differentiate culture such as perception of culture, methodology, and his dimensions. Therefore, the purpose of this report is to critic of Hofstede’s model and claim how far we agree of his model.

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2.0 National Culture vs. Non-Cultural factors

Culture is “Customs and beliefs, art, way of life and social organization of a particular country and group” (Hornby, 2009) .However, Hofstede selected only one company’s (IBM) staffs as sample to evaluate the country’s cultural measurement. This raises the survey of how far each IBM part can be measured culturally representative of the country in which it is based. (Mcsweeney, 2002) A study infatuated only on a company cannot probably offer depth to a complete country’s culture (Sondergaard 1994) .As William (2002) stated this can be considered to a trait of a company, the particular occupation, or the occupation in the particular company rather than to justify a national culture Trompenaar (1993) agrees with Williamson (2002). His research has successfully reduced Hofstede’s evidence, where he has tested important differences among national cultures for the effect of irrelevant factors such as gender and occupation.

As a matter of fact, the model is not representative because it is only drawn from one company involving only particular middle-class workers. However, Hofstede (1980) pointed out that the use of a single international employer eliminates the effect of the corporate policy and management practices from different companies influencing behaviour differently, leaving only national culture to explain cultural difference. While Williamson (2002) argues that, national, organisational and work-related cultures are not dependant issues. Hence, based on criticisms from the scholars which show that, even after eliminating corporate policy and management practices, there still exist different levels of cultures in a country. Therefore, Hofstede’s assumption of culture differentiation of the country by surveying only IBM Company’s stuffs cannot be justifiable.

There are a broad variety of factors which affect culture including non cultural factors and human nature which are institutional influences, social structures and economic condition (Williamson, 2002). However, Hofstede tends to neglect the significance of community, and the variation of the community affects (Papamarcos & et. al., 2007). For example, Some European countries like Britain, German, Italy and France having common political views and economical development needs formed European Union. As an economic and political union with 27 member states, it has its own council, commission, court and bank which mean these 27 member countries share European Union’s culture (Europa, 2009).

It is able to be seen that culture is a complex and subjective conception. However, Hofstede only used limited survey to explain the values of the particular group or country. For instance, the rank of tolerance for ambiguity also can partially describe the general risk-taking tendency of businessmen. (Erdem, 2001). Thus, diverse study questions relied on cultural method need to be inquired on huge sample and relative researches.

3.0 Critics of Homogeneity of Country Culture

On the other hand, Hofstede’s research supposes the domestic population as a homogenous whole (Jones, 2007). Hofstede’s model gives comparisons between different national cultures to achieve 5 dimensions which are established on data from 50 countries and 3 regions (Mead & Andrews, 2009). However, the model ignores nation is consisted of different ethnic units having different cultures. It is not objective to say that one nation has one culture. For example, in China, there are 56 ethnic minorities. Different ethnic minorities have different language, customs and beliefs. It is far-fetched to believe there is one culture in China, because they are all Chinese. (Gov.cn, 2009) In addition, it is also hard to differentiate between the main culture and subcultures. For instance, relations between main cultures and subcultures are shifting by influence of political, economic, or historical factors. (Mead & Andrews, 2009)

4.0 Dimension

4.1 Simplicity

It is critical that Hofstede’s dimension is too simple and few to differentiate the diversity of cultures in a country. For instance, such as training opportunities, satisfactory working conditions and possibility of fully using skills and abilities on the job in collectivism was not sufficient to obtain accurate country scores for a construct. (Papamarcos & et. al., 2007). However, Williamson (2002) defended that Hofstede’s model has the beauty of parsimony has shown the large part of its appeal and success within the functionalist paradigm. Yet, Mc Sweeney’s (2002) objection of Hofstede’s simplify model has pointed out the national culture of an appropriate balance between parsimony for powerful communication and power of explanation.

4.2 Bilateral model

There are debatable of relevancy in applying a bilateral model used by Hofstede’s dimension to a global organisation as a number of cultures are interacting and probably influencing each other (Mead & Andrews, 2009). For example, there is only high or low level in power distance dimension of Hofstede’s model. Therefore, the ability of the dimension to measure is restricted, which does not response the changes of different culture (Papamarcos & et. al., 2007). Baskerville (2003) continued that why the validity of Hofstede’s dimensions of culture had not been widely used in sociology and anthropology. In line with McSweeney (2002), the major contention over Hofstede’s work is that culture does not equate with nations. Hence, it could not generalise the culture of a wide range of country and it is reasonable only if human societies are isolated from each other. However, people live in societies with intensifying networks of exchange and communication (Baskerwille, 2003). Therefore, it shows that the differences of culture are to by measuring of the degrees rather than bilateral results.

4.3 Labelling Issues

Labelling issues of the Hofstede’s dimension is also being concerned. Based on masculine and feminine dimension does not recommend to the domination of sexual category and the indistinct labelling of the dimension may create confusion (Jones & Alony, 2007). It gives the level to which masculine behaviours like power, belligerence and achieve are preferred to feminine features like personal relationships, quality of life and welfare (Williamson, 2002). Hence, it is agreeable with Adler (1997) that these indicators should change the dimension to career success or quality of life rather than using the sexist indicators.

5.0 Methodology

From Hofstede’s method about data collection, it is shown that the survey he used is only to cultivate the 5 dimensions. This has been argued that Hofstede used one survey method to measure dozens of different national cultures which is unrealistic and not reliable. McSweeney (2002) have also agreed that collecting date from questionnaires is too limited and not reliable to determine and measure cultural discrepancy.

Hence, Hofstede’s cultural survey fails to meet requirement for nomothetic research where national culture is not identifiable from his questionnaire (Williamson, 2002). For instance, ‘Individualism’ and ‘collectivism’ could not be effectively defined by 3 items each. The 3 items associated with Individualism were sufficient time for family life and freedom to adapt to one’s own work style, and for Collectivism it was training opportunities, satisfactory working conditions and possibility of fully using skills and abilities on the job. It was not sufficient to rely on these 6 items to obtain accurate country scores for a construct (Voronov, 2002) pointed out that such a procedure merely shows which items belong together but doesn’t demonstrate construct validity. However, Hofstede defends that survey was the one but not only method which was used (Hofstede 1998).

It also can be proven that Hofstede did all that might be expected of nomothetic cultural research, there are objections to use nomothetic methods for cultural research. This can be seen that Hofstede’s model is used widely for cross-cultural research (Jones, 2007). Sondergaard (1994) found that Hofstede’s study received 1,036 citations in 1980, while another highly regarded study on strategy by Miles and Snow received only 200 citations. In addition, Sondergaard (1994) made a research which is similar to Hofstede’s research and the most outcome of his research confirmed Hofstede’s predictions. For example, it acknowledges that Hofstede’s findings in the power distance dimension are useful and reliable. A significant aspect of journalistic culture is related to journalists’ position towards power (Hanusch, 2008). In most Western democracies, journalists, the competitor of the press, are represented as the ‘fourth estate’ and ‘watchdogs’. They believe that they are an independent critic power. While in eastern countries, such as in Asian countries, an opponent position may conflict with values of harmony, yet criticism is possible in a covert form. Journalists see themselves as loyal to those in power, acting as a mouthpiece for the government (Hanusch, 2008). In short, it’s undoubtedly true that only used questionnaire survey method is not reliable however Hofstede also used homothetic cultural research method which means survey questionnaire is only one of the methods that Hofstede used to build his model. Therefore, using homothetic culture research method has shown the robust of his model.

5.1 Language

The problem of survey questions is the limitation of language translation which has different meaning in each culture. Cultural beliefs changed in languages which influence managerial practice directly.

Graham (1998) indicated that language and cultural beliefs are correlated because of cross-cultural interaction which means similarity in cultural beliefs also produces linguistic similarity. In addition, there are many different language systems in some countries such as Belgium, Canada, and Singapore. It is unrealistic to consider a multi-lingual society having one national culture. Language is an important component to measure of cultural differences. However, Hofstede only translated survey questions directly without considering the affect from languages which were likely to cause misunderstanding and ambiguity.

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Another opinion is that simple translation from other languages is not sufficient considering that patterns of communication behaviour are deeply rooted in language culture complexities (Ulijin and Campbell, 2001). Different languages have different patterns of discourse (Fletcher, 2006). For example, in one language, the key point of communication may be at the beginning of the sentence and the qualifiers follow. In other languages like Korean, the main point comes at the end of the sentence. If the translation does not include underlying concepts, the meaning will easily become distorted, and the emphasis of the message will be diminished.

5.2 Bias and reliability of Questionnaire

Firstly, it is common that people do not know themselves. It is evident that one person’s unconscious is much more sensitive than conscious mind. Therefore, unconscious minded are easily affect people’s psychology deeply (Woodside, 2006). Sometimes, people cannot give real responses because the truth is not known. For instance, if people do not know their life and work value, it is impossible to get real answers about their values through analyzing information from questionnaires. Moreover, Mc Sweeney (2002) argues that the “administration of the survey and the ownership of its results were IBM’s, some of the questionnaires were completed within groups and not individually.” It means the information collected from questionnaire cannot reflect individuals’ real mentality. In addition, some employees had predicted company’s policies would be revised which based on the result of this survey, so they didn’t give real responses (Mead & Andrews, 2009). Therefore, the result of the survey questionnaire has been doubtable.

6.0 Critical of Inconsistence of Research Outcome

According to Hofstede’s research (1998), he stated that his style of cross sectional analysis was apropos because he wasn’t producing an absolute touchstone but was merely reckoning cultural differences. For example, He mentioned that wealth and individualism are connected. The wealthier countries tend to be more individualist, like UK and USA – both are wealthier and individualist than Panama and Guatemala. According to his study Japan which is a wealthy country should fall in individualist category but it falls under collectivist category (Mead & Andrews, 2009).

Besides, according to Hofstede (1980), Japan also has a high power distance; however some Japanese firms, which bases on equality, often focus on the development of individual employees. Therefore, it is inappropriate that using these attributes at opposite ends of a continuum may reflect a western bias to research in the East (Papamarcos, & et. al., 2007). This shown that there is faulty assumption of his study. He had a belief that a change in economic circumstances could bring shift in the culture and as a country develops, it shifts toward individualism. However time has changed, and Japan, as an example, which proves his study has ambiguity.

However, due to the political sensitivity at that time, arguably has huge bearing accuracy and usefulness of the survey because the memories of the world war two and old war has impacted everything, and people’s feelings run high. There was district lack of data from third world and socialist countries due to the political situation (Jones, 2007). As a result, political influence is also affected Hosftede’s data collection which might alter the reliability of the outcome of his research.

7.0 Time Changing

Today’s world is an era of globalisation, the technology is modern. There has been a drastic change in the rate of development compared with the rate at Hofstede’s time. Austrian economist Joseph Schumpeter claimed that “globalisation is also a process of “creative destruction” (Francoise, 2004). People, who use modern technology than ever before, are modern and advanced. Because of E-communication, distances have become very short. When doing business with countries abroad, communication is easy with the use of the fax, e-mail, video conferencing, etc. Technology is responsible for our way of communication and changes in globalisation are through the way we trade.

In addition, Hofstede (1980) stated that the cross-cultural outcomes produced in centuries, most researches also supported the fact that culture will not change overnight. He assumes that cultural values are stable over time. However, some researchers also claimed that the study is too old to have any modern value particularly in today’s rapidly changing global environment. For instance, based on Hofstede’s dimension of uncertainty avoidance, there is a research about the rate of business ownership across 22 OECD countries which shows that in 1976 and 1988 uncertainty avoidance is positively correlated with the prevalence of business ownership, one of the reason for that ,perhaps, is the restrictive structure of large organizations. However, in 2000 this positive correlation is changed, low uncertainty avoidance countries start to compensate their economies (Wennekers, & et. al, 2004). Therefore, it is still arguable about his failing to take into account of the malleability of culture over-time.

8.0 Conclusion

In conclusion, different scholars have concrete point of view of flaws of hofstede’s model particularly reliability and validity such as national, occupational and organisational cultures differentiate by Hofstede, five simple dimensions to differentiate the cultures, labelling issues and bilateral dimensions, out of date and his methodology of his research. However, culture is too complex and it is impossible to draw out a very comprehensive model to differentiate the country difference. In addition, some of the scholar have successfully prove of his homothetic research is valid to differentiate the different cultures. In addition, Hofstede’s work helped many business people to develop their business successfully in a new country because of his simple and comparative model during 1980s where there were many businesses entering international market. Therefore, we decipher that Hofstede’s model has a strong core useful for further cultural study and research. Though, with changes in time, there are numerous changes occurring in a national’s culture. Globalisation has let to mixing up of cultures and hence, no culture entails its all of its original characteristics. It is suggests time to time amendments need to be made to his model to ensure its suitability with changing time.


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