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Geert Hofstede's Cultural Dimensions Theory

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Employment
Wordcount: 2627 words Published: 13th Dec 2017

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Researchers have applied Hofstede’s categorization of national cultural traits not only in studies of ‘average’ employee samples, from which the categorization was originally obtained, but also to élite senior executives, and even to firms, on the assumptions that top management teams (i) are culturally homogeneous with average employees and (ii) directly reflect cultural characteristics in strategic decision-making. Such assumptions are questioned by research finding that country sub-populations are culturally heterogeneous and that individuals’ cultural characteristics are moderated by organizational and task contexts. Using the construct of collectivism/individualism, this study tests the applicability of Hofstede’s generic national cultural norms to senior executives using Anglo-Saxon and Chinese samples. Results cast doubt on the applicability of Hofstede’s classifications to senior manager populations and suggest several avenues for further research.

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In recent years the work of Dr. Geert Hofstede and his cultural dimensions has been carefully reviewed and applied by academic scholars and educators around the world. Some scholars and educators criticize his findings, whereas others highly praise Hofstede’s research. One of the most critical voices comes from Dr. Brendan McSweeney. However, Geert Hofstede has appropriately shown that his criticism is not all that valid. Read for yourself in “Dimensions do not exist: A reply to Brendan McSweeney” by Geert Hofstede and originally published in Human Relations vol. 55 (II) – 2002

The outcome of his survey is that employees in the same national context share similar attitudes towards these four dimensions. Differences only arise when they are different in national.

Defining “culture”

Culture has been called “the way of life for an entire society.” As such, it includes codes manners, dress, language, religion, rituals, norms of behavior and systems of belief.[2]
Various definitions of culture reflect differing theories for understanding — or criteria for evaluating — human activity

.More recently, the United Nations Economic, Social and Cultural Organization UNESCO (2002) described culture as follows:

“… Culture should be regarded as the set of distinctive spiritual, material, intellectual and emotional features of society or a social group, and that it encompasses, in addition to art and literature, lifestyles, ways of living together, value systems, traditions and beliefs”.[4]
Key components of culture
A common way of understanding culture sees it as consisting of four elements:




Geert Hofstede™ Cultural Dimensions

Geert Hofstede gathered extensive data on the world’s cultures.
Geert Hofstede’s Value Survey Module is designed for measuring culture-determined differences between matched samples of respondents from different countries and regions.

Prof. Geert Hofstede conducted the most comprehensive study of how values in workplace are influenced by culture.

Geert Hofstede analyzed a large data base of employee values scores collected by IBM between 1967 and 1973 covering more than 70 countries from which he first used the 40 largest only and afterwards extended the analysis to 50 countries and 3 regions. In the editions of GH’s work since 2001, scores are listed for 74 countries and regions, partly based on replications and extensions of the IBM study on different International populations.

From the initial results and later additions hofstede developed a model that identifies four primary dimensions to assist in differentiating cultures: Power Distance—PDI, Individualism—IDV, Masculinity—MAS, and Uncertainty Avoidance—UAI.

Geert Hofstede added a fifth dimension after conducting an additional International study with a survey instrument developed with Chinese employees and managers.

The dimension based on Confucian dynamism is Long-Term Orientation—LTO and was applied to 23 countries.

These five Hofstede dimensions can also be found to correlate with other country, culture and religious paradigms.

1) Power distance Index (PDI) that is the extent to which the less powerful members of organizations and institutions (like the family) accept and they expect that power is distributed unequally. This represents inequality (more versus less), but defined from below, not from above. It suggests that a society’s level of inequality is endorsed by the followers as much as by the leaders. Power and inequality, are the most extremely fundamental facts of any society and anybody who have some international experience will be aware that ‘all societies are unequal, but some are more unequal than others’.

2) Individualism (IDV) the one side versus its opposite, collectivism that is the degree to which individuals are inte-grated into groups. On the individualist side we can see societies where the ties between individuals are loose: everyone is expected to look after him/herself and his/her immediate family. On the collectivist side, we find societies in which people from birth onwards are integrated into strong, cohesive in-groups, often extended families (with uncles, aunts and grandparents) which continue protecting them in exchange for unquestioning loyalty. The word ‘collectivism’ in this sense has no political meaning: it defines to the group, not to the state.

3) Masculinity (MAS) versus its opposite, femininity refers to the distribution of roles between the genders which is another fundamental issue for any society to which a range of solutions are found. The IBM studies shows us that (a) women’s values in the societies are less than men’s values; (b) men’s values from one country to another contain a dimension from very assertive and competitive and maximally different from women’s values on the one side, to modest and caring and similar to women’s values on the other. The assertive pole is known as ‘masculine’ and the modest, caring pole is called by ‘feminine’. The women in feminine countries have the same modest, caring, social values as the men; in the masculine countries. However they are somewhat assertive and competitive, but not as much as the men, so that these countries represent us a gap between men’s values and women’s values.

4) Uncertainty Avoidance Index (UAI) deals with a society’s tolerance for uncertainty. What is the level that a society can accept with its unknown and unseen subject. It ultimately refers to man’s search for Truth. It shows us how a culture reflects its members to feel either uncomfortable or comfortable in unstructured situations. Unstructured situations are novel, unknown, surprising, and different from usual. Uncertainty avoiding cultures try to minimize the possibility of such situations by strict laws and rules, safety and security measures, and on the philosophical and religious level by a belief in absolute Truth; ‘there can only be one Truth and we have it’. People in uncertainty avoiding countries are also more emotional, and motivated by inner nervous energy. On the other side uncertainty accepting cultures, are more tolerant of opinions. In the situation of certainty people try to have as few rules as possible, and on the philosophical and religious level they are relativist and allow many currents to flow side by side. People within these cultures not expected by their environment to express emotions

5) Long Term orientation (LTO) versus short-term orientation: this fifth dimension was found in a study among students in 23 countries around the world, using a questionnaire designed by Chinese scholars it can be said to deal with Virtue regardless of Truth. Values which are associated with Long Term Orientation are thrift. On the other hand values which are connected with Short Term Orientation are respect for tradition, fulfilling social obligations, and protecting one’s ‘face’.

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Logical Argument

As human resources are mainly developed in local organizations and cultural institutions, we begin by looking at the formation of local work cultures and the international debate about how multinational companies are influencing local work cultures. How resistant are different national working cultures to the cultural impact of multinational companies? Do HRM discourses in multinational companies encourage global convergence or local divergence?

– Convergence, transnational communication and a ‘third culture’

The different interpretations of the impact of multinational companies on management and organization in foreign subsidiaries have breathed new life into the convergence debate from the1950s and 1960s. In contrast to the old convergence approach, which laid great emphasis on institutional systems and structural processes, the new approach focuses more on the actors and carriers of convergence processes. The new focus is on transnational processes in multinational companies and not so much on differences in National Business Systems industrial relations or societal effects (Maurice et al.1980), which were the dominant issues in international management and organization research in 1980s. The authors within the new convergence school do not argue against the influence of national social institutions on company strategies and organizational practices, but they raise the question of whether the increasing globalization of many companies does not reduce the influence of national institutions and cultural values. They pay greater attention to transnational actors’ potential capacity to reduce national differences in management and organization. They argue that the increasing internal and external competition in multinational companies searching for “best practices” is undermining the importance of national social institutions and local cultural values in company strategies and practices


Hofstede has been criticized by number of authors for not taking into account the changing relationship between parent companies and subsidiaries in a globalized economy. Among his critics is Christina Garsten who, in her analysis of Apple Computer, ends up with a different view of the parent company’s impact on its subsidiaries. Garsten does not seek to identify national homogeneity and consensus in Apple’s national subsidiaries by analyzing common national cultural values. The cultural complexity that Christina Garsten seeks to identify in Apple Computers demands a more dynamic concept in the culture than Geert Hofstede’s categorization of attitudes which were pre-established theoretical dimensions. Using this concept of culture, a national group of employees in a multinational company does not act in accordance with one common set of collective national values. The group’s actions are motivated by various sub cultural contexts and shows different interpretations of and engagement with their company.

Garsten’s approach very inspiring, especially the way in which she takes into consideration the influence of transnational communication streams in companies. Hofstede did not pay much attention to this subject because global human resource strategies were much less developed in the 1970s when he carried out his research.

How can human resource management discourse be understood in the dialectical relationship between the global and the local in multinational companies? As a result of the growing networks in multinational companies, human resource management discourse is increasingly shaping the thinking of management groups in the individual units and the way in which they implement demands and tasks. It was also a roadmap for establishing a common language among the units. Manuel Castells has tried to describe these complicated processes in The Rise of Network Society (Castells1996). He describes that network structures and growing flexibility as two closely connected elements in the new global economic system. He argues that networking strategies give us the flexibility to the system, but they do not solve the problem of adaptability for the companies. In my opinion, this is a key reason why management in multinational companies seek strategies which can cope with flexibility.

When management experiments with these network structures in multinational companies, it engenders cultural encounters between units that have different cultural backgrounds. What is the outcome of these encounters? Mike Featherstone uses the apt concept of a “third culture” to understand the outcome of these encounters in the globalization process (Featherstone1990: 7: 1-14). The third culture argument is that national and local cultures and identities increasingly have to relate to global discourses, but they do not necessarily adopt them. To demonstrate this argument, we will discuss two of the most powerful discourses in the present global debate: the free market and human rights. There are many different phenomena which suggest that globalization is a differentiated, multi-dimensional and polycentric process. It is not just a question of one multinational agenda or one dominant superpower discourse.

The same logic can be applied when evaluating and analyzing management in subsidiaries which implement human resource strategies. Multinational companies with different parent company cultures set up human resource strategies inspired by global consultants and best practice examples. They transfer HRM strategies to subsidiaries, which develop a third company culture: a reflexive, discursive mix of the parent company culture, the local work culture and the multinational practices. Actually all multinational subsidiaries maintain different third culture outcomes, which together build a global company culture in practice.


Yes, I do consider my self defined strongly about my race/ethnicity or culture, but at the same time I do not. The way I do feel defined in my culture is the morals and traditions and values that I have take in. I am not saying I took all of them but most of them I applied by myself. As an Asian I grew up in Bangladesh for half of my life and then moved out to U.K. And as I grew up I was able to experience different cultures. In Bangladesh it was a lot calmer and easy going area but once I moved to London, it was fast moving. But while taking in both cultures my parents also put an influence on me to remember my heritage and traditions. They wanted to make sure that I new about my Bangladeshi.

Discussing with different cultures people of another country can help give me an idea of how different my country is from other places. Talking to someone from another country enables one to have more respect for that person, because we able to learn their different way of living and learn to appreciate our own way of living




Markus Richwien

Kategorie: Betriebswirtschaft – Funktional – Organisation – Organization allgemein

MA-Thesis / Master June 2000, 135 Seiten, 1, 0 MB, Note 1, 3, Sprache English

Ludwig-Maximilian-Universität München Deutschland

Schlagworte: Organization, Adler, weibliche Führungskräfte, Confuzianismus, Kollektivismus

Countries and ‘elites’ in 19 countries.


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